It’s an exciting time for anyone whose passion is blacksmithing.

Long thought of as a pioneer necessity for shoeing horses and repairing farm equipment, the art has been transformed into the creation of gracious iron railings and fences, grills, furniture, gates, cooking utensils, and religious items, to name just a few.

Shawn Cunningham is owner/operator of Front Step Forge and runs a weekend Blacksmithing Bootcamp class for the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology. “It’s a common belief that it’s a dying art. But in truth, there are more blacksmiths making a living as artists, doing one-on-one craft blacksmithing, than ever in the past,” he says.

“It’s not shoeing horses anymore but it exists pretty inconspicuously in everyday life all around us.”

A famous example is the gates around 10 Downing St., which were hand-crafted specifically to surround and protect the residence of England’s prime minister.

Students taking Cunningham’s course typically want to make knives, swords and armour, while others want to translate their ideas into three-dimensional images.

“You could compare it to moulding clay, taking a raw substance and transforming it into a meaningful and attractive item,” he adds. He is pleased that he can make a living as an independent artist, while teaching others to enjoy the craft.

The course is all hands-on, he says.

“Most students have tried smithing and have come for more instruction,” he says. “While some are total newcomers, the others are frustrated beginners who will get a lot out of it.”

The NAIT course starts with students making the tools needed to work with as a blacksmith, but they’ll also complete sculptural items as well as practise the elements of wrought iron, both antique and modern.

“It’s an exciting and creative occupation and I urge everyone to give it a try through one of our classes,” he says.

More information about Blacksmithing Bootcamp and related courses can be found at or by calling NAIT at 780-471-6248.