Jump to content


  • Posts

  • Joined

  • Last visited

  • Days Won


Everything posted by tsterling

  1. Those are great, Owen! Thanks for showing them...
  2. Well, if that's a messed up handle design, then I'd say you had a very happy little accident. I like it a lot!
  3. And Bart Janszen (screen aname is b_art79) from over on The Carving Path has sent me this question to ask Ford - and I quote: Got a question for Ford and I thought it would be nice to do that in that particular topic. So maybe you could ask him for me? I was wondering where he gets his inspiration, is it only other metalwork (from Japan?) nature, maybe at the bar??? And what are his favorite books? Inspirational as well informative...
  4. That winds up my questions - thanks for those thoughtful answers, Ford. I know I'll be musing over them for some time to come - there's a lot of thought provoking stuff there. And looking forward very much to your upcoming book(s) and more videos. Is there anything you'd like to add that we haven't already covered, Ford? And at the risk of opening a floodgate, are there any questions from the readers out there in Internet-land for Ford?
  5. Thanks for suffering through all my questions, Ford! And, for my final questions (yes, this will eventually end! ), would you give us a brief discussion of your choice of traditional work methods? What is your view of modern tooling as opposed to “strictly traditional” tools and techniques. What portions of your business are restorations, and what portions are original work? What does your typical work day and work week look like?
  6. Dang, Jake, can I come over and look through your scrap bin? Your leftovers seem to be better than my first-string!
  7. Labels are very important things. "Artist" does bring a certain freedom and acceptance with the term. I decided long ago never to argue about what "art" is, but to only concern myself with what "good art" is or should be. And I think "good art" starts with "good craftsmanship." Without doubt, you are both artist and expert craftsman. Since Ford mentioned the Unno Shomin tsuba, I'll step a little out of bounds and post an exercise Ford did in 1995 with this very same tiger/tsuba as inspiration. Notice Ford's expert use of very simple (and hence difficult to do, believe me, I've tried) chisel cuts, with the varying widths adding expression and tension to the almost caricature of a tiger. Apologies for my altering the color/contrast to better show the carving. Ford's original photo and truer color can be seen here: Ford Hallam Older Work Shibuichi panel with a kata-kiri design of a recumbent tiger, after Unno Shomin. About 65mm long and done in 1995. Now for my question: I’m personally very inspired by your adaptations of traditional Japanese designs in your more contemporary looking pieces; do you have a sense of particular direction where you’re going with your future work, or are you, like myself, simply wandering creatively wherever chance takes you at the moment? And, while a lot of your work seems to be sword furniture, have you considered making knives and swords themselves? Is there a bladesmith Hallam in the future, 'cause I hope there is?
  8. I can see why that one's popular, Ford - it's got everything going for it that I like, elegance and sparseness, lovely coloration, the undulating interior rim, the "mushroom gill" texturing (which is what it reminds me of). I'd love to have one myself.... In light of your statement "If this is judged to be art then I've managed to become an artist but it's for others ultimately to make that call I think." If it's my call, then, I'm going to assign the term "artist" to you. Looking at the body of your work to date, I seriously doubt there will be any who would object to that term. Since you've shown another of my (many!) favorites of your work, I'll ask this: If you were forced to make a choice of the the single greatest piece of art in your field, what would that be, and why?
  9. Thanks, Ford. Certainly a difficult thing to quantify. I really like your "far more significant aesthetic language" statement. If I understand you correctly, this is a similar sort of thing I often seek in my own work - I like the Japanese esthetic of artistic sparseness and elegance, and attempt to capture this while attempting not to just re-work strictly Japanese themes. I see Mike has asked a technical question, and I have to admit I've wondered about the same thing. As for my next question, I'm interested in a slightly more philosophical bent. I know the art versus craft thing has been beaten to death, but I'd like to approach it from a slightly different viewpoint, specifically yours. Do you consider yourself to be an artisan, craftsman or artist? What are your goals as a (fill in the blank from your answer to the above)?
  10. Thanks for stepping up to this, Ford! A very insightful answer - shall we say it explains a lot? I see you've made a new convert in Chris Price! I'm not at all surprised, the tiger tsuba bumped several other pieces of your work out of the running for my favorite, as well. Your work just seems to get better and better... I know from my own work that much is influenced by my past associations, strange as those might be... Tell us, if you would, how your professional work with Japanese antiques and Japanese history colors your choices of what you make, particularly in those pieces that are not commissions - that you choose to make strictly at your own whim. Does it provide any advantage, other than perhaps the initial exposure or inspiration?
