KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — You might think of medieval times when you hear the words ‘blacksmith’ or ‘smithing,’ but there are still some people who know the trade and want to share it with others.
Combat Ready Art, a forge in Kalamazoo, offers lessons for people interested in learning to become a blacksmith or improve their craft. Artwork fills the business, with skulls covering the walls and paintings on the anvils. The unique space and passion of the staff could have been what drew the television show “Forged in Fire” to find it.
“We thought it was a scam. It was like, they’re contacting us? Really? We better check because this is probably a scam,” Jon Reeves, the owner of Combat Ready Art, said.
Reeves has been a blacksmith for more than 40 years. He was shocked when “Forged in Fire” producers reached out to him and wanted to shoot an episode at his business. He was even happier when he learned the competitors would be his students.
Breanna Lanier is from Portage, and she has been smithing for almost a year. When Reeves reached out to her asking if she wanted to compete on the show, she was surprised.
“I was like, oh really? You want me to do this?” Lanier said.
She was joined by Blake Maddow, who currently lives in Battle Creek and has been smithing for two years.
“I’ve watched the show for years and then, you know, they asked me if I have any interest in being on it and competing,” Maddox said. “I just, I really couldn’t believe it.”
They described their time on the show as chaotic and stressful, but it helped them both learn how to keep calm under pressure and what they need to work on in the future.
“At one point, I think I looked up and it was like 115 (degrees) in here when we were competing, so that was pretty crazy,” Maddox said.
“Patience is definitely key to keep cool under pressure, because when you don’t, that’s when things go wrong and they can go wrong very quickly,” Lanier said.
Reeves said it was hard sitting on the sidelines as he watched his students work, but he was proud to see their progress and for them to have the spotlight. He hopes this experience will show off his students, the forge and inspire others to give smithing a try.
“We’re still here and we’re still viable,” Reeves said. “Blacksmithing is an art that really can only be taught by doing.”
The episode featuring Maddox, Lanier and another student will air on the History Channel on Oct. 18.