Jordan Lamothe ’17, an aspiring professional blacksmith with a forge of cast-iron steel and a heart of gold, has welded his way into my heart over our time living together in Sage E as entrymates. He never ceases to surprise even those with whom he lives, declaring over entry snacks that the best point of his winter break was going logging with his oxen during a blizzard. Here is Lamothe, the man, the myth, the farmer…
Tell me about where you’re from. Did you always live on a farm?
I am from a little town called Hebron, N.Y., which is about an hour north of Williamstown on the Vermont border. I lived in Arlington, Mass., which is right outside of Boston, until I was nine. Then my family moved to the farm, which is kind of a long story, but my parents wanted to move out of the city at some point. I kind of caught the farming bug and decided I wanted to start farming.
What caused your parents to move from the city to the countryside?
Basically, my mom is a writer and my dad is a musician, so they are artists. And they had this dream that eventually they would move out to the country and find a place in the natural world where my mom could do her writing and my dad could do his music. My mom is a dancer as well, so they could do all of that art in a way that was in close harmony with the natural world. So they told this idea to me and my siblings. Then my sister Jessica, she really, really wanted a horse. My parents told her she could have a horse out on the farm. So at age seven she went on the Internet and googled “farms in Vermont.” Totally serious. She came up with [our] Vermont farm. It was kind of an interesting thing because most of the time she would find some ridiculous property in Colorado, but this place was relatively affordable and we decided we would have a look at it. We just fell in love with this one place. Within two months, we completely left the city. We moved in July, and my mom was nine months pregnant at the time. And the house had but one cold water tap. No other plumbing.
Wait, what is the healthcare like out in Hebron, Vt.?
Well, she actually had a home birth. She was tiling the bathroom the day she gave birth. [Laughs.]
What is your favorite thing about living there versus living in an urban area?
There is so much more to do in the country. All my interests are involved in the woods, in my blacksmith shop, on my farm. All of these opportunities I wouldn’t have been able to have had in the city if I had to deal with zoning. [Laughs.]
So how did you become interested in blacksmithing?
I was really interested in building things, even when I was five or six. I set up a workshop in the basement of our house. And then when I got to the farm, there was a whole other incentive to be able to make your own things, hardware and tools. And I was also developing an interest in traditional woodworking, being with the woods, being able to create what you need out of the woods and partially inspired by the amazing craftsmanship that had gone into the barns on our farm. But it is very difficult to find the tools needed. So, I decided that it would be really nice if I could just make what I want to my old specifications and not have to search around and buy them.
How did you get started?
It was not an easy process. In terms of convincing my parents, I spent a lot of time moaning, “Oh! If only I had a blacksmith shop!” [Laughs.]
[Laughs.] As we all do from time to time.
So I told them about this passion of mine, but they weren’t just going to buy it for me. That wasn’t necessarily something they had the money or will to do. But what they did buy me was a book on blacksmithing, and then several books on blacksmithing, and I ate them up. My interest kept developing and growing. After a while, I decided I wanted to take a workshop, at an artist’s center near my house. So I decided I would take a class there for a three-day workshop. I loved it and I knew that this is exactly what I wanted to do with my life. Over the next year, I worked on acquiring the pieces of equipment I needed. A forge, an anvil and hammer. The forge I built myself with the help of a machinist down the road. I built the table and bought the cast-iron fire pot in the middle of the forge. Then I got in touch with some local blacksmiths who were willing to sell me some of their old, used supplies. So after a year of looking, I was able to get my shop set up in November 2010.
And now you have a website and business going, right?
I do. And I am working on starting a business selling knives. Knives was something I got into after doing a lot of tool making. And I see the knife as the oldest and most useful tool that humans have. I decided that is something I wanted to pursue. So, I have been working on making the very best knives I possibly can, in my forgery. I would like to add more artistry in the future, but right now they are just clean-cut, polished knives.
What is something that we wouldn’t know about you by looking at you?
Two summers ago, I had a brain tumor that needed to be removed, which was kind of a big event in my life. It left me deaf on my right side. It was benign and not going to spread, but it was going to kill me eventually if I didn’t take it out. It was the summer before my senior year of high school. It was a time where I had to go deep and heal so I could play soccer the next fall.
How was the recovery process?
I had the surgery on July 6. It was two months before I started playing soccer. It was really supposed to be three, but I got the okay from my brain surgeon and went with it. But it was really just going day by day and seeing what I could do, pushing myself. For the first few days after brain surgery, it was a pain to stand up. I would get up and felt like I was sloshing back and forth. The nerves get messed up. I had partial paralysis and I couldn’t taste on my right side. My balance was terrible. I couldn’t stand on one leg. When I stood on two, I felt like I was falling. So, as a matter of getting past that, I would go for a walk or go for as long as I could around the house. To the end of a field, around my house, as long as I could push, then I would go rest.
How did you occupy yourself?
Well, reading was fine. Anything that didn’t put pressure on my head, because, you know, there was this big patch where they took a hole in my skull. I really couldn’t exert myself in any way. But I was able to occupy myself by making a chain mail shirt. So that’s what I did.
It was exertion that was the problem, but the tedium of sitting there and linking things together kept me busy and wasn’t too taxing.
Do you still have it? Can you wear it one day?
I kind of wanted to finish it. But now that I am not recovering from brain surgery I don’t have as much incentive to work on it.
To nominate someone for One in 2000, email Molly Bodurtha at mib1 or Zoe Harvan at zeh1 briefly explaining why you think he or she should be featured.