Shaping apprentices. Forging community.

It’s hot, it’s dirty, and to Blacksmith Crew students, it’s home. A student-led initiative in 2001 resulted in the Warren Wilson College Blacksmith Shop, expanded significantly in the summer of 2017.

Students on the Blacksmith Crew create quality handmade craft items, build tools used by other campus work crews, and create architectural and decorative wrought ironwork around campus. Learning under an apprenticeship model, dedicated students assume roles as assistant, demonstrator, crew leader, designer, and artist blacksmith. In turn, they teach the Warren Wilson community their craft during open forge events they host.

One thing in particular I loved about my work crew was the sense of community the crew members and I begin to develop and foster throughout the year. I enjoyed initially joining the crew and immersing myself into a craft I knew little about, but over time I began to find my place within the crew and not just as a student crew boss but rather as a friend to the people I worked with everyday. We spent more time talking shop outside of work than inside of work. While we worked, we spoke of whatever was on our minds; politics, relationships, family, were only some of the subjects, but perhaps more importantly the shop served as a space to find silence and solace in labor and toil. The work was hard work, both emotionally and physically, and this toil served as a sanctuary for a lot of us, especially for myself following the death of my brother.

I learned a wide variety of skills on the crew. From maintaining power tools and power hammers, I learned how to properly mix and pour cement, how to set up and begin framing a building, how to set a wall plumb and true, I learned how to be a good coworker and also a good boss. For me, learning how to supervise and act as a superior to others looks completely different. A good leader should set others up for success while allowing oneself to fall behind, guidance comes not from shouting and ordering but standing by quietly and allowing others to learn. Yet, learning anything often results in failure, and just as learning to lead was of great importance to me, learning how to fail was perhaps the greater lesson. I’ve always been a bit on the obsessive side, and blacksmithing opened up a huge learning opportunity to me to be able to cope with failure by creating those situations into lessons for myself.

Cole Aurichio

Supervisor Spotlight

Matt Haugh earned his BA in Film and his MFA in Metals/Blacksmithing. In between degrees, he pursued a music career. As an artist, he considers himself fortunate to have followed a path that has led him to WNC, widely considered a stronghold for craft and music in the US. He’s particularly inspired by the opportunities here that offer engagement with and complement the creative life. As an educator, he’s delighted to join Warren Wilson’s educational community. After nine years of teaching visual art at the secondary level, shifting his pedagogical framework from preparing students for college to preparing students for creative/working life is a welcome challenge and natural progression in his career as an educator.

What You’ll Learn

You’ll spend years working alongside your peers with the mentorship of your supervisors.  Part of the experience of work at Warren Wilson is guided critical reflection, which helps ensure that you achieve both your own educational goals as well as our Common Learning Outcomes. These intentional learning outcomes distinguish our Work Program, giving it focus and relevancy that set it apart from a federal work-study or your average part-time job. 

Our Common Learning Outcomes:

  • Professionalism & Work Ethic: accountability, effective work habits, punctuality, dependability, time management, integrity, and commitment to the well-being of the community.
  • Critical Thinking and Problem Solving: working with available resources to creatively address issues and solve problems, and gaining confidence to make decisions.
  • Communication: the ability to convey and receive information effectively with intentionality, honesty, and confidence in both speech and writing.
  • Collaboration & Teamwork: actively collaborate with peers to achieve common goals, Distribute labor fairly, and hold each other accountable as committed members of a group.
  • Civic Identity: understanding your active influence within the community and how your decisions directly impact the work around you.

In addition to our Common Learning Outcomes, each crew in the Work Program identifies crew-specific goals for learning and performance. These are reviewed with you each semester. Your crew-specific learning goals outline skills and abilities your supervisor will teach you during the semester.