When I was a kid I was a voracious reader. My mom would go to the used bookstore and find any book that might spark the interest of an adventurous little boy. One of the books she bought me was the Adventures of Robinson Crusoe. One of the main themes of this book is the concept of Providence. While my ten-year-old self didn’t completely grasp the life-changing power of Providence, it never left me as something that seemed to be rather significant. Later in life I came to understand that Providence or the “Hand of Providence” as Robertson Crusoe describes it, is the unexpected and undeserving provision of a need by a supernatural power. At no other time in my life was the hand of providence more evident than in the first few months of 2001.
I had just returned from my visit to Great Britain. I had brought home with me my newly acquired vision of incorporating modern and contemporary design with traditional blacksmithing techniques. I was eager and excited about the opportunity to put this new approach into practice. But as fate would have it, this was going to have to wait. Shortly after returning to my job at Fort Steele all of the employees were informed that there was a restructuring happening at the museum. They were going to lay everyone off, privatize the museum and change all of the job positions. So for the first time in my life I was unemployed. At first I was devastated – as was everyone who had lost their job. Slowly though, the shock wore off and I got into full job-hunting mode. I took my resume to every place that I could think of that did metal work, but shockingly, no one was hiring blacksmiths. You would not believe how hard it is to find a job when all you have is 10 years of blacksmithing experience. Everyone looks at your resume like you’re from another planet or perhaps another century.
This went on for several months and then the soul-searching and praying began. I had to decide whether I was going to become something else or stick with my lifelong dream of being a blacksmith. After three months the hand of providence appeared. A developer from Fernie by the name of Mike Delich gave me a call. I had worked with Mike for several years while at Fort Steele, creating one-of-a-kind custom furnishings and architectural details for the hotels and condos he was building in Fernie. Mike had heard that I was unemployed. He was constructing another condo project at the ski hill and he wanted me to do all the metal work for the 37 unit building. Reluctantly I told him that I couldn’t do the work because I didn’t have a shop and I didn’t have any blacksmithing tools. One of the things that has made Mike Delich successful is his ability to solve problems and Mike was not about to let this problem get in his way. He asked me, “If I gave you a 50% deposit for all the iron work up front, would that be enough for you to get tools and a shop and get started?” This was a considerable amount of money and I was shocked that he had offered it to me. Obviously the answer was “yes.” So I told Mike I would start looking and would get back to him. I visited my blacksmith friends and one of them was just getting ready to retire from his welding business. He made the incredibly generous offer to lend me all of the tools from his business for free. All he asked was that I would either buy them when I had the money or give them back to him when I bought my own. I could keep the tools as long as I wanted. Another blacksmithing friend had an old shop that he would rent to me for $100 a week. It was so old that when it rained, a river of water flowed down through the middle of the shop, which certainly made things interesting when I was using the arc welder. I had to make sure I wasn’t standing in the puddle of water otherwise the welder would start to shock me.
And so the hand of providence continued to guide me towards my future as a blacksmith.
I took the job for the condo hotel in Fernie, set up the shop, started working and I’ve never looked back. I will never forget the generosity of those people at that time in my life. Even though it was incredibly difficult I look back on those times now and see that without the trial of losing my job at Fort Steele and being unemployed for several months I would never have become what I am today. That trial was my opportunity. I’m so glad that I grabbed that opportunity to develop the new vision for blacksmithing that I had acquired while I was in Europe.