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I did not realize it at the time, but when I had this piece in my hands for the first time, it was a defining moment. It had such an enourmous presence and weight that it felt massive in my hands. It may have been a pound and a bit in reality. But I could hardly hold it.

 

When I walked into the room it was in, my eyes were drawn to it, from across that room.

It was magnetic, you could feel the presence of this artifact, you could feel the energy of it occupying and commanding the space it was in.

 

I watched it do the very same thing to a collector on that same trip, when it was placed in his hands it left him utterly speechless. When one held it, it was hard to speak, even think, such was the enormity of it in person.

 

I thought, for a long time, that I wanted this piece for myself. At one point, in a panic, I almost was able to make the arrangements and gather up the funds I needed to go and get it.

 

But it wasn't meant to be owned by anybody, as it turns out.

 

I never did get a great pic of it either, I have a small one that I have held onto for a long time.

I don't really need a picture of it though. It has been burned into my memory so perfectly that seeing pictures of this piece now, well, they just are so incredibly lacking.

 

It introduced me to a different world altogether, a different place of being, a different kind of craftsmanship, a different flow of energy and spirit.

Being young though, I did not pay nearly enough attention, and the lessons I could have learned then I wasted and sqaundered on foolish ego and pride, and getting wrapped up in the whole rock-star attitude that has become so prevalant in todays world of craftsmen,

 

Its obvious who the craftsmen are that can rise above that trap. Thier work speaks such volumes.

The pieces they create have such a presence and spirit of thier own even people who brush off such notions as foolishness will betray themselves when they hold such things. The eyes open wide, they don't blink, they can't speak...

 

These are the craftsmen who don't even consider the object its self as the goal.

It's the craft, the process, the complete surrender to it, the direct connection between the spirit and the tools. These artifacts are mere by products of the process. They are mandalas. They are just things.

But what incredible things when made with that mind.

 

If only I had realized this all before, so many wasted years and so much lost. And now time may have caught up with me and I'll not realize this level of work at all.

Some of you will though. It takes conviction, and focus, and a willingness to walk a tough road with few to support or help you, and many will not get it.

 

You'll have to stand your ground, and just be.

 

And then if you are lucky, stuff like this happens.

 

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I haven't been lucky enough to ever see or hold these. But, I spent years looking at them a couple of times per week. Just the presence of these made me start working with heat treatment patterns. I thought my only goal was pattern welding until I saw these (and some Japanese and Chinese originals). But, when I saw them, there was no more room for questions.

 

I don't have permission to post the pictures of some of the swords that grabbed me. But, the same experience.

 

ironically, I posted these two knife pictures in a thread of my own yesterday or the day before, using them as an example of what I think of as original art. Talented craftsman, for certain, but also with a sensitive spirit and the intuition of when to follow rules and when to break them.

 

take care all.

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I remember Fire and Ice. It was on the cover of the very first Blade magazine I ever bought, and is why I bought it. Until then I had no idea something like that could even be made. Then two years later I took up the hammer for the very first time... :ph34r:

 

I am no nearer to that level of craftsmanship, though. :lol: I feel like an awestruck kid looking through the keyhole of a master's workshop when I see those blades. Thank you for capturing that feeling for me again, Randal.

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Actually, before I take a break... I did not really consider the copywrite issue, nor did I have permission to use those pics.. i hope it's ok in this case. I have had every pic Don ever posted on his site usually minutes or hours after they were posted, and have been carrying them around on my puters for years.

 

I know what you are saying Alan. The first sickle I posted and one of the Kemal joint efforts, " pans dagger", are the ones that set me solidly on my butt everytime I see them.

 

I'll post one more, this what I see when I hear the word tactical...

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Ok, be back sometime later on down the road, takin a break to get my own nuts tightened down right.

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These are the craftsmen who don't even consider the object its self as the goal.

It's the craft, the process, the complete surrender to it, the direct connection between the spirit and the tools. These artifacts are mere by products of the process. They are mandalas. They are just things.

But what incredible things when made with that mind.

