Audra Draper – Wyoming
Audra Draper was the first woman to ever achieve the rating of Master Smith from the American Bladesmith Society.
Born in Blythe, California in 1969, Audra’s family moved to Wyoming in 1971. Audra spent her teenage years logging with her father, living the summer months on a mountain top. During her childhood, Audra developed a passion for Wyoming’s spectacular mountains and the outdoors. She enjoys hunting, camping and hiking.
Audra’s passage to knifemaking began in 1992 when she hired on as a ranch hand working for Ed Fowler, a renowned Master Bladesmith. However, it wasn’t until after she had been working for Fowler for months that she realized that he made knives.
Her interest was piqued, but when she asked him to teach her how to make knives, he responded, “girls can’t make knives!” In hindsight, she notes, “Ed did have a degree in psychology, I think he was baiting me.” In any case, she persisted, proving she had one of the critical qualities needed to becoming a bladesmith–tenacity.
Later in 1992 Audra applied for, and was awarded a Wyoming Workforce sponsored grant for “Women in a Non-Traditional Role” that paid Audra to study knifemaking with Fowler, enabling her to focus more of her time at perfecting her craft (below left).
After serving her apprenticeship, in 1996 Audra attained the Journeyman Smith rating from the American Bladesmith Society. She rented a shop in town and she began forging Damascus knives in earnest, the next step in her growth as a bladesmith. A year later they bought land outside of Riverton and began building a shop, followed by a house. You can see where her priorities lay.
In 2000 Audra passed the demanding Master Smith test, breaking the all-male barrier that had existed since ABS’ founding. Today, there are only 111 Master Smiths in the ABS, and only two of those are women. Audra was the first.
In 2009, with all six children raised, and the last few heading to college, Audra decided to go back to school. Searching for a rewarding opportunity that would offer her medical insurance and fulfill a need to continue caring for others, she entered Nursing School at Central Wyoming College, graduating in 2013. Now a Registered Nurse, Audra works with the disabled at a state facility.
She continues to make knives in the evenings and on her days off.
Audra Draper Contact Information