Ten Minutes With Ryan Landworth // Artisan Blacksmith and Molecule Mover

By Vicki Wilson

Ryan Landworth doesn’t do horseshoes—you’ve got to find a farrier for those. As an architectural blacksmith, artist and craftsman, Landworth’s handiwork can be found all over the island—from the railing outside Hitchcock Deli, to the bench outside of Blackbird, to decorative custom gates and fencing found in many of the island’s gardens. We visited with Landworth in his workshop, where he fired up the forge, swung the hammer and shared stories from his 20 years on Bainbridge.

Why blacksmithing?

Years ago, I worked at a glass blowing studio in Santa Fe. Then I went to work here in Seattle creating botanical forms out of metal. When I worked with Robert Mackie, a well-known public sculptor, I found my passion. I went to New York and studied with Ed Mack, who introduced me to a group of older, experienced architectural blacksmiths. I also studied with Uri Hofi and Charles Lewton-Brain at the Center for Metal Arts in New York.

So it’s been all metal, all the time since then?

Not exactly. I’ve also fished in the Bering Sea, opened some espresso bars in Seattle, and worked as a firefighter and EMT here on Bainbridge.

Sounds like you court danger.

I’m proud to say I have all my fingers.

How would you describe your work?

I create interior and exterior pieces for private individuals as well as public spaces. I’ve done railings, light fixtures, furniture and sculpture. I gather my inspiration from shapes and textures found in the natural world. My work is often site specific; it’s incorporated into the architecture. It feels as though it’s always been there.

Has technology changed the world of blacksmithing?

My hand crank roller and my bender are both from the 1800s but my tig welder is the latest technology. Even though the tools and process may be of another era, my designs can often be very modern.

What are the most important qualities for a blacksmith? 

Patience is key. A single project can take a year. It’s physically as well as mentally demanding, so you have to be completely present and focused. You have to be perceptive; the color of the metal and the sound of the hammer change, and at a certain point, you know you’re not moving the metal anymore. If you’re just moving the molecules around on the surface, it’s a waste of your time.

Do you teach blacksmithing?

I’ve taught classes at BIMA. I currently have a young artist apprentice who wanted to explore metal as a medium. He’s so talented even though he isn’t formally trained.

I guess you get used to the constant banging.

My self-contained pneumatic power hammer can do about 240 hits per minute. I once made a long, leaf-shaped bowl that had over 10,000 hammer blows in it.

What does something like that go for?

More than I could ever charge. So I gave it away for free.