As craftsmen and –women, we love the chance to talk with and support other craftspeople. We had the opportunity to sit down with blacksmith Kent Knapp, who is featured with his family in the History Channel show, Milwaukee Blacksmith to talk all things craft, family and how the show has changed everything.
THE EARLY YEARS
I’m a musician, first and foremost. I was 19 and had discovered the blues, and nobody my age wanted to play blues. So I started going to a club so I could play with older cats and I met the guy who ran the jam, who was also a blacksmith. So he took me under his wing and invited me to his shop. I walked through the doors and I’ve been doing this ever since.
Historically, our work around the city has been architectural. We did a large fence with gates on the Miller Mansion. That’s one of my favorites. It was very classically styled, designed by architect and Milwaukee historian H. Russell Zimmermann. It was my first big job. For the past couple of years, I’ve been manifesting public artwork. When you’re doing art, you have a lot more opportunity to push the craft in a different direction.
LIFE IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Once the show started filming, things evolved so quickly. We were working 100 hours a week between filming and getting jobs done. You see these kids on the TV show, but they’re working for it. Everybody is in the trenches, getting stuff done. The show afforded us the opportunity to do some really different stuff—the beer tapper, the octopus chandelier, even the Death Star. I realized that each of my kids has a great strength in a different category, and they had some brilliant ideas that we incorporated and ran with.
Cyril Colnik is my superman. Not only was he the master blacksmith of Milwaukee, but arguably the best American blacksmith, ever. His work is all over the city.
A POSITIVE OUTLOOK
We’re firm believers that positive begets positive. So we just put positive into the world and that’s what comes back to us. You just have to keep plugging away. If you wake up every day and brush away all the negative things that have happened and focus on the positive, you’re going to make stuff happen. You will. There’s no doubt about it.