Behind a century-old barn in San Andreas, visitors gathered over the past two years to listen to the clanking of metal, smell the burning of coals and admire an artform that has become a rarity.
Rosemary Faulkner, a founding member of the museum, looks over the blacksmith shop at the Red Barn Museum in San Andreas. The shop is without a blacksmith since the death of Eden Sanders in July. Amy Alonzo Rozak/Union Democrat, copyright 2012
Certified blacksmith Eden Sanders, 66, volunteered at the Red Barn Museum, where she performed demonstrations, taught classes and created artifacts to auction off at fundraisers.
She died of a stroke in July, leaving her fellow Red Barn Committee members with an empty blacksmith shop and heavy hearts.
“She was such a special person,” said Rosemary Faulkner, a founding member of the museum. “We’re kind of raw. We miss her.”
Faulkner said the position hasn’t been advertised. Museum officials aren’t ready to actively search for someone to take over the forge — the coal-filled structure where blacksmiths heat the metal. However, they would welcome a qualified person if one came along.
“We would like to have someone do some of the things she did,” Faulkner said.
Faulkner described blacksmithing as a dying art.
Sanders was one of more than 650 members of the California Blacksmith Association, which was established in 1977. It is made up of both working blacksmiths and enthusiasts.
The night before she died, Sanders and her husband, David, had just returned from the Tonopah Historic Mining Park in Nevada where she helped set up a blacksmith shop and certified two instructors.
David Sanders described his wife as a voracious learner, who would master a skill and move onto something else she could learn. She made everything from tools and ornate door hinges to medieval armor, he said.
“I know the only reason she stuck with blacksmithing for so many
years was because you could never learn it all,” he said. “There’s just so many different techniques for doing things.”
Eden Sanders embellished some of her work with patinas, which are colored and textured films created by adding a mixture of chemicals to the metal. Patinas also develop naturally on certain metals over time and often appear green.
Eden Sanders was born in San Francisco, grew up in Buena Park and moved to Angels Camp in 1990, her husband said. She received bachelor’s degrees in anthropology and psychology from the University of Hawaii.
She read electric meters for a public power agency before she died and had previously worked for Utica Power Authority. She also served as the office manager for Dave Bean Engineering in San Andreas, where she met her husband.
Eden Sanders had a son from a previous marriage who is now 36 years old.
Eden and David lived together in San Andreas and were original members of the Red Barn Committee. They set up the blacksmith shop when the museum expanded in 2010.
“Our local citizens gave us so much equipment and artifacts that we built a new museum out in the back, an annex to this,” Faulkner said.
The original museum opened in 2004 after the Calaveras County Historical Society saved it from the wrecking ball. After about 50 years of using the barn as storage space, the county had planned to tear it down to realign Mountain Ranch Road with the County Government Center.
Built in the 1870s, the barn was once situated on a farm used by the old county hospital, which was demolished to make way for the government building.
The hospital’s capable patients were expected to work on the farm, tending to the horses, milking the cows and watering the orchard.
Faulkner, who grew up on a cattle farm in Calaveras County, envisioned the barn as a museum displaying machinery used in farming, lumbering and gold mining throughout the county’s history.
The historical society, which oversees the Red Barn Committee, asked the county if they could transform the barn into a museum, and the Board of Supervisors agreed, Faulkner said.