Saturday, August 27, 2016

Europe 2016 - 'Official Press Release'


Artist Blacksmith Participates in European Iron Events

Grey County resident DARRELL MARKEWITZ will soon be leaving for a six week long research trip to Europe. This will be a three country trip, including special events in Belgium, Poland and Scotland. The core funding is via a special Projects Grant from the Ontario Arts Council. Darrell will both be contributing from, and seeking to expand, experience gained from 40 years at the forge.

The trip started with the Ypres 2016 event (, taking place in early September. An international group of artist blacksmiths have designed, and will be creating on site, a new memorial to the memory of those lost in the World War One battles there. Participants (including Darrell) will be divided into working teams, each completing one of 24 panels surrounding the completed cenotaph. This work is all being done as a public event, at the central market square at Ypres.

“ Canadians figured prominently in the many battles around Ypres, Pashendale being a well known example. The two infantry units I served in as a young man, the Hastings and Prince Edward’s and the Toronto Scottish, both saw action at Ypres. I had already wanted to take part in some event marking the 100 years since events of the First World War. This seemed the ideal opportunity, not only to walk the battlefields, but to contribute something lasting to the memory of those who fell. ”

Darrell had already made plans to attend Ypres 2016, registering for one of the working teams and also submitting a design for one of the individual panels. (While the design Darrell submitted was not among the group chosen he still hopes to complete it and arrange its installation here in Canada.)
'And Age Shall Not Tarnish Them' - Submission for Ypres 2016
About the time he had first learned about the Ypres memorial, he was contacted by the Scottish Sculpture Workshop (located in Lumsden, NW of Aberdeen - Plans were being laid to continue the ‘Turf to Tools’ project, in which Darrell had a key role in 2014. T2T was described as ‘An investigation of human interaction and impact on the natural landscape.’ The work focussed on Pictish material culture (so circa 600 AD, ‘Post Roman and Pre Viking’). Especially ancient bloomery iron smelting, where the prototypes were furnaces uncovered  near Inverness, dating from 200 - 400 AD. The goal of the project was re-creating an axe depicted on a standing stone from nearby Rhynie. Darrell was the obvious choice to lead Turf to Tools, being one of the few who has direct experience with historic iron making methods. Fifteen years and over 65 individual smelting experiments has lead to him being recognized internationally as one of the most experienced in the area of Migration Era / Viking Age iron production.
Posing as the 'Rhynie Man' - Turf to Tools 2012
(Image by David Porter)

The planned extension of T2T-2 will investigate other historic puzzles. Planned are at least two more experimental iron smelts, one using iron ore from the nearby Lecht Mine and a second attempting to use locally dug peat as the fuel. These firings will be the first time either of these these elements have been tested in modern times.

“ I had applied for an Ontario Crafts Council Project Grant back in October. I honestly did not expect to get the funding, and was attempting to pull the project together using a big chunk of my own money. I was totally surprised in February when I was notified by the OAC that I had received full funding for the two weeks of Turf to Tools Two combined with a further two weeks residency at SSW to study bronze and iron casting techniques.”

“ Since I would be in Europe already, I then contacted Jenns Olesen from Denmark, who I had met at an iron making event there in 2008. I asked if there where any iron smelting events happening over September / October that I might be able to add on to the ends of my grant project. As it turned out, he was organizing participants for an iron smelting symposium as part of the ARTifacts - Pruszkow Archaeological Festival (Pruszkow is just outside Warsaw, Poland -”

This event, pulling together working teams from across Poland, Denmark, Norway and North America, will present a chance to share direct experience gained from attempts to re-discover lost metalworking methods. Darrell is the only demonstrator from Canada, one of two from North America, who are attending.

Working a Pictish Iron Furnace - SSW 2012
(image by Kelly Probyn-Smith)

On his return in October, Darrell expects to continue both his personal research, detailing new discoveries via academic papers and his web site, and his series of hands on workshops at his studio forge at Wareham (southern Grey County, near Flesherton). His hope is to replicate the medium scale bronze foundry equipment he will study at SSW here in Ontario at his own Wareham Forge.
As part of his commitment to the OAC Project Grant, he will be publishing continuing notes and descriptions via his blog ‘Hammered Out Bits’ :
Main web site :

Regular Readers: I realize the style here is a bit stilted. This is intended to be a general press release which I will be sending to local newspapers here around Grey County.

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

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