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


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Beth and John are right on the mark, Jake. Looks like we're back to what I wrote before about the problem of doing what we want and then need to find a client who has an appreciation of what it is and maybe how it was done and has the money to back that up. In doing shows for many years I had my intemidation of dealing with the public and their lack of knowledge of forging. The majority of the crowd would just walk by in a daze. But then those special people would come in. Well, some weren't so special, just want to share that their grandfather had been a blacksmith, blah, blah, blah... But then the others were truley interested. Funny how they saw toltally different things in my work than I did, and they often enjoyed the things that I was so conscious about being wrong or bad or? They don't look at all of the detail that we focus on. They see an overall piece. They have different eyes than we do and that's a good place to be coming from for us. I found that if I didn't charge enough for the piece the people would walk. I thought it was priced too high. They figure something must be wrong with it at that price. I proved this to myself over and over. This happened when I carried a piece around for a couple years with out selling it I would mark the price up, not down. It was often the piece that sold first at the next show. Go figure.

If you want an excellent book, Art & Fear, Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking, by David Bayles and Ted Orland. It's available on Amazon. It really explains what an artist goes through and ways around it.

Another good book is, As a Man Thinketh, by James Allen. As you see by the "thinketh" it takes some getting used to in reading, but then flows. Very spiritual and into the laws of attraction.

Can't wait to see your next piece!

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I don't like the red shoes either, I've always felt my energy is better spent in the honesty of the work and that my friend you have done. Not to belittle your current financial deficiency but I too will most likely die poor (monetarily), even if I was entitled with the green stuff I would spend it on more material or more tools. I agree with John, leave your mark, hit it while it's hot.

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hey randy nicely put - i am very interested in those books you recomend, i will see if i can find them.... thanks :) and the whole pricing thing - its a weird one - youve got to detatch from the emotional and otherwise investment that you have put into the work, becasue an exchange in those terms is hard to quantify, but does happen and it certainly aint to do with money when it does! (or the red shoes) It is the real reward for being an artist, although the ridiculously over rated and often emotionally/spiritually retarded exchange of money, would be usefull too.... we need both, although i dont care that i will never be rich, and i do do do care if i never make these precsious connections with people.. i guess i would feel differently if i could not feed the kids, but i can, and so ive the luxury of seeing the importance of relationships with other like minded people. THIS feeds too!
the conversation i had today with a business type man friend of mine, was that the piece i thought i was charging way too much for, he infact thought i was charging stupidly low, and he put another light on what my customers (for this particular thing anyway ) would be thinking. he lives in totally another world to me in terms of earnings etc disposable income, and like i said shed some valid light on the matter. i cant do this for literaly no nothing (although im prepared to do it for very little so long as i can justify my behaviour) and i certainly cant do it at a loss! i think if you keep opening doors, also, then the appreciative public do exist. its not easy to find them though. and its not easy to keep heart with the whole Game. its the same problem the world over - theres more work here jake than youve got there, but it costa a hell of a lot more to live too, and we dont have the same kinds of freedom. its swings and roundabouts.

we got to remain excited about the process, and treat the money separately if we can. rich is not the aim - enough to continue is the aim.

rusty - yes yes of course i can send you olbas oil! as much as you could ever hope to use :) but i cant accept something so heavy and expensive for you to post in return - much as i would love to try using some. i do love the whole postal thing though - it makes these conversations we have more real :)

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I have been in and out of this thread.... Interesting meanderings of mind, thought and form.

Jake,
I think the piece is great. I also think you should be proud of your achievement. If not you, than who? It starts with you, when you first show the work.

Here, on this forum, we see good work for what it is. We understand what it takes, how it happens. Out in the regular everyday citizen world we need to help people see what makes it good. Help them understand the difference from " I could have got that at Walmart" (I hate to even type that word!!) and something to be proud of owning. I have never once heard anyone brag about how proud they were with a purchase from walmart based on the product, Its always the price that make them happy. In your case it will be the work that makes them happy. Price negotiable ;)

It is rare that a piece comes out as conceived and perfect to vision. In one of a kind work, I find achieving the look and feel to more important than perfection of the initial vision. Sometimes mistakes yield great things. I have heard it said many times "the difference between an amateur and a professional is how he/she handles the mistakes"

Ah-- the struggles of the artistic mind....

