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I Forge Iron

"Of Shoes,and Ships,and Sealing Wax ..."


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Thomas,thank you,that's a very important issue to keep in mind,what level of craftsmanship/technology,when,where,et c.All important,i'd even say,because we do keep going back to history to learn,and for other reasons as well.And so do our clients.So i'm very glad that you wrote what you did!

But(or rather and,),what i meant was a bit different,namely,that to me,as in a 21st century sophisticate,that early work looks way cool,and that i'll derive certain aesthetic conclusions from it.
That viking that forged that spear,i'm more than sure,would LOVE all the shiny factory steel,and a belt grinder,and a big,fat propane tank!And he'd surely proceed to make the most tasteless(and technically complex)stuff that constitutes 99% of pattern-welded work today!(Vikings especially liked everything gaudy,it's enough to take one look at their jewelry...).They were the dominant culture of the day,(they shopped at WalMart! :P ),i see them as little different than the society today.

Only by an accident,and or the technological limitations of their day,did they produce something that I,as an isolated individual and,so it happens,a craftsman,value as "classy".


There's quite a difference between all that,and some strange ideas that people have about making blanket assumptions about the given historic period.geographic location.


We're speaking as makers here,as the arbiters of both the technology and taste,so it's important to be precise in stating something.I'm sorry if i didn't make myself clear.

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Michael,you're a wild man,for sure!I like that crazy torso,a human skull sounds fitting...You'll have to...umm...,harvest it yourself?(I'm so tired that had to sit a while to think of a politically-co

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Bug on Jake, First off ref WI supplier in UK I personally would not and do not go there, I have my reasons and will stand by them. I did start to post a response to JK last night as I was respondin

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Hi Jake,
Thank you for your kind comment at the beginning of this sojourn, but I would just like to inject another controversial point from a village blacksmiths point of view,

I would regard your "Simple trammel" as a de-luxe model,

This is a simple one
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Two bits of as it comes stock, with minimum work to do the required job.

Then, as now there was a varied market for products, look at a store shed for simple work, or a Bishops Palace for high end work. Value added is put into the piece for the market it is aimed at.



Just revived this little bit of the ramble to sum up what I try to do for students,

Give the student the basic skills, what they do with them, and how far they wish to take them is up to the individual, (and possibly the client/consumers requirements. Telepathy would be of great assistance here)

This leads to developing the individual's style, as opposed to reproducing a copy of someone else's work (although that is not always easy to do)

One phrase springs to mind here that applies to all who practice this noble craft.

Individuality is our speciality.
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I haven't really looked at those tong hinges in a while. I just found them in the computer and posted. Looking at them now I can see that the upset square corners are the kind of thing that make forged work worthwhile. If they were simply bent to that shape then the effect produced by lining up the square corners would be lost. I think that is the type of work in which the client can see the difference produced by forging. It is not just about surface texture, there are forms that are not practical other ways.

Those are bird feet! They're from my Baba Yaga line.

I am flattered that my thought seem organized, I feel like I'm flailing around for a point. This is a stimulating and pleasant conversation. I don't know if it's the heat or what, but everywhere else on the internet has seemed to be irate and quick to make things personal lately.

Another story pertaining to the main thread: I attended an "Iron Symposium" at Penland School of Crafts. Penland may have 'crafts' in it's name, but it and most of the people in attendance fall very clearly on the 'art' side of any discussion of art and craft. I have notes on it somewhere in the shop, but it was not the discussion about the future direction or the meaning of the craft that made an impression. The topic that produced the most excitement and the strongest opinions was in some ways similar to our quandry here: should a blacksmith do other work to pay the bills?

There were two camps; those who felt that since they are in possession of a complete welding and fabrication shop it is only sensible to take welding work to pay the bills, and those who felt that you should not mix a 'day job' up with your art. At the time I was on the 'only sensible' side. My logic was that even if it wasn't art (or forging or blacksmithing or whatever you aspire to) it was still me, in my shop, playing with my toys, and getting paid for it. Now, with a decade or so more experience, I am shifting to the other side. Letting other work into the shop is a slippery slope. You weld up some window bars for a neighbor and they send over six more people that want window bars. It pays, it can even make shop rate, but it's not what you got into this for.

