MISSOULA — As the season changes and leaves turn color to then fall from the trees, Missoula artist Jesse Blumenthal offers people a moment of creativity.
Blumenthal is giving away free blacksmith lessons from the back of his modified tricycle, the Tricycle Forge Blacksmith School, with the project "Turning a New Leaf."
“Once you start opening those doors and seeing the transformative properties of this material and seeing that something can be so soft and malleable and then so permanently frozen and into such a hard state, that can be something that really gathers a lot of interest,” Blumenthal said.
Blumenthal previously worked as an architectural welder and blacksmith before going to the University of Montana for a Master of Fine Arts.
“After getting my MFA, I decided that I wanted to focus more on community engagement," Blumenthal explained, adding that he is also currently the Director of Industrial Arts Montana.
With the support of funding from the Montana Arts Council, the National Endowmnent for the Arts, and Republic Services Charitable Foundation, Blumenthal mounted a forge to the back of an electric tricycle. The finished vehicle welded together offers communities in western Montana random engagement with blacksmithing.
The modified trike weighs nearly 1,000 pounds carrying the weight of anvils and tools.
To the curious people who walk around the corner and see the enhanced tricycle, it's a random happy occurrence.
"I like to call it serendipitous engagement because I like to believe that people are looking forward to doing just this sort of thing and when they randomly encounter it. It's serendipitous," Blumenthal said.
Last Friday evening, the mobile school was parked outside the Zootown Arts Community Center.
One by one, a handful of lucky people gave the ancient technique a try. By embellishing laser cut steel leaves with the strike of a hammer, locals like Harley Hatch experienced an event to remember.
“Getting asked if I wanted to learn something was kind of neat, didn't have a chance to learn anything else today so that was rad, especially something so cool," Hatch said.
Blumenthal, who also offers private lessons and workshops, is an instructor who guides you along the way.
And one fun aspect of the opportunity, it’s completely unexpected.
"He gives you the reins but shows you how to use them," Hatch said, "I'd rather do that [randomly] than plan to do it. That was fun.”
"It's a history lesson also," Hatch elaborated.
Behind the instructed techniques are thousands of years of history going into the craft that have been carried through multiple millenniums.
“So these are all, you know, traditional techniques that have had, you know, thousands of years of development quite literally under the human hand,” Blumenthal said.
Blumenthal said he plans to continue operating the Tricycle Forge Blacksmith School this fall in Missoula then transport it to other western Montana cities in the spring.
So if you cross paths with the mobile school, maybe it’s the right time to turn a new leaf and learn a new skill.
For more information visit industrialartsmontana.com.