Episode 17:Forging a Future while Honoring the Past in the Smoky Mountains
Joseph begins today’s episode by talking to Mike Ogletree about all their new work at the Meadowlark Smoky Mountain Heritage Center. Bob talks about events coming up that will display and celebrate the different cultures in the mountains. Such as the upcoming one where a musician will be coming in for the day, seminars will be given throughout the day, and there will be a concert at night. Joseph introduces today’s guest, David Brewin, and David discusses his upbringing. The two discuss David’s experience going to college with a baseball hall of famer. The two continue sharing anecdotes about their college experiences and connections to baseball players. David talks about how he started his career in counseling and his journey into blacksmithing and metalwork. Not only is David an accomplished blacksmith, but he also plays guitar. He discusses the initiative he took in learning classical guitar, seeking out an instructor. He eventually dropped the classical genre though, realizing it was not for him, but he continues to play jazz guitar.
Coming back from the break, Joseph shares his experience of transitioning from his successful career to something he enjoyed more, relating it to David’s experience. David discusses the inspiration behind leaving a successful job to pursue metalwork, citing experiences he had talking to residents throughout the mountains. Unhappy with the direction of education at the time, David decided to educate himself more and request a position as the blacksmith teacher at a school in the mountains. He shares a funny anecdote in which he was in a gallery talking about blacksmithing and was asked if he knew who David Brewin was. The man who asked had not met him directly, but this man, Earl, eventually helped him in his career. He took a workshop with Frances Whitaker, an accomplished blacksmith. After this first workshop, he went to another, eventually befriending Frances and apprenticing for him. He leveraged this opportunity and the experience he gained by bringing top blacksmiths into his class to give lectures. These guest lecturers were big influences on David and helped him get better at his craft. He continues on to discuss experiences he’s had jamming with mountain musicians. While the two may seem unrelated, he brings them together through the lens of the influence they’ve had on his life and the view of the mountains he has. Joseph brings all of this together, asking what is the best advice David feels he has taken from these mentors. In discussing advice he’s been given, David relates it to his career and talks about learning from those around him regardless of age. More specifically, an apprentice he has taken recently. He sees passing his knowledge on as his duty as he gained all of it from those before him who was kind enough to impart their wisdom on him.
Joseph asks David to talk about some of the famous schools he has worked at. David starts off by talking about a folk school in the mountains that used a Danish model of teaching. He talks more about these schools, discussing a blacksmith who moved down from New York to teach at the folk school and how eventually David taught blacksmithing there. After the folk school, David moved on to the Foxfire school, starting their blacksmithing program. The two discuss Brasstown and a story of how it almost flooded. Joseph talks about the local feelings in towns like this, sharing a story where he heard live music at a flea market. David credits much of his skill and his craft to the people he met throughout his life and educational journey. He discusses his experience working at the Western North Carolina University, taking on many roles in their museum. He worked there for many years until during the 90’s he returned to blacksmithing. He talks about coordinating part of the mountain heritage festival, sharing stories about some of the people he had come to the festival.
Moving into the final segment, Joseph directs the conversation towards David’s metalwork. David talks about some of the more famous clients he has had and the work he has done for them. After discussing these clients, David talks about ideas he has for his future work, seeking to continue his metalwork and working with his apprentice. Joseph ends the episode by sharing resources and thanking David for joining him on today’s episode.
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