I think I said earlier that I had let my business slide into all fabrication/repair type work and I was trying to figure my way back into what I want to do. So the ideas raised here are ones that have been on my mind a lot lately. I think there are two themes combined in Jake's original post: one concerns the value of forging and the other concerns what I'll call aspirational work: the kind of stuff we aspired to do when we took up the smith's hammer. In Jake's case they overlap completely, for me somewhat less so. It seems fairly clear that there are differences in each of our aspirations for our work that affect our views of the importance of forging.

Enough for tonight.

Lewis

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Lewis,i really appreciate the skill with which you are capable of outlining the problems that so many share,as far as forging is concerned.

In as big way,"we are what we eat",so to speak.With work especially,it takes up such a huge part of our day,and therefore,our headspace.If one spends a day welding up structural steel,and accomplishing goals by means of fabricating,it'd take an entire change of the whole mindset,if,say,you wanted to spend an evening forging.Afterall,all these areas in our brain that do the automatic calculating of forces,type of material...
All that complex structural/mechanical values calculator in our minds, that allowes us to perform any job,has to be re-calibrated specifically for forge-work.
Even if we only use mortice and tenon as a design element,we still need to think of it,which becomes harder the more remote forging is from our day to day thinking...

Another similar deal is that every handy,practical sort of a person automatically notices the materials and joinery from the general surroundings.You know,when you walk down the street and say to yourself,yep,it makes sense that they used an I-beam of that size there,or a window shape,or any PROPORTIONS of any object/construct.
Well,these proportions are not the ones for forged iron...Nor the joinery,nor nothing,really,that would put one in mind of iron specifically.

So each time that we decide to stoke up the forge we need to re-adjust the old brain to the task.And in some way to start from scratch,vs building up on the previously thought-of,mulled-over,or even tried-out techniques.

It's been over 100 years now that the cast-iron architectural work became ubiquitous,Thomas is very right to point that out.The way those designs bend and weave affects our percieved impression of what wrought-iron should look like,and that affects the layman and the craftsman both.To differentiate one needs to study,to think about it much,and if one's mind is on all these different tasks and materials all day,where's the time,and the head-space?

Forging IS a dead language.That is why it's so difficult to design in it,let alone to execute certain,less-common joinery.

To practice it i've given up on the middle-class sort of an income and respectability.My day-job is killing things,tying knots in ropes,handling logs in the water,and the rest of the eclectic mix of skills required to survive here.It is even more remote from iron joinery,and all the organic junctures that i stare at all day,roots,shoots,the way that the currents eddy,and the rest,aren't much help to a sculptor in forged iron.

That is one of the reasons that we all like to look backwards,at the palette of joinery and iron texture of the past,as in our modern existence we simply don't encounter enough of it.

The hopeful things are that,(getting up on the soap-box)We have an innate,instinctual appreciation for the plasticity of iron(that's why "controlled"( :))hand-forging is so obviously a key.
Iron is a highly organised,crystalline substance.It is these connections/bonds that we intuit with our brain,by means of our hammer-hand,and work with or against of.
That principle is so strong that it is even felt by a completely inexperienced onlooker(wether they realise it or not).
That is also why the many structural junctures have such an aesthetic appeal,and can,and should be used as design elements-they manifest the plasticity and the forces implicit in iron.
And,all this together,is why there CAN be better or worse quality forge-work.At least one of the parameters being how well we understood iron yourselves,and how well we managed to demonstrate that to another person.
All this establishes some definition to the biz of mashing iron.Better than the purely abstract bs of "i like(?) this,therefore it's worthwhile"(something that those hideous steel sculptures on college campuses put me in mind of).

And to do it well one must spend time simply communing with the iron...Such is my crazy,malajusted,warped and twisted opinion,and i'm sticking to it!!! :D

Lewis,those things are very much right out of Baba Yaga!Way cool.(And dinosaur-like too,of course,you bet:have you checked out them Cornish-crosses close up?Way more dinasaur than bird!!!)Magic realism in forging-way to go,right on!whish i had the talent for imaginative work.

