Matthew Shirey: Forged in Fire Winner is a Social Studies Teacher Today

Image Credit: History

History’s ‘Forged in Fire’ puts blacksmiths through tests of endurance, creativity, craftsmanship, and speed. The usual format consists of four smiths competing against each other in elimination-style rounds, where the finale consists of the remaining two contestants going back to their workshops and crafting an epic weapon. In 2022, the premier episode of season 9 saw blacksmith Matthew Shirey from Sylva, North Carolina, emerge as the winner, leaving quite an impression with his durable and stylish katars in the final round. ‘The Forged in Fire’ champion departed with the prize of $10,000, leaving many ardent viewers wishing to learn more about his journey since.,

Matthew Shirey Celebrated His Victory at the Local Pub

Soon after he got home, Matthew began work on orders of axes as Christmas approached. The batch included a wide variety of tools and weapons, including a homesteader felling axe, throwing tomahawk, Kephart hatchet, and a light prototype backpacking hatchet. The Sylva, North Carolina resident also spent a week at the Nantahala Outdoor Center getting his Wilderness First Responder certification.

He sure gained huge recognition owing to his win, as he was covered by local newspapers and held a celebration at the Lazy Hiker Brewing Pub, bringing the community together along with a lot of friends he had not seen for a long time. Newly invigorated with all the congratulatory messages, the blacksmith prepared himself to take on an increased stream of orders. After shipping out a batch of mean-looking axes, the New Bethlehem, Pennsylvania native used a hydraulic press to straighten antlers for a project. The period also saw him expand his online shop at the Shira Forge website, which is named after his ancestors.

May 2022 saw the blacksmith make an appearance on Talk Radio NYC with host Joseph Franklin McElroy and discuss the start of his smithing journey 20 years ago, his TV debut with ‘Forged in Fire,’ and how he came to live in North Carolina. There was much forging and excitement in the following month as Matthew prepared for the Blade Show in Atlanta, Georgia, trucking over to it with his trademark axes by June 3, 2022. After a very productive week, the ‘Forged in Fire’ winner met with an accident that led to surgery on his wrist and elbow. He explained that two decades of extensive blacksmithing had caught up with him and requested some leeway from his waiting clients.

Matthew Shirey Also Took Up Teaching

After more than three weeks of slowly recovering from his injury, the smith arrived upon the decision to take a step back from smithing and begin walking a new path. “The past few months I’ve been doing a lot of soul-searching,” he wrote in a social media post. “The feast and famine reality that comes with being a self-employed artisan combined with the physical demands of smithing full-time have taken a lot of the fun out of my work. I’ve decided to take a position teaching middle school social studies at the charter school my boys go to. Super excited about this new chapter of my life, making smithing a side gig will allow me to do it for many more years.”

Over the coming weeks, Matthew slowly recovered his strength and started his job as a teacher at Mountain Discovery Charter School by the beginning of August 2022. The social studies tutoring seemed to excite the ‘Forged in Fire’ champion and let him take up the hammer at his own convenience, bolstering his initial passion for the hobby. By the end of the year, the fresh-faced teacher caught up on the backlog of his blacksmithing orders and advertised gorgeously styled antler knives, a 5000-year-old Bog oak-handled Damascus knife, and a Viking ax.

The year 2023 saw Matthew much more relaxed as he went fishing and caught his first trout of the season, and his eldest son, Liam, finished work on his first knife. The now part-time blacksmith took a break from forging to do a little flint knapping and taught children traditional skills at the Firefly Gathering in June. However, he couldn’t stay away from his long-time love for long, so he set up a new shop space the very next month and began forging again. Matthew also attended the annual 4M festival at Jackson Arts Market in September 2023.

Matthew Shirey Loves to Teach Crafts at School, Forge, and Spend Time With Family

In October 2023, Matthew Shirey chaperoned a school field trip to Hazel Creek and Fontana Lake, hiking and having a lot of excitement when they spotted a bear. The month also saw him attend a Mountain Heritage Day fair and help his young son, Asa, make a silver ring. He took his family to his parents’ place in Pennsylvania for Christmas, making for a memorable holiday season as they hunted using a muzzleloader, flintlock musket-style gun.

The 46-year-old is an avid outdoorsman who, in addition to blacksmithing, is interested in basket making, flint knapping, fire starting, and leatherwork. He studies history, culture, and craft and also possesses skill in strumming a guitar, mandolin, or banjo. While the ‘Forged in Fire’ champion continues to forge, his teaching lifestyle has opened up more opportunities for him, allowing him to spend carefree time with his loving wife and children. As a doting father, Matthew always encourages his kids to follow their passion and cheers them on as they pursue it.

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