Indian Summer in Colorado

As often happens, by leaving such a time gap in between blog posts, so much happens that it is difficult to tell of it all. Still, I see this as a good sign, for I always prefer to be utterly engrossed in what’s going on NOW. But now it is time for a little catch up…

We had a stunning success of a Smidesfestival in Gränsfors, with more than thirty smiths in attendance, and eight different countries represented. Building on the ideas from last year, this was the next step in a journey to create a unique and valuable event for the blacksmithing community. I hope to see you there next year!

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The winning entry in the forging competition, by my two friends Alex Pole and Rob Hills (ENG). It’s good to be prepared for those really big fish…

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A lovely candleholder by Johan Säftröm (pardon if I misspelled the last name!). Johan, an instructor at Bäckedals Folhögskola, was a pleasure to get to know.

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Another highly creative entry in the competition.

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Fredrik and I went for simplicity this year…I think we spent most of the competition drinking coffee. It did give me a nice chance to help out some of the other participants.

About the same time as the Smidesfestival, I was working on finishing up a tvåflykig skäggyxa (two-lugged bearded axe). This is Fredrik’s favorite axe model to make, and I have been itching to try one. After about a month of working on it an evening here and there, in between other work and other projects in the forge, I was ready to finish. When it came to hardening, though, “PANG!” It cracked right through the blade. This is always a risk, especially with this model of axe. After five minutes of manic laughter and swearwords, I got over myself and went in for the evening…

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Here it is! The crack is almost invisible in this picture, but the form is what is important to me.

As always happens with a setback, there was a certain amount of frustration and self-doubt. Yet I am convinced that this was a good lesson. By going back and looking at all the things I did wrong, I not only developed some new ideas for the next axe, but I developed a great urge to make that next axe. This is the key in my development as a blacksmith: to date I have never forged something that I think is perfect. This keeps the fire alive to continue the search for perfection, keep walking the path to increasing skill. In a way, I hope I never find perfect, unless it is the last axe I ever make.

The next step on my journey was to leave Sweden. It was once again time for my visa to rest and renew itself…much to my annoyance. So I headed back to the USA, not to end my travels, but to take a little sabbatical, visit family, and apply for a long-term work permit for Sweden. If all goes as I wish, my time in the USA will become less and less, and my life in Sweden will grow to becoming full-time.

The first stop on reaching american soil was to visit my sister in LA for a week. Molly is a driven actor, food blogger (check out Thyme for Honey), and overall creative genius, and I got to see her hard at work in the city she loves. There was also time to visit the beautiful Point Dume, a lovely retreat from the busyness of the big city.

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Look at me, controlling the waves!

From California, I made my way back to Colorado, where I jumped into work at my brother’s farm. It is a beautiful Indian Summer here in the front range, hotter than anywhere else in my travels. I am lucky enough to be living in a traditional Mongolian yurt, without electricity or running water. This has allowed me to deeply focus on the important pieces of living, and I am loving every moment of it. I am even in the process of setting up a small forge. More to follow on that, hopefully!

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My house, graciously shared by my good friend Galen and his dog Puka.

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The interior, lovingly hand painted in Mongolia.

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My next door neighbor.

I wish the joys of this season of change on everyone, and may the coming winter bring its fullness of energy. As usual, Leia will get the final word:

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There used to be a 100 kilo anvil on this stump…now there is a 35 kilo dog.

Hefaiston Festival

There is a castle in the south east of the Czech Republic. It sits on a mountain overlooking surrounding villages, a place it has occupied for hundreds of years. There are three courtyards, each surrounded by its own wall of defense, strengthened by a moat. It has been a stronghold, a storehouse, probably sacked once or twice, but always a gathering place for people. This is Helfstyn: soaked in time and heavy with memories. And it is a center for blacksmithing, with several permanent forges, exhibitions of extraordinary contemporary ironwork, and the setting for Hefaiston, the annual international blacksmith gathering.

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The keep: the third and final area of the castle.

It was here I spent the last week, in the company of more than 500 other blacksmiths from 18 different countries. I have never been so overwhelmed with inspiration and appreciation, and I have been walking around with the feeling that the world is suddenly a much bigger place than it was just a week ago.

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Talk about expanded horizons!

There is too much to say for words to do the trick, so I will let pictures tell the story. There were hundreds of forged pieces submitted in the exhibition, in addition to many permanent displays. I can only share my very favorites, at least those that I was able to stop gaping at for long enough to take a picture of. I do not have the names of the smiths for many of them, but I will try to give credit where I can.

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“Born and Died on Anvil” by Kovárna Milostovice, Philip Vervoorth, Patrick Pelgroms, Raf Nulens

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One of the permanent exhibitions

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Permanent exhibition “Paganini”

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My favorite piece. One of the best tools in the forge, the leg vice…

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…this one just happened to be hand forged. And it weighed more than 400kg, with jaws more than 12″ (Fredrik pictured alongside for scale). It was made to make possible the forging of a giant cross. Talk about making the right tool for the job!

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This piece made me smile for a full five minutes.

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“Surface” by my good friend Simon Beyeler. A stunning example of the versatility of damascus.

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Fredrik’s submission “Ljussfär.” Also damascus, it won the judges’ choice in a special category. We don’t really know which category, because translation was difficult.

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My piece in the process…

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…and finished. “Osthyvel,” or cheese slicer, is an essential tool in the Swedish kitchen.

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We of the Swedish delegation had a damascus theme this year.

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The birth of a dragon. This was the final heat on the piece that Fredrik and I made together.

Now we are home in Hälsingland, getting ready for our very own blacksmithing festival in Gränsfors next week! The glow of excitement carries from one moment to the next, and gives my feet wings on this wonderful path I walk. Still, it is always important to learn to relax and slow down at times. I have a good teacher for this:

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Health and happiness to all!