Sunday, July 26, 2015

Jake Powning - 'Only in Darkness, the Light'

I have commented before on the artistry and craftsmanship of sword maker Jake Powning.

Honestly, I have always been in awe of Jake's vision and intensity.
I almost always use him as a point of reference when I am talking to students of my various weekend courses. Both as an example of a 'pure' artist, and as a story (even if distorted by my perceptions of it) of one road to success.

Jake has been taking the time to talk with me privately via e-mail about some of the problems I have been having over the last year. Technical admittedly (that failed pattern welded sword project). But also a bit about 'the artist's way' - work, approaches, inspirations, (life, the universe - everything).

One of Jake's current projects is 'Only in Dark, the Light'
This is a bronze long sword, with Jake's consistent addition of carved scabbard and cast fittings.
Image linked from Jake's web site.
Of sure interest to readers here will be the excellent slide show of the creation of the entire project, from initial design inspiration through production and finishing, seen on Jake's Blog.

The direct link is : 'Only in Dark, the Light'

For any number of reasons, I recommend you take a look at this!

Saturday, July 25, 2015


Some interesting discoveries / extensions of past work:

Wrought Iron 1 (2014) - Hector's Bane (2013)
 Wrought Iron 1 was forged as a demonstration piece. The starting bar was a piece of re-cycled antique wrought iron, in this case a cut from a support strap from an old wagon. The hole seen was hot punched (initially round) into that original strap as a mounting point. Although done as part of a public demonstration illustrating historic re-cycling practices, I did forge the blade into a more modern shape.
I decided to test etch the finished polished blade (short time in ferric chloride). The results were quite a surprise:

The effect is subtle. What is revealed is most likely two things, which illustrate the important differences between antique wrought iron and modern industrial steels. First, the colour shifts do mark slightly different carbon contents, here only slight differences through the metal. Second is the resistance to acid provided by microscopic inclusions of glass slag through the material. Both of these elements are themselves of the hammering, folding and welding process used during the creation of the original metal bar.
Also revealed are the distortions in shape from the forging process creating the new blade profile from the starting rectangular bar.

Hector's Bane is the first 'art knife' using my bloomery iron.
I had presented the blade when I first forged and polished it, and it was received very well. (It won 'best in show' at the Summerfolk Artisan's Gallery in 2013.)

 I had felt that the polish needed to be completed with one higher grit level, and undertook this process in the early spring. As much as a test process, I decided to treat the new surface with a light etch. This was the final result:

What is interesting here (if something that should have been predicted) is the mottled variation in colour over the bloomery surface.
The central core of high carbon shows as the darkest colour at the exposed edge and in gaps along the back.
The other colours over the surface are the result of variations in carbon content in the original bloom. Interesting is the location of the pale areas (low carbon) and darker ones (higher carbon). The original bloom was flattened, then cut down the centre. The two places were positioned with the central part of the bloom pieces set towards the cutting edge. This was done deliberately to ensure a solid weld at the cutting edge, plus creation of a fragmentary line along the knife's back. You notice that the areas of lowest carbon (pale) are concentrated towards what would have been the centre of the original bloom.
Carbon was obviously being absorbed into the bloom from the encasing slag environment during the last part of the smelting process.

Both of these blades will be part of my presentation (offered for sale) at Summerfolk (Owen Sound - Aug 20 - 22)