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have only just stumbled on this fabulous thread - want to comment but there is too much - i think we are talking about a lot of different things that all go on at once when we get to work with the metal. work and earning money are one aspect (YAWN) but there are so many others and jake you are absolutley corre4ct ( i think) when you say your art cannot be defined by what some member of the public wants to spend - its just not even linked. theres a basic need in a lot of us to create something beautiful wether thats a machined item or a hand made item. i personally think we are starved to near death of things made by the human hand in our digitaly reduced lives and also we are starved of actually using our hands- this stuff is so important and taps into very basic human needs. this is partly why hand made LOOKING item looks apealing, and a REALLY handmade item has intrinsic value like nothing else. the candle holder at the start of the thread is beautiful and utterly valid regardless of whether someone is willing to buy it - it has jakes intention decisions and focus all the way through it which makes it one off, and unique. unique is something im very interested in, and all we as individuals really have??.. and whilst we all like to cut corners in terms of time, it is not always the most staisfying path for our brain and soul :) i am interested in getting in your flow with the material, and when you do that, the result is always good. your personal aesthetic is very subjective but thats what makes life interesting - something judged and measured by human eye can be the best thing in the world - but you must train and feed your eye, to the point where you can rely on it. mostly making something of beauty is a lot in the eye not the hand, but the hand has subtleties and inconsisencies and variables that a machine will never have.. we re created somehow ourselves and we should all be creating. earning money if we are very very lucky can have some part in this process!! i love this subject matter! :)

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Let me toss a few more philosophical items out here: I've been running into a large number of people who are college aged and NEVER have done anything concrete! They may be absolute whizzes at various computer games but they can't point to something and say *I* made that!

Not only do they lack common tool skills they don't think in the way that folks who have grown up tinkering with their environment have. Their eyes get very large when I tell them that we will take a ballpeen hammer head and MODIFY it to suit *our* purpose. Many of them seem to think that basic items were handed down from on high and it would be sacrilege to modify them to do their job better. I try to explain that instead of the *best* design, manufactured items are often the minimal design they can get away with to sell to customers.

I am descended from over 1 million years of tool using primates and xxxx PROUD of it!

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Wonderful to have you present,Beth,thank you.There IS something to all of this,it isn't just another exercise in futile discussion.I'm so glad that it also seems meaningful to others,my own level of sanity being so precarious.

Yes,Thomas,things have come to a pretty sad pass,the young everywhere missing out on the knowledge of how this amazing universe ticks,at least the part of it that comes to one through one's own system of nerve-endings.

Even here,literally in the middle of nowhere,people are not doing much with their hands.Commonly,if someone does come to my forge for a tool,i don't charge them for it.To support and encourage the use of hand-tools,and because i learn so much from making it myself,usually.

This is a fish-pew that i had to make for a friend earlier this week.The bend in it was something that he overseen me make.I like it's sinous curve-i feel all the years of this man's piking fish out of a fishwheel box in it,100's of thousands of dead fish being hefted and pitched...

And(since i've fallen out of the saddle yesterday,and wasted my fuel on a failed attempt to modify my forge and have nothing to work with today,therefore more time to whine),ALMOST even more than the dumbing-down of the young,i regret the dumbing-down of the rich:Recently,i've once again failed in obtaining a grant from our local philantropic organisation.Specifying the reasons for refusal,a mention was made of my work appearing "to have more of commercial character"(vs "art"(?)) :blink:

I've screwed up the application mainly for a very legit reason simply by failing to coherently explain why exactly is it that i deserve to be supported.But,that part of the statement alarmed me greatly:What kind of an idiot could possibly apply a term such as "commercial" to anything that i produce? :mellow:

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I love it when I get someone well versed in their "craft" come to me for a special tool and I can use their experience to get it just right for them by having their input as it's made.


(and lead them over to the dark side....There was a wood turner doing very nice vases that came to me for some special inside turning tools---he used carbide inserts from metal lathe tools for the cutting and so just needed the shaft to hold them. I stuck a piece in the forge and when it was hot put it in the vise and told him to "grab the cold end and bend it just like he wanted it."---"Oops too far"---"so back it off a bit!"---"Perfect!"

Next weekend he bought an anvil off me and started setting up a forge of his own...

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also though i always feel sorry for the 'youth' and their awful ways becasue its not always their fault - when i was at school not THAT long ago nobody wanted to teach me anything of any remote interest or value to me and that wasnt my fault either - it is not a personality fault in these kids, they are just simply not handed what they need, to the point where they dont even know what it is they need. i personally was not allowed anywhere near metalwork woodwork car maintenance etc boyish things( all things i embrace fully now )despite being very practical girl and very motivcated - and it was only through fidddling about and sheer bloody mindedness and determination that i have learned anything at all. i was looking at a car to buy possibley today and was lectured by an older bloke ( there are A LOT of you out there guys!!!) who was bemoaning the young and their lack of knowledge and experience in Real Work - well i say to you Give Us Your Time guys - tell us what you know, its often these people who want to stand around saying these things and then turn their back and pretend like its some holy grail secret that younger types are not worthy of. sorry but you touched a raw nerve:) yes these skills are dying - but it does NOT mean there are a lack of people yound or old that want to learn them, it often means nobody is doing the TEACHING:)!

