Tuesday, September 25, 2012

State of the Art - View at Quad State

This last weekend I attended Quad State, a regional level blacksmith's event by the Southern Ohio Forge & Anvil, a branch organization of ABANA.
This event has been running for a good 30 years now, my first would have been some time about 1996, and I have been there almost every year since. One of the excellent features of Quad State is that typically the demonstrators are chosen for their ability to *communicate*, not just because they have big names in smithing.

Over the years, the gallery submissions have steadily increased in both the quality and the scope of the individual pieces. This year's special theme category was "Must have at least two moving parts" - and there were a good number of excellent entries. Every year there are cash awards given for the best in a number of categories : Theme / General / Novice / Youth / Cutting Edge.

I have taken to photographing a number of the pieces that catch my eye for one reason or another. Sometimes this is on technical prowess, but more often because of overall design or concepts. Here is my own selection from this year, with some notes about why I liked the pieces...
(all these images will expand to roughly 8 x 10 size)

Brian Cool : 'Servant's Bell'
I thought this was a clean and elegant concept, working in the '2 parts' theme. Nothing complex, but liked the general simple mechanics and obvious control of technique.

Josh Greenwood : 'Architectural Samples'
This may not be the clearest image (shot with available light), but this one does show the surface details more clearly. Although these are sample / test pieces, and not a style I personally (normally?) work in, I really liked the possibilities expressed with these organic forms. Heavy bars (source bar seen on the lower left) very aggressively sculpted, with a lot of surface detailing.
Dave Hammer : 'Steel Vessel'
So, those who have been following my more recent work have seen me exploring curved forms - bowls and simple containers. The image is a bit dark, but the relief on Dave's bowl is about three inches. The brilliant thing here is the high polish he gave to the thin line that marks the thickness of the sheet. Contrasted against the dark fire scale finish, the result is quite dramatic. ('Boy, I wish *I* had thought of that...')

Dave Hammer ; 'Viking Ship'
Its not usual for me to pick two pieces by the same artist. (I generally don't pay that much attention to the tags, but do read descriptions if available.) This was a '2 parts' entry, the oars all swung on pivots. The whole piece had a very nice feel to it. (Yes, purists, I know this is not really a true longship!)

Kevin Johnson : 'Jezebel
Both Kelly Probyn-Smith and I were both struck by this piece (with her work in jewellery and with the theatre, not surprising!) The individual parts were relatively simple, but extremely well executed, with the whole working extremely well into the finished 'garment'. Imagine this over a loose fitting long dress of thin rough white linen or silk. The mere concept of not only forged metal as corset, but also so obviously not as armour, sets this work out.

Daniel Linkenheld : 'Spike Hawk'
Both of these presentation tomahawks show excellent fine detail in the inlay work on the handles. Dan chose to leave the temper colours showing as a feature on the Spike Hawk, carefully controlling the application of temperature to produce primarily blues and purples.

Dave Palmer : 'Magic Mushroom'
This is one of those times I really wish there had been a detailed description of the work! This was a fairly massive block, about 6 inches plus wide, at least that tall, My guess is that it was wootz or some other foundry type layered material. The large ball bearing was magnetic, and could be played across the surface. I think a much more impressive piece than many viewers realized.

Marty Reisig : 'Two Candle Chandlier'
Although I thought the work on the actual chandlier itself was kind of standard (although well executed), the work on the hanger was exceptional. That piece was all light stocks, but absolutely beautiful in the long even tapers and the forms throughout.

Danielle Russell : 'Candle Stand'
This piece in the 'Youth' category certainly caught my eye (just 17!). Of course this is so much like my own style. Still, this is an excellent piece by Danielle, showing a good feel for organic lines and attention to fine detail. One suggestion - try to find yourself some hand blown glass Danielle, your metal work certainly deserves it!

Al Vasaris : 'Abstract Plant'
This piece caught my attention, for its aggressive forging of heavier stock (in the centre) and then applying the same concepts to the lighter branches. But what happened at the base? Such great work on the elements, and then a very standard base element. And such horrible welds! The piece would have been better finished by hot punching the base, then using a pin style attachment, welded (unseen) underneath.

Barry Wheeler : 'Old Woman in a Shoe'
Wow! This delightful mechanical was so clearly the very best submission in '2 Pieces'. Not only in design, execution, detail, complexity - but in overall whimsy. Turning the crank moved a number of the figures back and forth, one reaching out to strike the small bell. A masterful object. (Barry has been creating this complex mechanical artworks for a number of years to exhibit at Quad State.)