  11. Well, I guess it’s time to introduce Ford Hallam, an extraordinary metal artist and great personal inspiration. He’s kindly agreed to be the next victim. I first heard of him way back in my netsuke carving days, but never had any extensive exposure to his work until I switched to metalworking. Now, he is the owner/manager of http://followingtheironbrush.org, where you can see and learn about art metalworking, mostly Japanese-style, but with a fair amount of really excellent contemporary work thrown in. Stop by, you won’t regret it. I’ll let Ford’s work speak for itself – these are a couple of my favorites. You can see much of Ford’s construction techniques for the tiger tsuba and thought process in the following YouTube videos, about thirty minutes in total, and very well worth the watching. So, with this briefest of intros, let’s get down to torturing the victim.... Welcome, Ford - for the start of this, can you tell us a little about yourself, and how you got into Japanese-style metalworking?
  12. OK, I'm finally back from walkabout to an engraver's convention in Reno, where I saw some incredible engraving (mostly on guns) and a few knives. Really enjoyable, although the slot machines saw me coming.... To answer Dick's questions - Can you tell us some about how and where you have sold your knives. what was the easiest sell? and what took the longest.. Currently, almost all of my work is sold through www.bladegallery.com, mostly through their web site, with a few sales through their attractive physical gallery in Kirkland, WA (the Epicurean Edge) to walk-in customers. A few inexpensive items also go through a small cooperative gallery in Coupeville WA, where I live. Some of my work seems to get snapped up in a few hours to a few days. I keep records of when an item goes up on the website and when it sells, and periodically analyze the results to keep my sales practices sane. Generally I find the easiest things to sell are knives that have a unique and striking look to them, that stand out from the other more “normal” looking knives. It really helps to have a knife that catches the viewer's eye in some way, either in shape or color. When you think about it, a prospective client surfing through a lot of knives shown in small thumbnail images has a difficult task, and if you can catch his eye quickly, you're ahead of the game. Of course, to state the obvious, price plays a very large role. I depend a lot on the guys and gals at bladegallery.com to keep me grounded on price. I'd like to be able to charge an hourly rate for a knife, where pricing would simply result from multiplying the number of hours of work times the shop rate and add in materials, but that seldom works. Here's one that just left bladegallery.com almost immediately, the Carpenter Ants Dagger. It has an unusual shape, eye-catching color contrasts, and shows up well in a small thumbnail image. Did I mention the bladegallery folks also do incredible knife photography? What takes the longest? Usually the ones where I think “this one will move really quickly!” Forums like this one help with feedback, because sometimes the ones I really love aren't always the ones others are attracted to. Maybe I have lousy taste in knives?...... Also, there are communities within the edged weapon world that have rules or expectations that you must meet to be successful. Two that come to mind are the Japanese-style (Nihonto) and primitive or reenactor world. As an example, I made a small kiridashi-style knife with engraved copper scales, but rather than a single beveled edge, I “Americanized” it with a standard western-style grind with centered edge. As a former wood carver, I've never liked the Japanese-style single beveled edge since it takes a left-hand and right-hand version of a blade shape to actually carve a piece of wood, ivory or antler. I took a bit of criticism for the double bevel since it wasn't what Japanese-style knife collectors expected. The customer is always right! Do you work with a customer in mind or just make what you like and then worry about who gets it?Little bit of both? which do you prefer? I seldom take commissions. Once in a great while I take one that seems to be a good idea, but invariably I begin to remember why I seldom take commissions. I find if I'm doing a commission, the work actually becomes work. I don't feel like I'm in charge with a commission; I'm guessing that's because I'm not! I enjoy making knives the most when I'm working on something that I want to work on. It's also much easier to give my best efforts when I'm working on something for me. One other little thing about commissions – they often either require a model or extensive drawings of the thing you're supposed to make for the client's approval. Otherwise it's very difficult to effectively communicate what the customer's expectations are. Once I've made the model or the extensive drawings, I feel like I've already done the work. The thing I avoid at all costs is making TWO of the same thing – I really hate doing that. I once assemble six chairs to go with a table I made. Loved making the table, the six chairs were a never ending nightmare. I was once asked how much it would cost for me to carve a subject. I quoted a price of $500. Then the prospective client asked how much for TWO? I quoted a price of $1500. Needless to say, I didn't get the job............ Thus endeth the rant......
  13. Hi Dick, I've gone walkabout for a week and all I have is my iPhone - I'll have to answer your questions when I get back! Sorry, mea culpa....
  14. What will the future bring? I surely don't know - I once told one of my netsuke collectors who was trying to convince me to work in metal, that I wasn't interested and couldn't see myself as a metal junkie. Now, here I am, and it's a passion. I learned to "never say never" from that... I'm currently trying to learn to engrave, and attended a really excellent course this summer with Ray Cover, one of the top engravers in the US. That really helped me get over a hump in learning to engrave, and now there's lots of practice to help me improve. Japanese art has been a large influence on my work, and I'm also investigating Japanese-style metalwork methods. In that vein, I'll announce here that our next interview victim will be Ford Hallam, and we'll explore the avenue of his approach to Japanese art metalworking! Here's a knife I just completed using the skills I learned from Ray, including my first gold inlay. An awful lot of engraving for a little two inch knife!