Ps i have just come back form a FanTastic two hours of life drawing - there is nothing on gods earth better for training your eye - it was so great and time well spent - will feed directl;y into my work on all levels, metalwork, drawing, sculptures, cooking, talking music everything. its all linked and its all important. Do you think we need to talk about the benefits of singing? B)

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Jake,

Did the items you presented to the art society all have a usefull purpose?

Often an art house or art society does not view an object that has an actual use as a "true piece of art".

When I first got into blacksmithing my buddy and I were walking past an art house and in the window was a sculpture forged from wrought iron, with some very well done and beautiful transitions, curves, punches and it was forged all over. As I was admiring the skill displayed in the piece, my friend said, "That is what I like about your blacksmithing work, everything you make has a function.".

Up to that point I hadn't really thought much about what I was making, I got into blacksmithing to make wood and stone working tools, then became very side tracked by the craft of hand forging and never really got around to making the wood and stone working tools! HA!

I like to say that form and function should walk hand in hand. One should not follow the other.

To me at least, work comes from play. That is, only 40 to 50 years ago when children played, they played with real objects, there simply wasn't another option. Think of the model cars, science kits(gasp danger!), erector sets, even doll houses etc. All the way down to making forts out of sticks and MOST important of all using ones imagination. Even if it is just something as simple as making a parachute for G.I. Joe, it is the production of something that didn't exist before, something that you must figure out how to make. My idea is that if one can get the youth to play with real objects, they will progress at the very least to having hobies later in life that are "real".

Caleb Ramsby

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Beth,i'm sorry,i do believe in art education(as well as music,poetry,and all creative subjects),i very emphatically believe in industrial education,too,and for all sexes,of course(my best student ever was a girl).

The official field of education is closed to me,as i have none meself(not even a middle school diploma),i do teach at every opportunity.

There are two schools in my village,a regular 12-grade school and a residential charter school for kids from other villages.

I know many teachers(that sometimes bring groups of children over),and the whole picture is a sad one.
Children,for the most part,are profoundly disinterested...Like everyehere in the world,they're exposed to the mass-cultural events and consumables.What i do in my dismal shop has no relevance to their aspirations that are based on...TV,primarily.

Actually,things around are not just bad,but tragic.This whole culture,the Koyukon Athapaskans,is seeing it's complete impending demise.The education,though of a nominally high quality,is really just an excuse for some posh colonial employment.The youth suicide rate locally is 5 times(!)the national average.

But mainly,kids themselves are confused,and profoundly uninterested in anything technical,practical,or having to do with "art".They dream of fame,and fortune.

Caleb,yes,of course nothing that i make is totally abstract :) It's a point of honor for me to never make anything that is not also at least nominally functional.
You're absolutely right about the granting agencies,they've no imagination.
To hell with them,i've only groveled and wagged my tail before them this time at the insistence of friends.I'm no respecter of the wealthy,and they smell the class enemy on me,too.It's a sad turn of affairs,as we'll all loose by it at the end.So it goes.

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Actually,happened to take these photos just today.Friends kids are visiting,and looking through the book of some very elaborate custom art-knives that my friends in the old country sent.I've eavesdropped on their conversation,and it was not very encouraging,a mix of pop-culture images.The fact that these knives/swords were MADE by someone didn't seem to matter to them much.
And these kids are priviledged,they do get books read to them.There MAY be some hope for these ones,but there are many more that are in rough shape.
And the fact of my stark poverty does not speak well for my trade.either :unsure:

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Hey Beth,

Sorry to hear that your youthfull curiosity was shuned, saddly that happens all too often, especially to girls.

I was very lucky, having been home schooled by my parents(both were profesional teachers) from the 5th to 9th grade. Amoung other things I was able to make and use my own potters wheel and most importantly I learned to teach myself!

We really need more teaching of the youth the true arts and crafts, of which I see blacksmithing as the master of them all. For without it there would be very few crafts that would have the proper tools!

