My good friend and fellow photographer, Geraint Smith, and I are enjoying a drink and some potato chips in the train station at Lamy, New Mexico, population 218. Lamy sits on the outskirts of Santa Fe and is best known for the restaurant sitting across the street; The Legal Tender. Sitting inside the waiting room of the station, it is easy to imagine being there during the heydays of train travel and the baggage carts outside the building are a reminder of those times. The back room of the station has been converted to a bar and the nice lady managing the station fills us in on her plans for the property. It doesn’t take long to figure out she has experience in ventures like this. Before leaving, she says, “As you cross the tracks, look for a big yellow metal building on your left. Stop in there. It will change your life.”
While she didn’t say how it would change our lives, Geraint and I decided to take the risk. As we turn off the highway and descend the long gravel drive the first thing that strikes me is the contrast between neatness of the beautiful traditional New Mexico home with a walled courtyard and cluttered area around the large structure we are about to enter. Lined up on one edge of the property are several vintage Jeeps in need of some TLC. There are ample quantities of wood and metal in other places that tell you there may be some serious work taking place inside.
As it turns out, the inside of the shop looks a bit like the outside. There is a lot of stuff, but it all seems to have a purpose and you can wend your way from one spot to another without any trouble. We introduce ourselves to Steven, who is crafting a set of fireplace tools. He has a quick smile and is very generous with his time. Steven’s work bench is covered with the tools of his trade; gloves, tongs, and brushes. Hanging on a bar beneath the bench are fourteen hammers and there are at least seven more on the other side. It is the most hammers I’ve ever seen in one place outside of a Home Depot. Steven assures me that each one has a particular use. I ask him about the two anvils next to the workbench and he smiles saying, “I named the anvils after my ex-wives.” “So, you’ve been married a couple of times?,” I asked. He smiles again and says, “Well, I’ve recently sold a couple of my other anvils.” We both laugh.
Steven refers to himself as a blacksmith, but I prefer the term forge artist. The artistry shines through in the items he showed me. I love having the opportunity to meet new people in my travels. Chance encounters have often turned out to be the richest experiences. The lady at the train station had it right. It was a life changing experience and I never expected it to happen in Lamy, New Mexico.
Name: Steven Lucero
Job Title: Blacksmith
What do you like most about your job? The finished product. My workplace is dusty, dirty, and hot, so you have to overcome a lot to get projects finished.
What’s the hardest part of your job that no one knows about? Getting up in the morning and getting to the shop.
If you weren’t doing this work, what kind of work would you be doing? Traveling and taking pictures. I love being outdoors, driving, hiking, and fly fishing.
If you could go back in time and talk to yourself at age 16, what would you say? Stay away from the ladies. They will sidetrack you.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given? Persevere. Stay at it!