  15. That's the question I get the most - how long does it take? A typical art knife takes about a week of physical work (as in 6-7 eight hour days), not including thinking about it and designing on paper/computer. Thinking/planning may take weeks or even months to complete. I'm seldom able to spend all of that time in one sequence, and a typical day for me is about four hours of physical work, and the remainder of the day filled with planning-type tasks. Of course, as we all know, there are vinegar soaks, epoxy curing, tempering, etc. that interrupt the flow. Ideally, I like to have several projects going at once. I find if I have to work on just one, that sometimes it feels a bit stale, and I like to be able to switch off to another piece when that happens. Then again, there is the occasional bit of art that just catches fire and I work almost non-stop at it. Those are the ones that I live for!
  16. Boundaries? What boundaries? Glad your'e enjoying this, Jake!
  17. Thanks, Jacques, glad you're enjoying this! It's really forcing me to do a little introspection to answer these questions...
  18. Tell us a little about the :Reliquary" and "Icons Of Power" pieces, and how they came about. One of my favorite pieces of yours is the "Reliquary for the Four Elements", I would love to hear some info/background on this amazing piece (pics from your website): Well, let's see – this was one of those cases I mentioned before where several events occurred and everything came together. It started with a PBS program about the Longinus Lance, or Spear of Destiny. This thing was just so cool in its' construction that I had one of those “eureka” moments. Unfortunately, it was well beyond my capability to construct something like it (and probably still is). At the same time I was also interested in medieval reliquaries (highly decorated and precious religious containers for saints bones and relics) and was exploring them on the internet. As if the planets aligned, I stumbled across a jewelry artist, Richard Salley, who was making really cool pendants out of junk objects and constructed elements from common hardware, and he had a short tutorial on the techniques on his web site. Here's a link to Richard Salley's website, be sure to check out his tutorial: Richard Salley So, suddenly, I had the interest, the inspiration, and a bit of guidance on the “how.” So things just got sort of mixed up in my head, a bit of fantasy was added (Lord of the Rings was still going on!), I was reminded of a netsuke Sue Wraight had carved in the mid 1980s of a basilisk, which is a rooster/snake combination born from a rooster's egg, and this weird little thing came together. Add in some Viking runes for earth, air, water, fire, and a quote from King Lear, and there you have the entire story. Another month of sketches and a hell of a lot of thought, some practice engraving (did I mention I was beginning to engrave about this time, and had been carving some bird skulls in antler that proved to be economically popular?), a month of carving, construction and the occasional false start, a span of twenty-plus years of wool gathering thoughts and experience, and, voila! Did I mention before that the inspiration/planning is the hardest part? It's made from a large steel washer, lots of copper, silver rivets, amber (the basilisk eye, a netsuke carving technique), and moose antler. This was one of the things that really showed me how dark steel and antiqued copper really complimented each other. You may have noticed how most of what I make is designed to look old and worn (kind of like me!), and often contain fake repairs. A few other do-dads of similar ilk from about the same time frame: And a recent reliquary-related knife, the "8th Plague Knife"
  19. Hi Jaques, Thanks for the kind words. Petr's little knife is one of my favorites, and speaks to me on many levels. I keep a picture of it nearby, and intend to make one like it for myself one day - although, I suppose knifemakers are like the shoemakers kids, who always go barefoot! Both Petr and Serge are makers who I regularly get a good bit of inspiration from. Allthough I'm not a big fan of saxes, Petr's work is always attractive, and I love the combinations of materials he uses, and his carving really enhances the overall feel of the piece. Serge's work also uses interesting and attractive combinations, and his innovative shapes are always attractive and well thought out. Both have developed what one could say is their own "style." I have no doubt that in the future we're going to see knives made by other makers in "Serge style" and "Petr style," much as we see "Scagel style" or "Loveless style" today. Tom
  20. Can you tell us where your inspiration comes from? Tough question! Inspiration – that's the hardest part of all. Pretty much everything else is a skill, and skills can be learned by anyone with sufficient commitment. Inspiration, on the other hand, is a spur of the moment thing, a spark. When it comes to my work, I prefer to think of inspiration in a more concrete sense – it's more than that momentary spark, and includes a practical aspect where the idea is actually something that can be accomplished within my skill set. I've noticed that a successful knife design must obey the laws of physics, but the things that go on in my head do not, so I define “inspiration” as an idea along with a do-able design. I find inspiration in lots of places, but mostly in what I see on the internet. Often it's the shape of a particular blade or handle, or a photograph of an animal. I probably spend several hours a day surfing all kinds of art and craft related sites looking for that elusive inspiration. A lot my ideas seem to come at O'dark thirty in the morning when I wake up and think, “Eureka!” Then hope I can remember it the next day. Probably some of the greatest of human thoughts have been thought and promptly forgotten by me! Then comes the hard part, creating a composition where the critter on the handle and the blade all work together as a total harmony. To drop just a few names, I never miss the posts of Alan Longmire, J Arthur Loose, Jim Kelso, Jake Cleland, that Serge guy, the Mad Dwarves, Tai Goo, Jake Powning, Raymond Richard, Petr Florianek, and of course, Don Fogg. I also watch Ford Hallam (Japanese style metalwork) and his brother, Clive Hallam (netsuke), Sue Wraight (netsuke), Janel Jacobson (netsuke) closely. Lately, since I've taken up engraving, I watch what happens in that world as well, Steve Lindsay, Sam Alfano, Ray Cover (I took a remarkable class from him this summer), and lots of others.