Jake,

Two things I like to ask kids when showing them something hand made, are "How would you make it?" and "Why would you make it that way.". Once their mind is engaged in a constructive way then there is little stoping their curiosity and ambition!

I have been thinking about your battle with the art commision and have come up with an idea which you may or may not like.

They want "pure art" non-commercial, which is most likely meening, something unusual or unique at its core.

What about combining your efforts with another artist. I was thinking of something different, a stand for a picture, say, a tall base simular to that used for a tall candle holder, but it would at the top merge into the form of a picture frame that would hold a canvas at center eye level.

It would be an interesting irony, a functional hand forged piece of art that holds/displays a "pure" form of art. It would give you the ability to produce something that is both beautiful and functional, while actually giving the art house(and prospective buyers) two pieces of art for one!

Caleb Ramsby

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Caleb,thanks for the suggestion,it's kind of you!
I do cooperate with other craftsmen as an opportunity presents itself.Mostly,they're builders,log and timberframe,a mason that we're working on some masonry stove hdwre,as you can see from the list,also very concrete arts!

I've never had a chance to participate in a joint venture with a postmodernist painter or the like,might be fun!(I can be the exibit,the question-provoking "installation":Naked,covered in charcoal dust,angrily beating-up something on the anvil).
That ought to put the fear of god into the effete art-community B)

(Alas,the era of social-realism has gone...)

Jokes aside.There's an old story of someone exibting an old goose-wing axe head,stuck in a log,at an art show.It recieved some "honors" or what-not,before someone discovered that it was an actual axe.Then it was demonstratively booted out of the show,with all sorts of noises of righteous indignation.It is the sign of the times.

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wrong time of day for me to be chatting on here! BUT i still say we cant just whistfully talk of the good old days and abandon these poor kids to the horrors of the Screen! its not their daklt at all, its the wholesale ignoring of all that iod real and valuable in society, surely we are all to blame for allowing this. and there is definately hope!! jake i am still thinking about your show, but i think essentially you should show what you want to show :)however subversive that ends up being. as for the kids in your shop - ot all of them aspire to fame and etc - thats all they are shown - you may have inspired somebody very deeply with what you do. i was always told there was no money in art and it made not the slightest difference to my interest and passion. one of those kids might surprise us!!! :

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also ( this really is a bad time of day for me but im thinking of it now!!) its always been the same surely - people in history have only really been interested in making quality things of beauty if there is an economical reason for them to do that- and people today are the same. the large majority of people are not interested in the value of such projects/and kids today are no different... but we do have to be careful - myself included- of totally writing off their methods and interests as worthless just because they are not making things out of raw materials. whilst i would love my children to do that all the time ( they do often do the stuff i like doing!!) we must not alienate them by washing our hands of how they choose to use what the modern world hands them. my son for example likes to spend time on the computor, but he makes quite stunning 3d moving graphic images and animations which quite clearly completely fire his imagination. why should he be made to feel ( by his mother) that this is of less value than me making physical sculpturers? while i do struggle with this stuff and the 'its not real' gut instinct i have, i have to be careful to not be luddite and act out of impulse and fear? for what i dont understand??? also he sources beautiful pieces of piano music and learns them entirely on his own, and his playing is fabulous, often theme tunes from a game that he likes playing on the computor. the piece of music or peices of music in question i would never have believed came from a low life computor game ( which i have the ultimate scorn for ) but they do and they are beutifully written and it amazes me that my son plays them with such feeling. my other son also does similar with his guitar. the fact that their learning sometimes involves a screen has hugely bothered me for years but if the end result is concrete and creative learning, then i wonder if there is less to worry about. its not always the medium we need to focus on, its the motivation and inspiration that we need to fire into the children. they will come full circle back to our 'real' methods if the rest of the world does??or if they percieve the value through our example !just some early morning thoughts before the school run...

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To quote Jake from an earlier entry on this thread

"Forging IS a dead language.That is why it's so difficult to design in it,let alone to execute certain,less-common joinery.

To practice it i've given up on the middle-class sort of an income and respectability.My day-job is killing things,tying knots in ropes,handling logs in the water,and the rest of the eclectic mix of skills required to survive here.It is even more remote from iron joinery,and all the organic junctures that i stare at all day,roots,shoots,the way that the currents eddy,and the rest,aren't much help to a sculptor in forged iron."

