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Then and Now: Apprentice Journeys, with Ray Joe Hastings

Missouri Folk Arts Program
Event organized by Missouri Folk Arts Program

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"Then and Now: Apprentice Journeys," a newer addition to Missouri's thirty-three-year-old Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program, showcases apprentices who ultimately achieve master artist status.

In 1996, master blacksmith Paul Martin of Bunker, Mo. in Reynolds County took on Ray Joe Hastings as an apprentice. Much of his life, Mr. Martin worked in the timber industry and forged gigs on the side. Both he and Mr. Hastings, of Doniphan in Ripley County, grew up gigging fish for sport and sustenance.

In a 2008 Rural Missouri article, Hastings recalled that he sought out Paul Martin in 1994, "imploring the gig maker to teach him the craft." Mr. Martin eventually agreed, and Hastings--already a gig collector--not only learned the traditional blacksmithing techniques but eventually passed them on to others.

In Missouri's apprenticeship program alone, Hastings has taught apprentices Lee Howard (2003), Steve Orchard (2007), and Steve Eikerman (2011). Hastings is locally and regionally recognized as a master gigmaker, collector, and historian. He has regularly taught others at the local Tom Kennon Blacksmith Shop and hosted members of the Blacksmiths' Association of Missouri.

Join us at the Community Center in Mr. Hastings' hometown to hear his live oral-history, when he will share tales of his apprenticeship with the late Paul Martin and of passing the tradition on to a new generation of gig makers.

The event is a partnership with the Ripley County Historical Society and is free and open to the public thanks also to support from the National Endowment for the Arts, Missouri Arts Council, and the Museum of Art and Archaeology, University of Missouri.

Photo credit: Deloris Gray Wood