How did you get into forging?
I’ve worked with different metals since I was in high school. My father, brothers, and I worked together in a family owned tool and die shop, where General Motors’ first electric vehicles were designed and tested. From there, I worked as a professional welder/fabricator for several years. The sense of camaraderie between men who can master elements and solve mechanical problems was as magnetic to me then as it is now.
About ten years ago, my friend Bill Burtt gifted me an early 1900’s forge and enough kit to outfit my shop. Bill is a master woodcrafter, and a verified deadeye with a longrifle. There was some impetus to put his gift to effective use. Maybe out of fear of his short temper, but mainly to bring cutlery, tools, and ornamental work to fruition with the gift of fire that had been entrusted to me. As any man can attest, there’s a special satisfaction in making things with your own hands using tools inherited by friends and father figures. It’s been a joy to harness such a time-honored tradition, and I find my curiosity and enthusiasm about the art of forging never wanes.
How did you get involved with Master of Arms?
I met Frank House a few years back at a Kentucky Longrifle event where I had several items on display. He’s always quick to shower praise and offer advice on making reproductions of classic firearms and accouterments. He, having done some exemplary work for some iconic movies, came across the call for applications and reached out to me. It was so out of the blue and applying for a reality show was something I’d never imagined. The notion of entering the competition was so starkly different than what I could’ve envisioned, it was impossible to ignore. My hesitation to apply was potent. Not having had a television for almost ten years, and finding myself a rather private person, I suppose it’s a good thing my tireless desire to make things and share the joy of doing so with others overcame the hesitation. I didn’t expect anything to come of my application since the world is so large. But the production staff knew better than I did. I’m grateful they took a chance on me and found my talent worth sharing!
After several telephone and skype interviews, as well as a few tests, I was selected and flown to a studio to begin the competition.
What can viewers expect from the show?
Viewers can expect to see some of the nation’s top craftsmen competing with one another against a clock as well as the judge’s ability to test and assess each person’s work. They’ll also witness a lot of passion, stress, talent, shock, and not least, sparks, flame, and destruction. I also think viewers will be excited by the approach to weaponry. The variety of weapons made, the quality of tools we got to use to make them, as well as the morsels of science and history will hopefully entertain, educate, and inspire.
What is your history?
I was born in a commune in southern Indiana called Padanaram. My family lived there until my sister’s death forced us into a more common way of life.
I grew up around Martinsville and Lapel and had an interest in making things. I didn’t know it then but creating was an escape from dealing with the brain cancer that was claiming two of my brothers.
When I was a senior in high school, another sister died. Within the next five years, both of my brothers and my father died of cancer.
After the death of my father, I joined the Army. During that chapter of my life, I buried my artistic ability with my grief and served until I was honorably discharged in 2005.
After leaving the military and moving to Fishers, I needed to deal with all those emotional injuries. I started making things again. I also started writing about my experiences as a child and as young man. Along with my art, I’m in the process of producing an autobiography called, The Bird’s Road. Now, for the first time in my life, I've taken all of the things that I've hidden on the inside and turned them out for the world to see. It feels good to let it all go. Now, if I’m not using my hands or writing, I feel like I'm doing something wrong.
I hope someone will enjoy the things I make. I hope someone out there can learn from my experiences and know that even though life can be really rough, you can make your way through it and enjoy all of its marvels.
Like something in a forge, you really can make anything of life that you want.
Photo by The Discovery Channel
Copyright 2013. Sharek Gadd. All Rights Reserved.