  21. Can you tell us about yourself and how you got into knifemaking? Hi Serge! It's a little intimidating to be here among so many skilled artisans, and to think they might be interested in something I could say. Thanks for this honor! I'll try to say something interesting... I'm 58 years old, and rapidly getting older... I'm an Air Force brat, and grew up in Texas, Mississippi, South Carolina, England (several times), France, and Florida. I think of Florida as my first home, since that's where I spent the longest. I now live in Coupeville, Washington, about 50 miles northwest of Seattle, on the largest island in the continental US, and with surprisingly good weather. I'm retired from the US Air Force, where for the most part I flew F-111 fighter-bombers of various flavors, also known as Aardvarks or “McNamara's Switchblade Edsel” of Vietnam fame, for those of you old enough to remember such things. It was this particular activity that got me started on the path of knifemaking, although I couldn't have predicted it at the time. It was the Air Force that took me to California and the DeYoung Museum of Art in San Francisco where I discovered the ancient art of Japanese Netsuke, very high quality small scale sculpture. Years later, trying to find an escape from the pressures of F-111 low level flying through the mountains at night and in crappy weather, with nothing between me and instant/certain death but a thin radar beam built by the lowest bidder, I began carving netsuke for fun. After retiring from the Air Force I carved netsuke professionally until September 11th killed the contemporary netsuke art market. At that point, I began looking around for the next big thing. I noticed that some of the folks associated with the Japanese art market occasionally made knives, and started thinking in that direction. Jim Kelso, Ford Hallam, Guy Shaw, to name a few. At the same time, I ran into a friend on the island here who was into flint knapping, Dr Joe Higgins, and I learned to make stone blades. We began collaborating on stone knives, where Doc made the blades, and I decorated the handles. I found Bladegallery.com (physically located near Seattle), got a lot of very good advice from Daniel O'Malley, the owner of Bladegallery, and was off and running. From stone knives, it was only a short hop to begin thinking about steel blades. About that time, Don Fogg posted a simplified method of making small steel carving tools on The Carving Path Forum, and it was simple enough that I began understanding how to take the mystery out of steel. As it turned out, my experiences carving netsuke were directly transferable to metal, just with smaller bites out of the material. I've recently been working to add engraving to my metal sculpting skills. Below is a short retrospective of some of my steel knife evolution, roughly in order timewise, from top to bottom. My Mom passed away recently, and as I was talking to my Dad during her memorial, something he said struck me in one of those epiphany moments. He mentioned that at every point in their lives when things were uncertain, something happened that caused them to take a change of direction. As he looked back at their sandy footprints on the beach of life, so to speak, he could see where they were guided in the direction they needed to go, even if they weren't so pleased at the time (he was a POW for six years during Vietnam). I have to say that I can see the same things in my life, and the rather tortuous path that has led me here. It's going to be very interesting to see what happens next! Anyway, that's my story and I'm sticking to it...
  22. Clever and attractive, Serge! I'm really liking these relics.
  23. Thanks, guys! Glad you like the little fish, and that I was able to bring a few smiles. Stay warm.
  24. Cool! Now which ancient gravesite did you say this was found in?
  25. My latest dagger, including my first real gold inlay. Between making all the parts and the engraving, this thing took forever! But, it was an excellent learning experience and a lot of fun. The shiny parts are 410 stainless, and the black parts are 1080 simple carbon steel, and of course the yellow stuff is 24k gold wire (the fish hook). The eyes are double inlaid in fossil ivory and ebony. The fish is 2 1/4 inches (5.7 cm) overall length. Thanks for looking!
  • Create New...