PS,
Randy-
Thanks for the titles, I ordered them. They sound interesting!

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"Thanks" sounds like too paltry of a term in return for everyone's wisdom,kindness,and sheer validity of thought expressed here.
I can only hope that everyone knows just how much it means to me,how much it helps.
Thanks.

I'll go forth feeling like i'm vested with authority for the mission by all these powerful entities,the Blacksmithing individuals and guilds on both sides of the Atlantic.

(I may have to think of staging a demonstration in Fairbanks where the "colors" of different blacksmithing guilds will be carried through the streets,big,colorful carved effigies of patron saints and banners,and all manner of reliquia!!!).

I'm so far behind,that instead what i should do is turn the computer off,as usual i've left so much to the last moment that it's not even funny...

I'm sorry that the photo function of the site has been so unwell of late,we're missing out on some unique stuff from all over the world...(I manage to sneak a shot or two in by endless re-newal of page).

(The mention of a steamer going by has given me a pang,John,as you know,it's (yet)another mental affliction plaguing me,in this photo you can see a corner of the one that i keep by my bed :) )

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About 25 years ago I used to belong to a 12 step program, AA. Artists Anonymous. True! We met once a week in a church basement and discussed what was going on in our art. We had painters, musicians, singers, potters, writers, fiber artists and a blacksmith. It was really interesting to hear their trials and tribulations. All pretty much the same stories, maybe not the story as much as the feelings and results. Kinda like this group! One exercise we did was to think back, or meditate back as far as we could to our first experience with art and what happened. I remember geting a 4th place award for a coloring contest in elementary school. The response from my father was, "you can never make a living doing that!". What a thing to say to a kid. And how has that affected me over the years. Making such negativity come true? So we learn what we have to work against and get a better understanding of why we are worried about rejection or what the value is of our work.

Another exercise was to focus on what was holding us back from accomplishing our goals in our art. Almost everyone had the same problem. Procrastination. Coming up with excuses not to create. And we anylized that. Here we love being creative. We love what we can produce. Designing, forging, satisfaction in a finished piece. And then a client raves about how much they love the piece. Plus they pay you for it! Back to the studio and, oh, I'd better straighten up. I need to clean the lights, oil the machinery, make some more tooling, mow the yard, read a book, go to the scrap yard and see what they have today, Not that these things don't have to be done at some point, but it's an excuse not to get back to what you love doing. So why do we do this? Why the avoidance? Maybe it's "what's the use, I'll never be any good anyway". Or "even if I produce whatever, no one will buy it" or whatever circle you want to run around in. I still struggle with this.

Seeing Jake working on so many projects is truely inspiring. We all have, with few exceptions, our own demons to fight against and find our solutions, or not. We can choose to watch the boob tube or zone out on the couch when there's a chunk of metal just waiting to be coaxed into a new form. I've learned alot from books, fellow artists and just life experiences, but putting it into practice...that's another thing.

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Randy,there's a simply INCREDIBLE importance to your story,in a number of different ways(here i'm at the computer again,with all the woodwork that i need to do,thus inside work,i'm just perilously close to my desk,i'll file it as a smoke-break,no,a UNION-meeting break,and make it brief).
Only One of the many thoughts that flashed through the old brain upon reading Randy's story was this old idea,that this timber-framer friend and i discussed a few years back:

It involved compiling,and publishing,a Directory of all the local craftsmen,so that if anyone was interested,for whatever reason,in this entire concept,Handmade,Quality,Responsible craftsmanship,that they'd know who's working in that area.
It would list people working in all media,for we all have so incredibly much to learn from each other,just the way you describe in your excellent story,Randy,but also so many other things in which crafsmen of all denominations NEED each other.

Just the technical aspects taken separately are crucial,things like if i wanted to use a forged iron object in combination with glasswork,who i could possibly talk to,et c.

From the potential customer's standpoint such a thing would also be extremely valuable,say someone's just moving into a new timber-framed house,who can they talk to about appropriate fittings,hardware,decorative accents...

I'm so in love with ironwork that it makes my thinking lopsided in many ways,but even that angle alone,as far as it relates to the aspects of architecture such as woodwork,masonry stoves,glass and ceramics,everything,you name it...

