Listening to: Rome - Flowers from Exile
Reading: Consciousness Explained - Daniel Dennett
Playing: Chivalry: Medieval Warfare
I first started my endeavors in art the same place most people did: as a child in school. I always enjoyed spending time trying to recreate the 3D world on a 2D surface, and managed to see details around me that I otherwise had no idea was there before drawing.
As the years went on I grew very interested in other mediums. Woodworking always intrigued me, as well as blacksmithing. I loved the smell and sight of these materials, and the thought that mankind had the ability to take such unshakable mediums and shape them to their will just astounded me even more. Unfortunately as a teenage kid from a big family of no known wealth, I was unable to jump straight into woodworking and blacksmithing. So I did the next best thing: turned my love of drawing on paper to burning shapes in wood.
I started out simply: taking scrap pieces of wood from my high school woodworking class and grabbing the best pieces of loose wood I could find from the forest. Being as I always have had an interest in symbolism, particularly those symbols used by the people of early Northern Europe, I began burning runes and runic symbols into simple staves. From there I managed to find an old rusty bow saw at my fathers shop and purchased myself a cheap pocket knife. I began taking fresh limbs off of trees, whittling them down with my knife, letting them dry out as much as I could in the sun, and then burning images and knotwork into them as walking sticks. I made myself a nice little collection of walking sticks, some natural, some I tried to stain, and some I tried to paint. To this day I am very fond of the idea of going out with nothing but a knife and whittling away at whatever pieces of wood I can find.
Once I got out of high school, I began a seasonal construction job with a dear friend of mine. I was getting paid less than minimum wage to do work that typically pays double. I didn't have a car, I didn't have any luxuries, but regardless of all that I saved up my money for blacksmithing equipment. I managed to find a very nice lady in town who used to run a parts shop with her husband before her husband fell very ill. She had (what was to me, anyway) a gold mine of blacksmithing equipment. I purchased from her 2 forges: one farriers forge and one pan forge. Along with some pieces of scrap metal hoops originally used for wood tires on wagons. I bought a cheap anvil from a discount hardware store until I could save up for something better. It didn't work well, but it worked enough to get me started.
After finally getting some more materials, I ended up doing some blacksmithing events with my friend, who helped teach me some metalworking fundamentals. We set up at Renaissance Fairs and Old Threshers Reunions, where we often sought out old blacksmithing equipment from the farmers that frequented such events. We had a lot of fun and made some good connections.
As time went on, adult life started to get in the way. I began to attend college, to pursue my dream of becoming a Professor of Philosophy and/or German. No longer having as much free time to work on crafts, I began to focus mostly on school.
As of now I am still sadly in the midst of my schoolwork, but still trying as often as possible to make whatever woodburnings I can. My blacksmithing equipment is not currently accessible to me, yet even if I did have it I no longer have a place for it as I did in the past. I am still struggling constantly on my way to getting my degree while simultaneously trying to offer handmade crafts to those people who want them.
I have always believed that there is something special in handmade crafts. Rather than having some machine pump out identical pieces of cheap material for the masses to eat up, handmade artists actually seek to make something unique and special for their customers. Every piece is picked from the depths of some scrap yard, or cut from the dangling limb of a dying tree, so that it can be molded and melded into a beautiful piece of art. Unfortunately those who seek to make such things are up against many tough challenges: a failing economy in a world full of people who are increasingly used to the here-today-gone-tomorrow nature of the things they buy. We struggle to make it by, while still making our products accessible to those who want them. Despite what we handmade artists are up against, I can tell you personally, that the struggles for me have all been worth it.
The moments I have had giving blacksmithing demonstrations to kids and adults alike, or rummaging wood from the forest to make into a basic walking stick that no one but myself would see, have been some of the best moments of my life. It is my goal to impart those feelings I have about my work into my crafts, so that all who come across them can share a similar feeling.
I hope that someday the handmade tradition can flourish once again alongside the necessarily factory made world we have created for ourselves.
Andrew Russell - Owner - Eihwaz Craftwork