What’s a skill you’d like to learn and why? Or what’s your favorite technique and why?

I’d like to learn blacksmithing. I took one class years ago, at the one place in Chicago with an accessible forge. Turns out that the classroom was in a former greenhouse, just steps from Lake Michigan. In winter. It was cold. Very, very cold. And the blacksmithing instructor had a broken arm. The welding teacher did his best to show us what he knew about blacksmithing, which sadly, wasn’t much.

The dampness of the classroom made it hard to light the coal in the forge. I taught the teacher a Girl Scout trick — I brought it some all cotton dryer lint as a fire starter — which did the trick. (My Girl Scout trainer-of-volunteers loved this story, and is probably still telling it!)

Despite the challenges, I drove each week from my horrible temporary job, from Schaumburg to Evanston. If you don’t know the Chicago area, that means a horrible slog during rush hour, all on side streets — there are no useful freeways between those two towns.

The welding teacher, a sculptor who had also welded in industrial settings, was great. I didn’t like the arc welding, but I did great with the torch.

The welding teacher was from England, and would constantly stop by my work area and say, “Bigger flame, Jeweler!” You have to imagine that with the accent.

His other comment, to all of the students, was, “Good enough for art.” (again, with the accent.)

At first I was offended, but then I realized, well, it’s true, these aren’t airplanes.

One of the places on my list to study blacksmithing is Tillers International, a cool place that also trains oxen; I like that just because it’s so weird.

Related to welding is soldering, which is one of my favorite techniques. Working with the torch is fun. It’s sort of meditative. I just like it.

How about you? Join the conversation, post your favorite technique, and what you’d like to learn, in the comments. Or blog it and post the link in the comments. Thanks!

More from carnival participants:

Tonya Davidson

Marco Fleseri

Lorrene Davis

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