Peter Ross, Michael Dillon, Jason Knight, Billy Ridgill
Our 2015 demonstrator lineup is outstanding! Come see "The Wizard" himself, Peter Ross, internationally recognized Master Bladesmith, Jason Knight, applied draft horse shoeing with Billy Ridgill, and large scale forgings for public sculpture with Michael Dillon and his massive power hammers!
"I got my start in Blacksmithing at the age of 17 when I took a class at a local museum (it was taught by Steve Kayne). We learned to make a simple hook the first night, and on subsequent nights made many more. After a few months of working in a homemade forge in the garage I began volunteering at a nearby historic village. There was a real shop and an older man who knew the basics. We made hardware, fireplace tools, and farming tools for the village using antiques as models. The pieces immediately got a thorough testing by the other staff, which helped me get over the romance of creating something by hand.
After a couple of years at art school, I worked a year for a smith named Dick Everett in East Haddam, CT. We made museum quality reproduction hardware for historic buildings and repaired antique ironwork. Dick gave me a big push towards understanding old ironwork. After that, I opened my own shop on Deer Isle, ME. where I worked for 4 years.
In 1979, I moved to VA to join the blacksmith shop at Colonial Williamsburg. Two years later I was promoted to Master of the shop. My job entailed producing hundreds of articles for the ongoing restoration and museum programs while trying to re-develop 18th century methods in a historic setting. I also trained a number of apprentices. It was this combination of goals that gave me the greatest insights into hand work and the environment of hand technology. These have shaped my aesthetics and thoughts about the role of the craftsman in modern society.
In 2004 I moved to North Carolina and again opened my own shop. Since then I have been busy making reproductions of antique hardware for historic buildings, both private homes as well as those open to the public.
Over the years I have been a frequent demonstrator at local and national blacksmith conferences, and have taught many classes at various schools. " -Peter M. Ross
Creating sculpture for public spaces is Michael’s passion. As an artist/blacksmith living and working in North Georgia, he has more than 25 years experience creating both functional and sculptural works of art. Michael builds forged stair railings, gates, sculpture and furniture for distinguished homes in Atlanta, and abroad.
With a strong background in sculpture, Michael finds joy in the balance of creating both architectural ironwork and distinctive sculptures. Michael worked with Hospice Atlanta, creating a very personal memorial Rose Gate, as well as many other large commercial projects, such as the Grand Stair Railing for the Arthur Blank Family Foundation in 2007. His peers have long recognized his work, and he received the acclaimed Phillip Trammel Shutze award for craftsmanship in classical architecture.
During the past 5 years, Michael has been successful expanding his career into the public art arena, creating several large-scale public sculptures in the south. In 2010 Michael worked with the city of Charlotte, NC to create a 50’ sculptural gate and a 30’ kinetic sculpture for Firehouse #39. Michael Installed “Aileron” (March 2012) a kinetic public sculpture in Nashville, Tennessee for McCabe Park. He was able to translate the history of the park’s former life as Nashville’s first airfield into the 18’ x 25’ freestanding kinetic sculpture forged from 6500 pounds of steel and bronze.
In April 2014, Michael installed “Ascension”. Forged from 1700 pounds of stainless steel and 2 tons of steel, this large-scale public sculpture was donated by AGCO Corporation to the City of Duluth, GA. Michael is currently working on a public sculpture for Bell Memorial Park in Milton, GA. which will be forged from 6" solid material.
Michael’s love for mechanics was born in the small service station where he worked throughout high school. He has never outgrown my fascination with how things work and are put together, and translates this to his kinetic pieces. Through careful and intricate engineering, Michael strives to create pieces that are visually uncomplicated and graceful, that engage and inspire wonder within the viewer. Michael’s public work is modern, and narrative. He researches each community and tells a story incorporating their past, present and hopes for the future. Most of the work is forged, using large industrial air and mechanical hammers. These hammers are the same ones that were used in America’s industrial age. They have been refurbished and repurposed. Their mark making imparts a sense of history in each piece, speaking to the significance our past has on our future.
"I was born in the city of Charleston, South Carolina, and raised in the city's hinterlands. I always had a need for a sturdy knife to cut my way through the thickets as I explored the swamp lands of upper Dorchester County. This need for a good knife coupled with my God-given desire to create ignited a passion for bladesmithing. In 2001 I attended the Bill Moran School of Bladesmithing in Old Washington, Arkansas where I took Intro to Bladesmithing under Master Bladesmith Jay Hendrickson. While there I met fellow classmate and now close friend Jim Rodebaugh. Following this class I jumped right into full-time bladesmithing. I received my Journeyman rating from the American Bladesmith Society in 2003. In 2007 I received my ABS Mastersmith rating and was award the B.R. Hughes Award for the best knife by a Mastersmith candidate. As a master bladesmith I have been blessed with opportunities to teach others in my studio as well as other studios and learning institutions such as Haywood Community College, Clyde, NC; Studio 4, Seattle, WA; New England School of Metal Work, Auburn, ME; Appalachian Center for Craft, Cookeville, TN; and various hammer-ins across the United States." -Jason Knight
Billy was born and raised on a farm in Ladson, S.C. When he was in High School he began shoeing horses. After working as a Farrier for 15 years, he finally went to school for the trade.
With 60 years of shoeing horses, training, teaching and running a stable of 60 plus horses, Billy has shod most every breed of horse out there at one time or another. He has seen the industry try and “reinvent the wheel” over the years, but in reality the craft has changed very little.
One of the biggest changes was the introduction of pre-made shoes in virtually any size needed, for nearly every application. Until the 1970’s most all shoes were hand forged from mild steel bars.
While shoeing horses, a farrier must take several things into consideration. No horse has perfect hoofs. Abnormalities due to skeletal structure require adjustments to the way a hoof is trimmed and shoes fit in order to allow the horse to be able to perform at maximum potential.
Billy will demonstrate hand forging a shoe and shoeing a draft horse. He will also be discussing some of the issues and solutions a Farrier needs to look for while shoeing to correct existing or potential problems.
Experience plays a big role in being a successful Farrier as well as learning from those who have gone before. Billy never sees a horse’s hoof as a problem, but more as an opportunity to create a solution.