Blacksmith with local ties helped to organize eighth annual Forged in Fosston event
By Chad Koenen
Jeffrey Olson doesn’t mind playing with fire—especially if that means he can twist some metal into everything from pieces of art to useful tools at his shop near Fosston.
Olson, who has been working as a blacksmith for nearly 20 years, is doing his part in keeping alive one of the most important professions in the 19th and early 20th centuries—a blacksmith. Henning had its own claim to blacksmith history as Henry Holmgren operated a blacksmith shop in downtown Henning for much of the 20th century, before selling his business to George McCollough who operated a welding business that utilized many of the same techniques for over 50 years. That business was sold earlier this year to Ben Greene who continues to operate the welding business in Henning today.
In order to highlight the importance of blacksmiths, Olson and a group of friends continue to organize the Forged in Fosston, which is essentially a blacksmithing event to highlight the industry and the unique things that can be made with fire and metal.
“It’s a blacksmithing event that coincides with our Heritage Days event in Fosston,” said Olson.
The Forged in Fosston event originally began as a joke between friends when his friend Tony Roed came into a bar and was upset he missed the deadline to audition for the Forged in Fire TV show.
“I jokingly said why don’t we had a Forged in Fosston event in Fosston,” said Olson. “The next day the bar owner called me and said were you serious.”
Eight years later and the event continues in Fosston. One of his most memorable times from the event was when a Viking actor came up to Olson and asked him to repair his sword.
“A guy in a full Viking gear said ‘hey I heard there is a blacksmith that can fix swords,’” said Olson. “So all the kids that were sitting there and were able to see me fix a sword for a Viking.”
Olson’s friend eventually got on the Forged in Fire TV show, which he described as a problem solving show where they have skilled metal smiths and blade smiths work with unknown steels as they attempt to forge a specific item.
“It’s not really a knife making show it’s more of a problem solving show,” said Olson.
As part of his time on the show, Olson was interviewed about his friend Roed who talked about their experience as a blacksmith.
Olson, who is married to Traci (Rortvedt) Olson, who is originally from Henning, has also taken his show on the road in the past as a group of his friends has held demonstrations at the Landmark Center in Henning on several occasions.
The group typically holds several days of blacksmith demonstrations for students at the school, as well as the community outside of the Landmark Center and the Station.
“The people there are fantastic,” said Olson of Henning residents.
Professionally, Olson has created a number of memorable pieces of art from his shop in rural Fosston. He was commissioned to create a Viking ship for the first installation of public art on the City of Fosston’s Art and Sculpture Walk in 2019. The ship is created in a way where people can stand in the bow and get pictures as if they were on a real Viking ship. He has also forged medieval costume pieces for the online video game giant Blizzard Entertainment in Irvine, Calif. Olson has created custom Scandinavian jewelry for New York fashion designer Matthew Sabatino, who is the owner of Barnaby Black American Wilderness Products.
In the past, Olson had his art on display at a number of exhibits over the years and was even president of the Northern Minnesota Metalsmith’s organization for three years.
Olson said he enjoyed his time in Henning in the past and didn’t rule out making a return trip to the community in the future to put on future blacksmith demonstrations with his group of friends who continue to transform metal with a little fire and ice.
For more information about Olson’s pieces of art, check out www.olsonironworks.com.