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I Forge Iron

Nol Putnam, 1934-2023


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My husband, Malcolm Harlow, met Nol many years ago at the cathedral while Nol was doing many of the gates.  Malcolm was a stone carver.  They became fast friends.  What an exordinary presence and full of laughter!  What an honor to have spending time on the planet with Nol.  He taught a blacksmithing course at our school, Opus Oaks.  Our prayers and love go out to his family.  What are we going to do without him on the planet?

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As a volunteer tour guide at the Washington National Cathedral, Nol and his work have been a big part of my life for years now.  I met Nol through his work at the cathedral, some 20 years ago, and then later had the privilege to work with him as he wrote "Beauty in the Shadows" (a coffee-table-style book about the cathedral's entire ironwork collection), serving as one of his editors and photographers for that terrific book.  I visited his forge many times while he was a "cornerstone" of the RAAC annual art tour weekend each November; it is very sad to realize seeing him at last year's RAAC event was to be the last time.  

Nol was always gracious, thoughtful, humorous, generous and insightful.  He was a charming host, and I loved listening to him speak, whether off the cuff or if giving a presentation or lecture.  I will be adding an extra focus on his work during my cathedral tours this weekend.  Rest in peace, Nol... and maybe give those Pearly Gates a little bit of a make-over, some florets and leaves, please! 

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  • 4 months later...

Nol was a friend and neighbor.  He could be gnarly, contentious, self-absorbed, and, like most artists, temperamental.  He also had a great heart, an open mind, and a questing Spirit, and was always open to new ideas and "rooting" for the Underdog.  His stunning work speaks for itself, far better than I.  Nol was comfortable with himself, and a great "host" and raconteur, always curious to see around the next bend, and (almost) always upbeat.  Also, unfailingly polite, and sensitive to those in need of assistance.  Nol was a master, in many ways, of the Art of living well, and he shared his ebullience and joy with all who knew him.  RIP, friend ~ you, and your unimaginable work, were a Force to be reckoned with!


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