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!

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