LAKELAND, Fla. — Ray Nager got his start hammering horseshoes at a racetrack.
He was just a kid.
"Eight hundreds shoes a month," Nager says about his hard yet illuminating apprentice days.
The blacksmith is an established legend among local artists. His fantastical pieces are all over the Tampa Bay area, including a majestic 27-foot piece in Tampa's downtown.
Despite now being 78 years old, Nager remains spry and strong. He now wants to help today's kids find their passion in the flames.
"Building something, making something in the fire, in the forge, takes you to another place," says Nager, who is currently hammering and sculpting a wildlife-themed private-residence driveway gate that spans some 16 feet.
With wife Pattie by his side, the metalsmith is opening up his truly amazing workshop to lessons for budding artists about 11 years old and up.
"I've never met anyone who didn't love making something with their hands using the fire," Nager says. "It's mesmerizing."
Ray hopes young people will "turn off their phones" and let themselves go in the mental and physical joys (and demands) of blacksmithing.
For more information on blacksmithing lessons with Ray, click here.