I am afraid I must disagree, Firstly Forging is alive and well today and boundaries are still being pushed and extended with new materials and techniques to work them being developed.

Secondly, What an opportunity your worklife and situation brings, Traditionally nature has always supplied inspiration for the blacksmiths as well as artists, and you are surrounded by it, why not try to incorporate some of the patterns into your work, normally whatever you make, the ironwork flows similar to natures patterns and forms.

You want an art project? Try forging a single leaf or a river eddy on a larger than normal scale than the real thing, of course when you have done that you are probably going to use it as a functional item, not just to look at, it may turn into a backplate or base or some other part of a project, or as it is for a dish or some other useful object, let the imagination loose and hang on.

Just look at the fishing poker thingy whatever it is you made, functional and elegant because it was made and designed to do a specific task, and an heirloom for the future of the family using it, (nearest thing man gets to immortality) plus that special feeling of pride when someone else admires and acknowledges your work is priceless (that doesn't mean you don't have to make money from the job, just that success is not necessarily judged on a financial scale.)

To refer to the education systems and their apparent failure to keep up the hands on craft skills, that is why it is important to keep our skills alive and to pass them on to others, it is far easier to pass them on to willing subjects, rather than having a class that is just going through the system because they have to,

It is up to the people practising the craft to keep it alive. Colleges and their qualification systems are not there for the benefit of the craft, they are there merely to finance the Tutors and colleges fees, if a course is not economically viable, it will be cancelled, (Look at the current situation in the UK)

It is my policy that if there is a "demand" ,(ie one person) then we who have that skill should be prepared to pass it on (and the financial side of costs are a secondary consideration) Most people that want to learn something value that knowledge and are prepared to contribute in some form or other for that knowledge.

The most valuable thing you can give to anyone is your time, it's your life and you choose what to do with each hour and minute of it, once it has gone, it is irreplacable.

I don't mind spending time with someone who wants to learn, I regard it as payback time for those who took time with me, generally so long as my basic costs are covered (sometimes not) I am happy to see the skills passed on.

It is often quite revealing if you ask someone to pay what they think the item is worth (considering they have not the skills to do so) and then compare it with their hourly pay rate as to what they are prepared to pay you.


Ramble over for now.

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john - BRAVO!!!!!!! :) i have just been asked by an art teacher friend of mine to give some time to an interested 18 yr old who is struggling in her class and likes metal - of course i have said yes (despite having very little on paper or otherwise qualifications!!!) i will be only too pleased to offer what i can. and yesd john - blacksmithing skills are thriving absolutely amoung those that are interested, and thats the best you can hope for with anything.

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john - BRAVO!!!!!!! :) i have just been asked by an art teacher friend of mine to give some time to an interested 18 yr old who is struggling in her class and likes metal - of course i have said yes (despite having very little on paper or otherwise qualifications!!!) i will be only too pleased to offer what i can. and yesd john - blacksmithing skills are thriving absolutely amoung those that are interested, and thats the best you can hope for with anything.


Thanks Beth, since when do you need a piece of paper or otherwise qualification to know something, and to be able to pass that knowledge on?

Qualifications, all you have to do is show examples of your work, they are far more relevant than a piece of paper that mostly says you turned up and attended a class of some sort, not that you understood or actually produced something worthwhile.
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Beth,i absolutely admire you for raising such a wonderful family,it's definitely a vastly,immesurably more important of a trade than any :) I promise you that i'd never have,or will turn away anyone at all desiring to learn,(dug through my old picture for some of shots of assorted urchins in my shop).It's probably beyond my capacity to comprehend,let alone effect a change,in a socio-economic system surrounding me,i'd better not try,i can't even figure out something as relatively simple as forging... :unsure:

John,it's a great ramble,thanks.Your many points are well taken.

It was,of course,rash of me to toll the bell for forging:Much is still being explored and discovered therein.(Much of it i'm not aware of,not being connected to the world by other means than this here funky futuristic monitor).

In regards to using the natural forms as source of inspiration and such,you're also,of course,quite right.For what it's worth,here're my thought on this.

I believe that the iron forgings should,first and foremost,look like IRON.That means that when i try to forge a leaf,i want it to look like an iron leaf,not the way that a cottonwood leaf looks.It must be a lucky/serendipitous or a very skilled combining of that natural shape AND the natural tendency of iron to distort in the like manner.

