Due to the uncertainties of today’s economic environment, small businesses often face an ever increasing chance of failure. In the current recession, people are cutting back and looking for greener, more environmentally friendly lives. This fact, coupled with the ever increasing costs of real estate investment, fuel, utilities, and materials can prevent the creation of small business ventures and overwhelm those that already exist. By applying thought and creativity these obstacles can be turned into opportunities for small businesses and self-employed individuals.
Exemplifying this economic philosophy is The Blacksmith Shop in Chama, NM. Real estate costs were dramatically reduced with the purchase of two semi-trailers and the leasing of a vacant lot. One trailer was converted into a blacksmith shop and the other a display room for product. Fuel and energy costs are minimal with the use of a 6,500 watt generator and low amperage power tools, formulating a self-powered, mobile shop. Material costs are drastically cut by using recycled steel from salvage yards. Used leaf springs from automobiles and machinery spindles are shaped into knife blades and hatchets. Old bolt washers are hammered into iron roses. Used horseshoes are forged into various items such as hangers, hooks, towel bars, and other commonly used household items. Additional refinements including a small propane forge further allow for an environmentally considerate workplace. The combination of tradition, old skills, and modern technology also contributed to an economically successful operation.
In addition to the environmentally safe efforts of this business, it is also an asset to their small town. Apart from attracting tourists during the summer, the businesses support each other, and the community, by having something to offer for everyone. Considering that recycled materials are used in the manufacturing of the products and the cut cost for energy, we are able to sell our product for a lesser amount. It makes availability and affordability more possible for anyone visiting or for those that live here. Also, needed and essential services are provided such as repairs, welding, and knife sharpening. Though this trade offers products and tools that are useful for everyday convenience, there are also products made for the sake of attraction.
Considering that Chama, NM is greatly known for tourism, this shop offers unique wares that reflect a historical background understood by Curtis and his family.
Native American heritage is important to Curtis Green who is a descendant of the Arkansas Cherokees who first began relocating in 1808. As a blacksmith he is continuing a Cherokee cultural tradition. Smithing among the Cherokees dates back to the Treaty of Holsten signed on July 2, 1791. The treaty provided that agents residing among the Cherokees to engage wheelwrights and smiths to teach the crafts.
The importance of a blacksmith in a community was quickly realized as they began producing nails, hinges, plow shares, knives, hatchets, and tomahawks. Many necessary items could now be obtained locally. Realizing this fact, the Cherokee Delegation to President Madison in 1816 was instructed by the council to ask for more smith shops and the erection of ironworks on Cherokee lands. The craft became firmly established as reflected in the 1824-25 censuses which listed 61 blacksmith shops owned by Cherokees.
Blacksmithing is not only a Native American tradition, it is also reflective of their spiritual beliefs. One of their values is to waste nothing. This is represented by the Shop's efforts to recycle (described earlier). Another is an individual should be productive and of value to their community. Aside from respecting their culture, this gives the Native Americans a chance to create employment for their communities, create a work place with little capital investment, and encourage the practicality of this trade. This dying art could be a useful skill along with providing a work ethic and inspiration among the young Native Americans. This business has already provided for this by allowing some customers to hammer their own knives, make the handles, and learn other ways of smithing for a small fee. Though production in this sense is limited, there is a great potential to teach other people about this skill throughout other areas in the United States. As a former art instructor for adult education at Central Arizona Community College, Mr. Green is experienced in developing the skills of other people.
Ultimately, this business has proven to be successful in many necessary ways to make a living while preserving an historical tradition.Visit our Links page to find our Shop.