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Summerfolk - Q & A

 Now that Goderich Celtic is out of the picture, I am working towards my appearance at Summerfolk in Owen Sound, August 20 - 22.
Here is the 'official' description I submitted:
The Wareham Forge returns! Absent last year for a special project at the Scottish Sculpture Workshop, Artisan Blacksmith Darrell Markewitz comes back to Summerfolk with new concept based hand forged metalworks. 2015 will be the first year of a planned four year cycle, featuring objects based on the theme of the four elements. This year's presentation will exhibit pieces based on 'Earth'. Darrell continues to work on custom architectural projects, and commissions always sought. See the web site : 
'Starburst Bowl' - 2014
On 20/07/15 2:39 PM, Jon wrote:
I'm preparing an article for this week's Sun Times and was hoping to 
trouble you for a some stories and impressions of Summerfolk. 
At how many Summerfolks have you vended?
"Over 20"
I think my first year was either 1992 or 1993. I've missed two years over
the period to this year.
How would you describe your experience at Summerfolk to another vendor 
who has never been?
The atmosphere at Summerfolk is far more relaxed than a typical 'just sales'
event. There are a large number of people attending who come for all of the
three days, plus a large number who actually camp on site for the whole
event. This means a lot of 'browsing', people typically will make several
returns to an individual booth, after viewing the entire selection of
artistic work available, before making a purchase. This also goes for people
who return year after year, watching your work as it develops. Generally I
feel that although this does mean more effort on my part, it does make for a
'better educated' customer.
The very relaxed 'old hippie' tone to the event, coupled with this return
flow, does mean that booth security has never, ever, been a concern for me
personally. If you wander off yourself for a half hour (to see a music set),
nothing will be missing and any potential customers know they can just catch
you later.
Balanced against this are the length of the working days. Typically 12 plus
hours - longer when you consider the set up Friday and tear down Sunday.
Morning on Kelso Beach - about 2005
How does Summerfolk compare to other craft and music festivals you attend?
Honestly, I have cut back on other sales events in the last decade. 
Partially because of the huge work involved in transporting and setting up
the booth structure. My own work has been come more complex over the decades
- with an increase in pricing related to this quality and scale increase. I
don't make $20 candle holders any more, and consider my presentation at
Summerfolk more of a gallery setting - than any specific attempt to generate
sales. This year Summerfolk is the *only* retail sales event that I will be
taking part in.
One significant part of Summerfolk is distinctive : the Artisan Gallery. 
The original intent of this was to allow individual artists to display work
well beyond the scope of typical sales items. Supporting this effort with
cash prizes has proved especially effective in encouraging this additional
effort to produce more elaborate objects by the artists. 
(I've won a good number of these over the years, and personally I can tell
you this recognition has been very important in personally encouraging my
own work.)
'Hector's Bane' - won 'Best in Show' for 2013
What is your favourite Summerfolk memory?
For me it comes down to the people.
There are a group of regional artisans who over the years I have come to
consider my peers. Many of these people I only see at Summerfolk, but even
still there is a warmth of seeing 'old friends' every year.
This extends to the 'customers' as well. I do have some regulars who have in
effect been 'collecting' my work over the years.
Personally, my many years beside Jim Macnamarra has had a major impact on my
direction of work and outlook to the 'way of the artist'. Over the years,
the line between our individual work has blurred, with echoes of the
influence on each other (or at least Jim's on me) showing. Not to mention
general inspired craziness. At its height, the two us where actually showing
up early Thursday morning and hauling in several tons of rock to create the
large garden style displays which themselves became one of the many
Summerfolk traditions.
2011 Set up - much restrained from earlier presentations!
What should people know about your art?
I am distinctive in the depth of historical research that goes behind the
work people see displayed at Summerfolk. Since 2001, I have been involved in
a series of experimental archaeology projects, recovering lost methods of
actually smelting metallic iron from raw ores, based on Northern European
ancient technologies. This makes Wareham the centre for this research, most
certainly unique in Canada, and perhaps the primary site in all of North
The bloomery iron produced by these ancient methods is a distinctive
material, with properties different than modern industrial steels. My effort
to create objects revealing the forms and textures of bloomery iron will
continue with new work presented at Summerfolk this year.
'Bloom Iron Bowl #2'
I'm happy to say that Jon decided not to cut up the submission above, instead he used it for a blog post over on the Summerfolk web site.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

** NO ** Goderich Celtic Festival

I found out on Thursday (July 16) that I was not selected to attend the Goderich Celtic Festival this year. 
I have attended this Festival since its very first year in 1992, with only 2014 missed (when I was leading the Turf to Tools project at the Scottish Sculpture Workshop in Lumsden Scotland.)

On August 8, I will be attending the regular monthly meeting of the Ontario Artisan Blacksmith's Association.
The demonstration will be Lloyd Johnson forging a replica of an 1800's large adze.
Any Blacksmith's reading in the Ontario region are highly recommended to attend!

(from the OABA web site)

OABA Meeting : Henk Boon / Lloyd Johnson

When : Saturday, 8 Aug 2015
Where : 056576 12th Concession, Desboro, ON (map)
Demonstration:  Forging an adze 

Directions : to Henk Boon’s Place..... 
Take Grey County Road 40 west off of Hwy 6 (just below Chatsworth) At the fork in the road, Grey Country Road 40 continues to the left, You Stay To The Right. (smaller road) (There should be an OABA sign at this intersection) Now called Sideroad 2, continue traveling west and cross Grey Road 3 At your next stop sign, Concession 12, turn right. Henks place is on your left, the North/West corner of the intersection of Sideroad 2 and Concession 12. 
056576 12th Concession RR 2 Desboro, ON N0H 1K0 

Bring : your lunch, chair, safety glasses, (something for 'Iron in the Hat'?)

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

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