Michael Craughwell, or ‘Irish Mike’, is a well known welder in West Tisbury, Massachusetts who is frequently commissioned to construct fantasy weapons, specifically swords, on a giant scale. He is also the star of the television series “Big Giant Swords”, which was premiered on January 13, 2015 on the Discovery Channel. The series displays the giant sword maker Irish Mike and his associates as they create these fantasy and ridiculously huge blades, all of which Mike creates from scratch. The focus of the show is a bit melodramatic and it attempts to over dramatize the process in which Mike creates his swords and complete commissions for his customers. Big Giant Swords is television program that follows Irish Mike in his escapades surrounding the challenges of crafting insanely gigantic swords.
Michael always enjoyed welding and working with metals, shortly after he completed college he dedicated a large portion of his time to seriously practice welding. He set up an illegal workshop in the basement of a parking complex and bribed the security guards to look the other away. In that parking garage he honed his craft and acquired his unique skillset of giant sword making. As an 80s child, Michael says his young mind was altered by the fantasy films and fiction that came out during his childhood, which he attributes to his love for nerdy role-playing games. When the PlayStation 1 came out in 1995, Michael spent the majority of his time in his bedroom, conquering these RPGs he had come to love. Final Fantasy VII, one the most popular RPGs of all time, featured the main protagonist’s ‘Buster Sword’, which is about twice the size of a human body.
Michael admits that this particular weapon had an impact on his sword making, as it is the most highly commissioned sword he makes and one of the swords that originally interested him in his profession.
The tv series Big Giant Swords is more or less a reaction from television networks to capture Michael’s unique skillset. Michael originally posted a video on youtube of himself wielding one of his custom made swords. This immediately went viral and caused his facebook and email page to explode with requests from a multitude of people. Not long after the Discovery Channel decided to air an original television program, featuring the popular Michael and his ability to create such monstrous swords. This co opting of a popular phenomenon by a corporation is a prime example of John Storey’s neo-Gramscian hegemony theory. Storey argues in this theory that there is a political dimension to pop culture,
“…sees popular culture as a site of struggle between the ‘resistance’ of subordinate groups in society and the forces of ‘incorporation’ operating in the interests of dominant groups in society.”
This theory applies very well to Big Giant Swords, as Michael’s intention was to simply work with metal and create fantastical sword; he did not have the goal of making a reality show in mind while crafting a Buster Sword for a new customer.
However, obtaining a reality show based on his work, and simply because of his work, is great way for Michael to acquire more exposure and potentially increase his business. The Discovery channels decision to feature Michael in a television series does not have to bear a negative implication on the corporation, it reinforces the theory behind Storey’s thoughts; Something as popular as Michael’s giant swords would not be able to remain grass rooted forever.
Currently, Michael resides with his wife in West Tisbury, MA, still creating and crafting giant swords based on commissions. In his own words, Michael believes the basis of his success lies within the obscurity of his profession. “It was very hard in ireland to buy a sword, I’m lucky that way, that there was no amazon.com, I mean I came from a small town, so if i wanted a sword, the only way to get it was to make it” Michael goes on to sum up his success in a concise statement, “I’ve become the giant sword guy because you can’t get that them anywhere else.” Michael’s work is of high quality, craftsmanship wise, and utterly unique in form. This skillset he possesses has lead him to a profession which he loves, and landed him a television series based about his work. As he stated, there is only one big giant sword guy.