Often,i simply lack skill,talent,vision,all that it takes to achieve that symbiosis.I have tried to play with organic shapes,and will do so again,but i came up against my limits in that,and veered off into the shapes that speak "iron" louder,so to speak.

I do hope that in a general,sub-rational way,my organic surroundings influence my brain.The textures(that,again,i'm dead-set to produce artificially),and the general "flow" of natural forms,and especially the changes/transitions of mass:The way tree branch or a deer antler divides,there're some perfect proportioning there(usually requiring a forge-weld,the sum of parts being greater than the original mass from whence it splits off).

In my opinion,judging by the work of others that i see,such work is easy to overdo.I intensely dislike much of the "anatomically correct" modern organic work,such as grape vine and clusters,there's always something off about it.Makes my brain want to make a choice:It's either iron,or real grapes,and it looks like neither.
Even more gross are roses that are thickly coated with glossy paint in screaming colors.(In this i,again,envy you as an Englishman,for you've a certain cultural,canonic look of like work that is traditional there,and generationally worked-out to look a certain way.As well as the people used to seeing it that way).

The "trick",it seems,is the TRANSLATION.To know the way of iron deforming,and to express some object using that language,and to do so fluently.Here often the skill and talent simply fail me.

As an example,i'll post photos of my sadly failed attempt to translate from wood carving into iron.The original is an old church in Sweden,and the photo was taken from here:(if we'll continue this discussion,folks will have to excuse my posting sources in russian,but the text is irrelevant anyhoo,i just want to preserve polite internet ethic of accreditation)http://forum.ostmetal.info/showthread.php?t=220649

So,to summerise:I often come across the designs in nature itself,or old work in stone,wood,and other,that i'd LOVE to do in forging.But fail to do so in a classy manner,and have to back off to the present confines of my skill.

BTW,have you,John,Beth,or anyone here read Ruskin on Gothic work,where he talks about the imagery surrounding the artist(northern woods vs the Mediterranian,et c)?I came across parts of it and could never track it down after...

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post-3679-0-34889300-1310579034_thumb.jp

post-3679-0-96502300-1310579244_thumb.jp

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jake absolutely agree about the whole grapes thing - could not agree more infact - why re create something that is already as good as its going to get (nature), instead do another version a version from yourself and your own thoughts and observations about the subject. i like to make sculptures of animals but could not be less interested in making them an exact representation of the real thing ( what would be the point?????) but i like to work with my feelings about the nature shape and character of that animal and the marks i make on the clay or plaster to describe the creature are as much about me really as an individual as they are about the subject matter. and someone else will either get it and connect with it or not but it doesnt really matter.. also its nice to totally embrace your freedom ie you can really make what you want and how you want it to look - there are no copy it exactly rules. with forge work my hopes for my work are vastly out of proportion to my skills! but thats ok i have a few years yet to try and improve on that. i agree that an iron leaf should look like iron and not a real leaf although there is incredible skill displayed by somebody who can infact do that. i prefer to look at a stylised or other interpretations of a leaf - i very much like folk/primitive art where the leaf or whatever has been simplified down to its most dynamic elements almost like a cartoon. this of course has to be beautifully made and made with integrity and attention.. different interpretations are where the work becomes interesting for me, not repetitions of the real thing... also the marks that we're talking about describe the process which visually is very pleasing and easy to connetc with and takes you on a visual journey around the object. any making process is intellectually interesting to me, but physical signs of this also gives the object the integrity i was just saying about and an honesty that puts it on another level higher than something that has been faked to look a certain way (although that has its place but we're on about ideal scenario)... sorry guys i can hear the yawns !!!! i do like this stuff tho....

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Hi Jake, it's over 50 years since I came across Ruskin, and I didn't go into depth then.

I think you do yourself a disservice with the sample you show. What you have is an interpretation in metal of an item carved in another medium. Both these mediums have their own characteristics and methods for working them.

What you have there is a recognisable article, based on your converting the interpretation through another medium and yet still capable of being associated with the original.

A good attempt, and no doubt if you made another one it would be markedly improved, based on what you learnt the first time around

Gee this getting a bit deep for me, I don't think I understand what I am saying, however we can always utilise the old teachers mantra "If you can't convince 'em, Confuse 'em" I know when I left school I was definately confused, still am and can't see it improving.

Back to hovering and watching I think.

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yes i agree john about jakes carved item - it does not need to be identical, it has metalic character all of its own... like the if you cant convince em confuse em :)

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