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P.E.I. man finds new passion in blacksmithing after leaving IT industry

Bruce Brown stands in front of the blacksmith forge at Orwell Corner Historic Village. Brown left the IT industry about eight years ago and shortly after began working at the village, where he eventually found a new passion for blacksmithing.
Bruce Brown stands in front of the blacksmith forge at Orwell Corner Historic Village. Brown left the IT industry about eight years ago and shortly after began working at the village, where he eventually found a new passion for blacksmithing. - Mitch MacDonald

ORWELL, P.E.I. - Bruce Brown is living, and working, in the past.

Brown spends most of his days hammering away in the Orwell Corner Historic Village’s blacksmith forge to show an accurate representation of what the time-honoured art was like in the 1800s.

It’s a striking change of pace for the former IT worker of about 25 years.

“I do love my job (now). It’s a lot less money but a hundred times more satisfaction,” said Brown, who was previously trapped in a health-care IT administration role with lengthy, stressful hours.

“It’s a long story. Basically, the health system is not the healthiest place to work in some areas… I had a mental breakdown (about eight years ago).”

After recovering, Brown was given a position as a gardener at the historic village.

“It certainly wasn’t my forte… blacksmithing just kind of came naturally,” said Brown.

When Brown started in the position about six years ago, the site had a student blacksmith, although the forge was not nearly as active as it is now.

Bruce Brown
Bruce Brown
Bruce Brown hammers some metal at the Orwell Corner Historic Village’s blacksmith forge.
Bruce Brown hammers some metal at the Orwell Corner Historic Village’s blacksmith forge.

Brown has brought it back to become more representative of a fully operational blacksmithing forge from the 1830s to 1890s. He noted that working up the skill wasn’t without plenty of studying, as well as attending Whycocomagh’s FireHouse Ironworks in Cape Breton once he learned as much as he could on his own.

Site director Jason MacNeil said the forge has become one of the most popular experiences at the village and that is largely because of Brown.

“People come and spend an hour with the blacksmith because it’s something you don’t really get to see anymore,” said MacNeil. “People love it… just seeing something made from iron and fire is mind-blowing to people.”

“It’s freedom, fresh air. I’m not stuck in the office all day under fluorescent lights. I go home physically tired, but not mentally tired, and there’s a big difference.”

Bruce Brown

The most common items Brown creates are hooks, while he also makes horseshoes and fire pokers, as well as some decorative flowers.

Visitors can purchase some of those pieces, while older student groups also get to try their own hand at the once flourishing trade.

“They love it,” he said. “It’s a mixture of some blacksmithing, keeping (students) safe and trying to pass on some history as well.”

While Brown also does some blacksmithing at home, it’s more as a hobby. Once the historic village’s season ends in the fall, Brown will usually take a break from the physically demanding job. He will pick it back up on a hobby basis around February before returning to the site for another summer.

It’s a return that he always looks forward to, especially when compared to his former career.

“It’s freedom, fresh air. I’m not stuck in the office all day under fluorescent lights. I go home physically tired, but not mentally tired, and there’s a big difference.”


Twitter.com/Mitch_PEI

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