Joshua Womelsdorf uses the bold strokes of a hammer like an iron paintbrush, beating and bending floral designs in hot metal against an anvil.
"You work at a fast pace while the metal is still hot, and just don't work it too much," he said.
The artist lives in Lorraine, Kansas but was busy over the weekend teaching visitors about his craft during the annual Millfest event in Lindsborg.
A machinist by trade, Womelsdorf was drawn to the old world tools of blacksmithing about 13 years ago while visiting some friends near Dodge City. While helping the family paint and clean up around their property, he came upon an old coal forge, anvil and vice grip and decided to try his hand at fixing an aging swing set. "I thought I was doing pretty well, when I heard the voice of an old man ask me if I wanted somebody to show me the way to do it!"
Lesson learned. Womelsdorf returned home but was now himself stamped by the experience of shaping the red-hot metal. He started collecting a rough set of tools to begin his journey, which included an old piece of railroad track for an anvil, a hammer and his own forge he rebuilt from pieces found next to a garage in Spearville. "I was driving by and recognized what it was (or used to be) and stopped in and asked the man if I could buy it and he sold it to me."
Over the years the creative outlet has led Womelsdorf to hammer out numerous floral arrangements, Christian crosses and unique knives which can be found for purchase on his Facebook page at Joshua Womelsdorf Art.
He believes his path is living proof that if you enjoy a hobby or craft that can add to your joy you should pursue it. "I tell people if you love it, chase it and you might just find it."
Lindsborg's annual Millfest is a living history event that celebrates the pioneer heritage of the Smoky Valley and is held in early May each year.
Knife crafted from chainsaw teeth