Crafting history

Cowboy Forge and School smiths make tools of the trade

Robert Kovarik makes a hammer in a forge at the Cowboy Forge and School run by Steve Williams. The forge was open to tours on Saturday. Enlargephoto

Mary Shinn/The Mancos Times

Robert Kovarik makes a hammer in a forge at the Cowboy Forge and School run by Steve Williams. The forge was open to tours on Saturday.

Few artists start learning their craft by forging their own tools out of metal. But at the Cowboy Forge and School, Robert Kovarik and Joe Archuleta were hard at work Saturday during The Great Mancos Arts Round Up pounding out a new hammer.

"I like the hot metal and the ring of the anvil, it all feels right to me," said Kovarik.

The 18-year-old took in interest in forging and tried to figure it out on his own before coming to Steve Williams, a local who has been at it for nearly 20 years.

Kovarik hopes to take his skills to Renaissance fairs and other places where battles are re-enacted and he can make and repair custom weapons and armor.

The young men at work are two of Williams' five current students. Blacksmith students make all their own tools such as tongs and chisels, so they know how to make replacements if necessary, Williams said.

The smith said he came to the craft later in life, at his wife's suggestion, after working in construction for 15 years.

Doing custom metal work has led to all kinds of projects, such as oxbow stirrups, braided spurs, a hat rack and recently 30 feet of railing.

With a full schedule of custom orders and students, Williams said he is constantly learning.

"Just because I'm teaching does not mean that I know everything," he said.

Across the Mancos Valley and in town many other artists also gave the public a look into their process.

Inside the old movie theater, Jay Fann, showcased his custom carved doors and artwork, including a particularly intriguing face, reminiscent of Lyndon Johnson.

On Road 33, Brian Killigrew gave tours of his darkroom where he develops large format photographs shot on a box camera. From his darkroom come landscapes with depth, that seem to glow.

The Great Mancos Arts Round up is an annual event sponsored by the Mancos Arts Council and if you missed the opportunity to see many local artists at work you can join them next June.

Robert Kovarik shapes a hammer while Joe Archuleta holds it still. The two were working  in Steve Williams' Cowboy Forge and School during The Great Mancos Arts Round Up on Saturday. Enlargephoto

Mary Shinn/The Mancos Times

Robert Kovarik shapes a hammer while Joe Archuleta holds it still. The two were working in Steve Williams' Cowboy Forge and School during The Great Mancos Arts Round Up on Saturday.

Mary Shinn/The Mancos Times 

The forge heats up metal so it can be shaped into a hammer. The Cowboy Forge and School was open to the public on Saturday as part of The Great Mancos Arts Round Up Saturday. Enlargephoto

Mary Shinn/The Mancos Times The forge heats up metal so it can be shaped into a hammer. The Cowboy Forge and School was open to the public on Saturday as part of The Great Mancos Arts Round Up Saturday.

Courtesy/The Mancos Times 

Local blacksmith Steve Williams recently installed this custom made railing. Williams runs a Cowboy Forge and School near Mancos. Enlargephoto

Courtesy/The Mancos Times Local blacksmith Steve Williams recently installed this custom made railing. Williams runs a Cowboy Forge and School near Mancos.