Sorry for the jumbled together thoughts,but what Randy wrote leads into so much constructive ideas that i'm simply staggered...

Over and out here,wishing everyone the best possible creative,constructive,in all ways wonderful day!

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randy that does sound fab - surely you have read the artists way by julia cameron? one of the many books i cant help but push on people, it made me see things a lot clearer in terms of what may have been said and done over the years and why certain things i was finding very problematic! this forum is often like that for me too - its incredibley reaassuring to talk to friends with the same fairly niche issues in their day! MAGIC :) JOHN didnt know you had a steam engine at the bottom of the garden! wicked - how often does it run? we have one in the fairly near vicinity, but you cant see or hear it - not THAT near... so evocative - my earliest memories of a song on the radio is morningtown ride - must have been the seekers version cos it were the 70's :) i have always romantisised everything like trains - spent a lot of time in india on the steam trains that are mainly no longer and it was undescribabley wonderfull!!

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talking of balmy dry windowless fragrant train journeys with beautiful coral colored sunsets and the constant chuffing of the train and smell of coal - cobs of corn in hand, made by boys on the floor over little fires.... i bring you , with great delight, my immediate surroundigsat the workshop - glamourous it is not, and neither is it helped by the constant soft english rain, but there we have it - views either way out the workshop door and the sorry little building itself - my grotto...
:) NO! :mellow: no luck, no upload :( my filthy and very unromantic littl;e corner of an english farm will be kept from you all yet....

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Yes, Randy, you're insight is spot-on. The essence of an artists/craftsperson is that what we do/make/create is ultimately an expression of ourselves.. a tangible, judge-able, reflection of our skills and vision. So easy to hold it dear and be offended when someone won't pay or does not appreciate the process or the final outcome. And, the effect of procrastination and/or work avoidance serves to protect our fragile egos... If the work is not produced, then no one can say how rubbish it is... What is really rubbish is the procrastination and work avoidance practiced!!!

I should really sit and read the books that have been suggested..... too easy to be spoon fed by the computer!!

WAiting for the right clients/customers is important... perhaps not waiting, as in doing nothing while waiting... but I know from my time at my previous workshop it took a little time before I was discovered by some really amazing people who wanted me to create things for them and were happy to pay me well. Just have to kiss a lot of toads, snakes, lizards and newts before you find your "prince" , your ideal clients...

Beth, I've tried as well to post some pics of where I roam... today as dismal as it gets really, classic fog and drizzly rain... goes through the bones.. but also a moody atmosphere for walking the dogs... Jake, where I am is in Thomas Hardy country, his home patch. It's all managed land here, rolling hills, scraps of woodland, fields, nothing wild and untouched. Ancient pathways... holloways worn so deep while you walk you cannot help but to reflect on the many more that have footfalled the path before...with hedgerows so high filled with ivy, holly, blackthorn, hawthorn and brambles... but i love the English Countryside, despite it's being tamed, there is a charm about it.

not been able to go to the forge for the last two days, so tomorrow to go and appease the gods of fire!

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JOHN didnt know you had a steam engine at the bottom of the garden! wicked - how often does it run? we have one in the fairly near vicinity, but you cant see or hear it - not THAT near... so evocative -
Hi Beth, They run through the summer on weekends, Its the main line to Plymouth, and usually run as a bit of a tourist/ steam enthusiasts attraction between Exeter and Newton Abbot, traversing what is considered to be one of the most scenic routes in the Uk, passing down the side of the Exe estuary and following the coast line on the old Brunel Atmospheric railway, along the sea wall and through the cliff tunnels between Dawlish and Teignmouth, and then following the side of the Teign estuary to Newton Abbot, sometimes they travel further. I believe the engines are from Pete Watermans collection I usually see them as I head home from Westpoint after the courses.
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john how splendid - i would love to go on that journey - i bet its a stunner.. i just love the SMELL of the coal!!! i guess you mean THE legendary Pete waterman?? i believe he is chairman or something patron?? of toddington railway near us too - obviously a keen bean on the old railways!! (as well as kylie etc :) ) colleen - yes im with you on our english charm - it may be small, and not that wild, but you can feel the old wild if you try, and sometimes i walk in the lanes that are SO old with my dogs, that the rut of the lane falls way lower than the fields each side - its been so worn - you got to love that havent you?? and there is STACKS of hedgrow berries with our miserable climate - piles of sloes and haws, crab apples, i used to make a yummy jewel colored hedgerow jelly made from anything edible out the hedge! so autumnal :) and of course - the quintessential sloe gin :) more more more!!! also you can still see the medeavil (can Never spell that...?) ridge and furrow fields which is enough to transport even the most cynical, grounded, and modern living folk back in time to another time and place :)

