I had always considered our friends Laurie and Kevin Van Mondfrans as jewelers who worked with semi-precious stones and metal. They invited us to come see their latest creations at the Midwest Metalsmiths Art Show. Oh, what fun to start thinking about and learning about blacksmiths, who they are and what they make. And what beautiful work we have seen.
I went to our wonderful Craft Alliance, a non-profit arts center in St. Louis that strives to reveal the power of craftsmanship through bold programming that reveals the unique qualities of craftsmanship, its evolving role and its full potential for innovation. Craftsmanship (the making of objects from wood, metals, fibers, glass and clay) is both an ancient tradition and a place of innovation, adapting to new materials and responding to the ever-changing human experience. . I spoke to Stefanie Kirkland, assistant manager of the organization, and she told me that St. Louis has a strong community of blacksmiths.
Kirkland said: “The term blacksmith often refers to craftsmen and craftsmen who practice their trade in many different metals. Jewelers often refer to their trade as a blacksmith, and many universities offer degrees in blacksmithing, jewelry , enameling and blacksmithing under the auspices of a fine arts program.’
Wikipedia says a blacksmith is someone who works with or has the knowledge and ability to work with all metals. There are blacksmiths, blacksmiths, coppersmiths, goldsmiths, armorers, etc. There are metalworkers’ organizations all over the country, and there are many metalworkers’ magazines and guilds.
When I asked some of the people showing their work at the Midwest Metalsmith show about their work, I found that they all used the words artist and creativity.
Laurie Van Mondfrans said: “At the heart of goldsmithing is art, it is creation. It’s about taking an idea and turning it into something tangible and beautiful, always pushing the work to be better than the last, learning to do something better than the last. It is about learning and mastering techniques. A flat sheet of metal is processed. Texture, design and movement are all part of the art form. This is all part of a thought process before starting a piece.
Texturing the surface of the metal is often part of the blacksmiths process. This texturing is often used to embellish the work. Texturing can be achieved by hammering with special texturing hammers, hammering against a textured surface, etching, etching and rolling sheet metal in rolling mills.
Patricia McCoy-Feldmanis showcased her beautiful cuttlebone jewelry work. Cuttlebone casting is an ancient technique that has been used for many years to create jewelry. This type of casting uses the bones of a cuttlefish to produce a mold into which liquefied material can be poured during the casting process.
McCoy-Feldmanis and Van Mondfrans were both heavily influenced by Craft Alliance teachers. Peggy Jacobsmeyer, whose work caught my eye, said: “I worked as an artist creating large framed wall hangings using glass and metal for decades before I started making jewelry. Gradually, working on a smaller scale started to interest me. Creating jewelry “It’s exactly the same as making art/sculpture as far as I’m concerned. It’s just smaller. I often use found objects and non-precious materials. This keeps work intuitive and constantly evolving.”
Of course, this could lead to the usual question: what is fine art and what is craft? Do not worry. I’m not going today. I know what I saw at the goldsmith show caught my eye and a thing of beauty is a thing of beauty, whatever you call it.
Nancy Kranzberg has been involved in the arts community for over forty years on numerous arts-related councils.