The Workmanship of Risk Meets Reality TV: The History Channel’s Forged in Fire

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Recent years have seen a distinctive revival in blacksmithing and bladesmithing as seen within the genre of Reality TV in the form of the History Channel’s Forged in Fire series, which competitively pits bladesmiths, farriers, and blacksmiths against each other to produce knives and historically based weapons. This article examines the cultural representation of this craft and shows how David Pye’s classic concept of the workmanship of risk helps understand the representation of craft within the series. However, his concept of risk is rearticulated in an artificial way due to against-the-clock challenges instilled by the format of the series. Furthermore, the article explores the ways in which makers respond to such challenges and exemplifies Howard Risatti’s conception of the expression of poiesis within their metalcraft work. As such, although a Reality TV series, Forged in Fire can be situated as a potent representation of the craft production of bladed weapons and metalwork that consistently explores the technical nature of the craft and stresses the extent to which traditional skills such as bladesmithing and blacksmithing are being practiced in vibrant professional contemporary craft communities. However, the simulated and spectacle-driven nature of the series does raise questions concerning how television represents craft practice and is compelled to artificially dramatize it.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)233-248
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Modern Craft
Issue number3
Early online date28 Apr 2019
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 28 Apr 2019


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