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Okay, now you’re making me very nostalgic. I came to your beautiful country in ’89 on an iron tour. So I got the chance to take in your lovely countryside, history and people. As a “quick” synopsis, we first stopped at Richard Quinnels’ shop near Leatherhead, Surry. Here’s my first encounter with time comparison or a time warp. His house was older than our free country! His shop was also an old building with forges from one end to another. It looked like a forging factory. At least that’s the way I remember it. We were definitely in the English countryside. We could have stayed there all week.

We then went up to Hereford for the BABA Conference. Not only an educational experience in forging, but a union of kindred spirits. One night we had a rowdy time with limericks and bawdy tunes. It was also surprising who had the bawdiest ones. And this was before the ale! Oh, I remember the looks I got from the cafeteria ladies when they saw my name tag. “Randy”. We got a good laugh out of that.

Part of the conference was to go to Ironbridge for a smelting and iron rolling. It was only the second time it was reopened. The first was for Princess Diana and Prince Charles. On the way back on the bus I saw rolling hills and a castle in the distance and wanted to go there. Boy, was I put back in time. They said that was in Wales and couldn’t go there. Bummer! Next time I’m heading for Wales.

After the conference, on the way to London, we went to Michael Roberts shop. The Anvil Barn. By the way, he was our Nanny for the tour. From there we walked to a local village for lunch. Now from where we were we didn’t see anything but farm fields so weren’t sure where this village was, but then it appeared. Old stone buildings, a big old tree in the town square and rolling hills. It was hard to leave.

Back to the bus and a visit to where Michael was raised. There was a long driveway through the woods and the bus got stuck on a curve. The bus was too long to fit. So while they worked on a remedy for that we took another nice walk to the estate. What a huge place! The kind of place we see in pictures, but just don’t see over here.

Michael knew a shortcut to London from there so we were winding around back single lane roads in the bus when all of a sudden the road was blocked with parked cars. No one in them! Michael was mad! He went flying off the bus looking for the drivers. He came back laughing and the drivers coming out of a nearby driveway. “Only in England do people stop for tea time.”

London was a treat, too. The V & A Museum tour of ironwork with the curator. What a thrill to see the actual pieces that I’d seen photos of for years. Being able to see the actual scale of things, plus I could see the backs to learn how they were put together! I went on my own to the British Museum. I wanted to see the Celtic work. And I wasn’t disappointed. Amazing stuff!

We saw Churchill’s little house. I’m being facetious. The tapestries on the walls are bigger than my house! Tony Robinson met us at the Great Hall at Winchester Castle to show us his forged stainless steel gates he did for the Royal Wedding in ’82. If you want to see a master of hot metal, check out Tony’s works! We also went to Hampton Court to see the gardens and Jean Tijou’s famous gates. You have more iron history dating back before we were even discovered. Amazing! It really changed our perception of iron history, being limited to what’s here in the States.

I also had a great time in the pubs and hob knobbing with the locals. Very gracious people. All in all a fabulous time. Two weeks I’ll never forget. Oh, this was supposed to be a quick synopsis. Well, it was considering all that I left out. You have a beautiful country and I hope I get the opportunity to visit again sometime. I know there’s so much more to see and learn. Sorry if I rambled on too long. It's just a special time in my life.

