Some Thanks to Haiti, the Smithsonian, and DudeCraft

First, I want to thank DudeCraft for posting about Hammermarks on his blog.  Check it out and see how men can participate in all crafts, not just “manly” ones.  (His words, not mine!)

Now, the meat of the post.

When I graduated college, I found  it difficult to practice my art.  I was living in rooms in other people’s houses and eventually an apartment, none of which were conducive to pounding on metal or storing flammable materials (i.e. my torch tank).  I was in a bad place and I couldn’t figure out what to do.  This ended up lasting about five years.

During this time, my husband (boyfriend at the time) and I would visit the Folklife Festival down on the National Mall.  It happens every year around the Forth of July and features different countries, regions, and ethnicities of the world and the US.  I was always excited when I would see metalsmiths.  I saw some from Mali, India, and Haiti.  The Malian guy was pretty much just selling his wares (at least when I saw him) but the Indian and Haitian men actually demonstrated.  The Indian man would hold his work with his feet while hammering so that he could use both of his hands. (This is a great idea that I have yet to implement.  I do like to use my feet as tools!)  He also used an actual blow torch.  He blew through a tube into a charcoal fire and used that to solder his pieces.

Haitian Metal Art
Haitian Metal Art

The Haitian metalworkers would take used oil drums and cut them up and form the metal into lightly 3-d decorative pieces.  Supposedly this began when one man wanted to create crosses for his local graveyard.  The designs often had animals or biblical themes and there was a lot of stylization and embellishments on them.  He used a wooden board and the ball end of a regular ball pein hammer that you would find at your local hardware store. The pieces were cut using a chisel rather than a saw or laser cutting.   (I recently ran across an article about these craftsmen, thus the idea for this post.)

What’s the point, Wendy?

Well, I figured that if these people who had so little were so determined to make their art that they would use whatever was lying around to do it, then I could find a way to make my work as well.  I went on to audit a class at Montgomery College so that I could gain studio access (as I’ve mentioned before) and the rest is history!

What is so important to you that you would use your feet, trash from the nearby dump, or a rudimentary tool from the middle ages to do it?  Leave a comment and let us know what was the final impetus to push you to make your art despite obstacles in your way.

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