Darrell Markewitz : 'Poke Your Eye Out'
Ok - its my own work. Why include it? 
The theme description / call for entry said "Whether it be as simple as a pair of tongs or as elaborate as a Calder mobile..." I was a bit surprised that *no one else* took up the obvious suggestion of a mobile or wind vane!
I had decided quite deliberately to keep the forging techniques used as basic as possible. Basically there are only two used here - long drawn cylindrical point and reversal curve. 'Hey, I could have done that' was the lesson I was aiming for. (The title comes from the number of times I almost poked my own eye, while I was assembling the piece!)

Friday, September 14, 2012

Presentations at Re-Arc 2012

3rd Annual Reconstructive and Experimental Archaeology Conference

From Experience to Experiment - A Marriage of Two Worlds

The Schiele Museum of Natural History
Gastonia, NC
October 19 - 21, 2012

 I am happy to announce that I will be presenting at this conference:

Formal Presentation - 'Early Iron in North America' 
Mike McCarthy instructing at Early Iron
Since the late 1990's there has been increasing interest in the direct reduction bloomery process in both Europe and North America. The 'Early Iron' movement in North America is driven not by archaeologists, but by working blacksmiths. In this way, practical metalworking experience has been brought to bear on what is largely unknown technical processes. Although the focus is on iron production, there are clear links to the first iron smelting furnaces built historically on this continent. This presentation will focus on some of the discoveries made and lessons learned over hundreds of iron smelts by a core group of experimenters.

Demonstration - 'The Aristotle Furnace'
Demonstration using Norse bellows
Working from clues by Aristotle and the descriptions of Ole Evanstad, combined with practical insights from a decade of bloomery iron smelting, a small re-melting furnace has been developed. About the size of a standard water pail, this furnace will produce a 500 - 750 gram 'puck' of carbon steel in roughly 25 minutes. This makes the system ideal for smaller scale demonstrations, or for those wanting to work with a bloomery type metal.

Bio - Darrell Markewitz

Working with students at Brown, 2011
Darrell Markewitz is a professional artisan blacksmith, with over 30 years experience, who specializes in objects from the Viking Age. He designed, created and implemented both the 'Norse Encampment' living history program for Parks Canada and the 'World of the Norse' exhibit for the Cranbrook Institute of Science. He consulted on the Smithsonian's 'Vikings - North Atlantic Saga', and the Newfoundland Museum's 'Full Circle - First Contact' exhibits, as well as assisting a number of the institutions hosting both exhibits.
His interest in iron smelting goes back to 2001. To date he has participated in over 50 experimental firings, in Canada, the USA and in Denmark. He has documented this work in formal academic papers, a CD-ROM, and extensively on the internet. (www.warehamforge.ca/ironsmelting

Thursday, September 13, 2012

'At least two moving parts'

The theme for this year's QUAD STATE ROUND-UP is :
"Must have at least two moving parts"

 I've been kicking around some concepts, more to play on the description provided - with a heavy lean to the *design* aspects (more than the functional and technical).

 "Poke Your Eye Out" 
This is not quite what I had originally envisioned. I had imagined the knotted ball of metal on the ends to be tighter. In this rendition, I had watched the positive and negative spaces within the curved tangles pretty carefully. None of the individual lines actually touch each other. Not entirely sure how well that works at a distance.

The individual units here are forged from 1/4 round stock. The starting pieces were about five feet long. As completed, each 'ball' consumed about two feet of material, so the completed mobile sweeps out about 3 feet from the central axis. The linking cables are about 4 inches long (so the whole piece is about 20 - 24 inches in depth)

Quad State happens over September 21 - 23, at Troy Ohio. It is a large regional blacksmith's conference, typically some 600 - 800 in attendance. It is well known for the care used to select demonstrators, plus a massive tool sales area. 
My close friend David Robertson will be one of the featured demonstrators this year.

Friday, September 07, 2012


October 12 / 13 / 14
This is a 18 hour program that stresses a hands on approach, with a Friday evening lecture and two full working days in the forge. Only 4 students per session, each with their own work station, means close personal attention. Projects include poker, tongs, punches and one small decorative item. Course fee of $300 (+HST) includes coffee and materials. For further details go to Basic Blacksmithing

This is a new date!


for this October and the September 14 -16 Course! 


February 15 - May 15, 2012 : Supported by a Crafts Projects - Creation and Development Grant

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