Terrell Perkins was digging up his family history in 2000 when he discovered a treasureâ€”his grandfather’s blacksmith tools locked away in an uncle’s storeroom, diligently maintained but then forgotten.
“I found that an old uncle who died years before had saved my grandfather’s blacksmithing tools,” Perkins says.
His grandfather, William Hiram Perkins, was a blacksmith in Central Texas in the 30s. He worked on the Miller, Mansfield, and Buchanan dam construction projects for the Lower Colorado River Authority.
William died relatively young, when Terrell’s father was still a boy. “My uncle kept the tools for my father, but he was never interested in them, so he kept them for me instead.”
Blacksmiths go far back in Perkins’ family. “I knew my paternal grandfather was a blacksmith when I began doing genealogy. When I dug further, I found out his father was, and his father was, and his father was.”
The discoveries, combined with further research, sparked Perkins’ interest in blacksmithing. He enrolled at Austin Community College, which offers a nationally renowned welding program for technical welders, metal artists, and blacksmiths.
“I was looking for a place to learn blacksmithing, and somebody finally said one of the best programs in the country is at ACC. There are people coming from all over the country to do the metal art program,” Perkins says.
He completed an associate degree in welding technology in 2006 and moved to Capitan, N.M. “I weld horse trailers and snow plows, then also do my own art. I make architectural hardware and furniture and metal sculpting – just a little bit of everything.”
Perkins creates commissioned artwork as well as freelance pieces that are sold in several local galleries. He also teaches blacksmithing classes for Eastern New Mexico State University.
“I have a graduate degree in psychology that I used years ago, but I wanted to do this. I needed that creative outlet,” he says.
Now, using a hammer he made at ACC and his grandfather’s tools, he expresses his creativity as he forges a connection to his past and to a time-honored tradition.
“It’s almost indescribableâ€”to pick up a tool that my grandfather or great-grandfather made. It’s a connection to history. It makes me feel connected to a long line of history.”
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