Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Folk-Tech Metal Masters

 My most favored metal techniques involve pushing the stuff around with hammers and punches and stuff and cutting it up.  These techniques would be "chasing," "repousse," and "piercing" -- all of which are hand techniques, and usually executed in silver, which is a nicely ductile and biddable metal.  Oh how I have wished to carry these techniques over to steel, which, in my, book rules.  I must be a throwback to the days when the value of the metal was in its utility, not some sort of abstract measure of exchange or beauty.  If you had just one warped bottle cap in King Arthur's court, you would be hanging around with Merlin.  Well, now I've discovered some real magicians in Haiti are doing those beloved techniques in very large scale on recycled steel drums.  Do follow the link and visit, and you will see a team of steel drum makers and an artist who have turned from making music to making visual art.  And I hope you'll understand their mastery, as I do, when you see a picture of the work in progress!  I am inspired to continue in my search to work more steel better, and quit complaining about my lack of equipment, like why don't I have a press or a blowtorch and a few extra apprentices to help me out!  Feh!  These guys deserve our respect and appreciation in more ways than one.  You can see that adversity does not get in the way of their sublime self expression.  Take that and keep it in your heart when you think you are discouraged, and keep calm and keep on keeping on!

We don't need no stinkin blow torch -- we can set fires inside the drums to anneal them.  You may not know that annealing steel isn't such an easy thing for the average craftsman without a forge to heat it red hot and cool it slowly so it stays soft (quenching hardens the stuff, just the opposite of non ferrous metals).  But then, these guys are not average craftsmen.  They have been working steel to musical specifications for generations and making beautiful music with it, which means they already know how to anneal and temper the stuff to specification.

Under the spreading banana tree, the village smithy ... no, not that!  Here an expert smith is preparing the metal for working, I think, that is, with his ball peen hammer, he's flattening it into sheet for the next step.  And I'll bet it's not as noisy there on the sand, and do you notice his technique for holding it down while be bangs on it?  Don't need to steenkin' vices or clamps, either.  And look at what a fine condition his work keeps him in.  He's really buffed.

And the result of all this -- a graceful dove bearing the olive branch of peace, just right for this season.

I think I'm going shopping in Haiti!  It's a nice way to spread a bit of cash where it's needed.

Thanks to Mimi and her team of metalsmiths for the beauty they are sharing with the world.

So, click on this link to go there, too :

Peace, joy, courage and determination out there to all of you, and pass it on!

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