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repeated too, for superstitious good luck for you guys - take care !take care boys, bryan and jake :)

randy - how amazing - all your talk of england, but mostly about my good friend mike roberts! what a small world it is :) mike was the one, the only one the one and only!! who took me seriously in my persuit of all this stuff, first about 20 years ago, when he helped me get hold of a little gas forge, when i turned up at his in miserden, anvil barn, and asked if he would teach me some stuff. He was then, very cagey and said no it was too much trouble after the last girl he had in ( he is a champion of the female smith :) ) and so, he helped me with this forge, and i was on my way. i then started having children and dissapered into a void for a decade, and then nothing working out at all, i found myself at his door Again, ten years later, and he wasnt in, so i left a soggy note in the rain on his barn door, he rang me becuase he is a very instinctive man, and said he knew whatever it was, it must be serious if id left a note. what a lovely man! i was infact fairly desperate for many reasons for some of his help, which he then kindly gave me, along with keys to the workshop and free useage thereof! i cant put in a nutshell how much respect i have for mike and the confidence he helped me with - and its so funny that you also know him randy!! do you keep in contact? i loved his workshop ( have not been up for a while) and it is as haunted as hell in there - amazing place - i always used to lock myself in when working alone, but always felt that i was NOT alone! his work, is all his own, and Very Mike. i also felt at ease with him becasue although a very contrary man often, and we did have our fallings out :) he works very much like i do, and he strugglles (still does) with similar things that i do. (numbers measuring right and left etc ) so we got along very well in the end. i think a great deal of him, and MUST go up and find him in misty miserden. it gets SO foggy up there that you cant see your hand infront of your face...

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That's incredible. What a fine circke of people we associate with! I first met Mike at one of the ABANA Conferences over here. It was great that he was our Nanny for the tour. It was a Leonard Masters iron tour and Leonard had everything worked out, but Mike kept it all running. Can't you see him almost going nuts trying to get those cars out of the road? He also took us to see the restoration he did of a gate at one of the churches. A blue gate no less. Great job!

So do you know that lovely little village down the road from his shop?

Last time I saw Mike he was over here. He was staying with Claire Yellin and I was staying at her mom's house outside of Philly. We spent that weekend in Yellins' shop on Arch Street. Always a thrill. I contacted him once after that but that was the last time I heard from him. Do go up and see him and give him a hug for me. I'd love to hear what he's been up to.

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wow thats so ace :) yes i know the village well - used to walk the dogs round there, in the mist usually!! i remember him telling me about someone calling him Nanny - i never quite understood who it was - and yes i can absolutely imagine him going freaked out at the car situation - can picture it clear as if it were happeneing now in front of me... :) i will certainly give him a big hug from you - he will be very pleased :) did you see his school gate at miserden primary school - tree of life - i LOVE that piece :) now THAT was fat........

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What's the village called? Without the fog it's one of tne most idealic places I've ever been.

I don't think I saw that gate. Must have been done after we left. I can't find it online either. I don't even find a site for him. He might have had it in his portfolio when he came over, but this mind doesn't recall it.

Actually it was his idea to call him Nanny as that's what he was being to our group while there. That sure goes back some years.

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yes have tried to find images of his before online but theres nothing - i will go personally and photograph it for you :) its lovely. the village is called miserden, or may be known as miserden estate a thats what it really is. yes its absolutley idylic - and only the v privelegdged live there - mike is different as village blacksmith, and he is much loved by the estate :)

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Yes, Jake and Bryan, take care!!!


Thanks Randy, so far so good. Nothing this far inland. Where I am is quite a ways from Nome. But I understand they are getting hammered on the coast. Hopefully it won't come this far. On another note Alaska opted out of the national test of the Emergancy Brodcast System that went on today because of the storm.
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Hey,i've actually flown in on that storm-it was cool,Mary Poppins-like.
Sitting outside the Fairbanks Inernational,on the piles of ironwork,dogs,tools,dogfish and my stashes of meat and fish,the pile barks and smells,and everyone gives us a wide berth.

The Mission has truly Began!We're behind the enemy's lines!(if my friends won't show up i'll hook up the dogs,we're self-sufficient unto iven having a charged lap-top,and a small anvil.Good place to winter out as any...

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The Galena airport has all the conveniencrs,as you can see:

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In the background you can make out just hoe erect the old wind-sock is.Actually,300+ inland,that storm has largely blown itself out.It's only gusting 28 to 40mph.They fly in this habitually.

post-3679-0-46215200-1320890020_thumb.jpOur workhorse,Beechcraft 1900C,cool machine,even pressurised.

The Yukon right in front of my shack,as we're taking out over it.

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And here we are,unsettling the passerby.That's pretty cool that the comp just works here(better han home),i feel like a real spy.

post-3679-0-76350100-1320890073_thumb.jp

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