If you’ve never been to Repair Days or, heaven help you, never been to the Metal Museum, this weekend is the time to go. The museum itself (currently exhibiting works by Master Metalsmith Thomas Latané) is hands-down one of the best spots in Memphis, and Repair Days is the museum’s largest event of the year.
I spent a minute trying to come up with an analogy for what Repair Days is in comparison to the city's other annual events. I was pretty unsuccessful. Repair Days is not “like BBQ Fest for blacksmiths.”
The weekend is, as museum director Carissa Hussong puts it, “...its own organism.” It is an informal reunion for craftspeople, a teaching event for young metalworkers and hobbyists, an auction, a dinner party, a family day, and a many-tiered repair market. This is the event’s 34th year.
The museum hosts an estimated 150 volunteer metalsmiths over the course of the weekend. Members of the public are encouraged to bring their broken metalwork to the museums grounds, where the metalsmiths are set up under white tents. For those not in need of repairs, there will be ongoing metalsmithing demonstrations, work for sale, and, on Saturday evening, an auction and dinner.
Tom Latané, this year’s honored Master Metalsmith, is a blacksmith.
About this year's selection, Hussong says, “It’s fun to go back to the roots of blacksmithing, which is very central to the Metal Museum.” Past years have showcased jewelers and “whitesmiths” (craftspeople who work with white metals such as tin and pewter).
Latané, who is largely self-taught, started working with metal as a teenager, after observing blacksmiths in Colonial Williamsburg.
“I set up a little blacksmith shop in my parents' backyard while I was in high school, in suburban Baltimore, in 1970," he says. "When I graduated, I started making things out of wood and metal for art and craft fairs and a couple consignment shops.”
Many of the works on display in the museum are tools he built for personal use or are presents for his wife, Kittie.
“It’s an honor to be presented to the public by the museum," Lantané says. "A big honor.”
Latané will host a gallery talk and demonstration on Saturday, October 5th at 5 p.m., followed by an auction and live music.
Repairs are available 10 a.m.-5 p.m., through Sunday, October 6th.
Images of Repair Days by Tod Swiecichowski; images of Tom Latané's work courtesy of the artist