Thursday, July 19, 2012

the one that got away

We were approached in February by a potential client (let's just call him Ed) about creating an "Art Nouveau" custom walk gate for a home in California. I knew this would be rather difficult, to work over such a distance, and we'd need someone on the other end to take precise measurements. Ed sent along a rendering (shown above) and it was a lovely design. This would be an honor for any Artist Blacksmith! We discussed his project in further detail and  learned that he wanted a third panel and a much lower price tag,  so a "less expensive" & "less exciting" sketch with 3 panels.
(shown below )

After much revision, Ed felt that even the most minimal hand-forged design (in which we also had to include shipping to California) was still higher than he'd like his budget to be for his walk gate. He asked me, "Do you laser cut your designs? A shop here said they would laser cut my design for me and they had a lower price. Is that what you do?".  I thought carefully, about how Ed might appreciate me taking a moment to better explain our process verses the various computerized machine processes such as laser and plasma cutting, so that he could make an informed decision about what he might want to see in a final product.

I've had a lot of people ask me the difference between "other people's work" and our work and I usually have  hard time with that question. I don't know why, exactly... because our work is all I do! But what is "someone elses" and how is ours different? In this case, Ed asked me a specific question that was easy enough to answer.

Here's a computer aided design (CAD) being cut via a computer guided machine to produce a scroll design out of a sheet of metal:

You can see that the computer made piece is flat.
Below, is how a blacksmith's scroll design appears (and can you see the more three dimensional forms).

Those three dimensional forms are made from bars of steel, not flat sheet metal. They are also made by a human in a leather apron, bending the red-hot metal steel bar to a specified and unique shape. Our stock comes as raw steel bar, each piece is cut & then placed in a forge and heated, then hammered and formed. We also use traditional blacksmithing techniques when possible, with actual hammers and anvils. We make all of our components, unless specifically asked, and the "lost" art form of blacksmithing is truly one of labor and of love.

So Ed felt more informed. We never did agree on the price that Ed felt comfortable with, but I admired Ed's spirit, his interest in learning and his dedication. So here's an email from Ed, that I got this week! I am very proud to say, that Ed sought out a craftsman to complete his vision.

Hello Karine:

... I sought out a design from a contractor friend,  The design was modified several times.  Because of personal demands, the contractor could not follow through.

A retired Mexican craftsman, who had repaired a badly rusted but beloved large sheet metal sculpture of ours, was persuaded to take on the task.  He is a friend one of my employees, who stayed on top... through completion and installation.

The fabrication and installation was done within about three weeks.  Seeing how critical the measurements were, I am more convinced how difficult this would be to do at a distance, unless we have a perfect rectangle.  Observe the small steps on the end.

Anyway, attached is a photo of the end product.  Hope you like it.  We do.  :-) 

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