 

If only I had realized this all before, so many wasted years and so much lost. And now time may have caught up with me and I'll not realize this level of work at all.

Some of you will though. It takes conviction, and focus, and a willingness to walk a tough road with few to support or help you, and many will not get it.

 

You'll have to stand your ground, and just be.

 

And then if you are lucky, stuff like this happens.

 

 

Thank you for putting this though out there, it's exactly the kind of thinking I need to have, especially the part about "standing your ground, and just being." You have no idea just how important that concept is to me, and how much I was thinking about it while driving 1000 miles this weekend, and smelting with Alan, Mark, Jesus, and Dennis. It was nibbling at the back of my brain the whole time, building on things I've been pondering for a while, conversations I've had with my "heros" in this craft.

 

We all bounce off each other, we all riff on enough common themes, but I can't be chasing anyone, I just have to do my own thing, in my own time. And I think you for bringing it up like this in public, I hope it helps others find their way too.

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Great post Randal. A nice thing to read over coffee and very inspiring indeed. Thanks!

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Wow, never saw that one before, very cool. Thanks Jim!

I love Fikes's stuff alot, never any question of the intent of some of his design, but always original and not choked by boundries.

His big choppers have always been an influence on me.

 

I always thought he was a bladesmith who did not really get the recognition he should have perhaps.

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Don and Randal, I put that up in haste. I was thinking that Don and Jimmy cross-polinated a lot in that era and lost track that your thread was Don's work. Sorry.

 

Jim

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No worries! Wasn't really about anybody, more about what drives and inspires us. And it's the tangents and other artists that make it all cool. If it had not been for Don being such an influence in me early I might have never had the pleasure of seeing your work as well, or Murad's, or Fike's work either.

Back on an older version of this forum I remember clicking on the links and going to look at all the stuff you were doing besides the collabs with Don... And I wanna tell ya, rocked my world right to the foundations.

It was a whole new perspective to view things from.

 

I am hoping folks will post pics of the things that have made impressions on them on thier path.

Really, how cool is this media in that regard! It took me days to work up the courage to call Don on the phone the first time.

He sent me a hand written letter with a couple of real pics of a couple of his knives.

i still got em. :0)

 

What artifacts have burned themselves into your spirit Jim?

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Thanks Randal. It really is about the connections which inspire and educate.

 

Initially I was weaned on the Whole Earth Catalogue about 1970 when I was 20. I was blown away by that and what it implied about what could be made and done. I was always inclined as a DIYer and the WEC was the Grail at that time. I came around to woodwork and carving pretty quickly and spent the rest of that decade working at that and learning engraving through an interest in banjo making. The engraving inspiration in those days was Winston Churchill who really set the bar higher than anyone at least in the US, and most elsewhere(IMO). His refined scroll design and especially animal scenes were (and still are!)so beautifully done.

 

I moved to Vermont in 1980 and went to see Don, Murad and Jimmy who I had read about in Esquire magazine! Right from the start I admired their passion about what they were doing and their devotion to process, as you mentioned, and improvisation based on solid mastery of skills. They both recommended I see the arms and armor at the George Walter Vincent Smith Museum in Springfield, MA. This was like spark to tinder as I had never seen much Japanese art. The Smith collection had a magnificent array of all kinds of Japanese art and I was transfixed by it and what it implied was possible with the engraving/carving skills I was working on.

 

Shortly after that I discovered the MFA Boston collection of Japanese arms and armor which is one of the best in the world. I spent many happy hours there discovering Kano Natsuo, Okawa Teikan and many others. Especially Natsuo hit a resonant chord with his ability to draw both from elegance and rusticity. Unno Shomin and the lacquer work of Shibata Zeshin followed soon after.

Natsuo katana koshirae in MFA

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Natsuo kojiri

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Unno Shomin shibuichi tsuba. I got to handle this tsuba in 1988 before I realized how superb it was, but it pretty much shut my mouth anyway.

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Okawa Teikan tsuba in shinchu(brass)

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An inro in lacquer imitating metal by Shibata Zeshin showing metal engraving hammer and tagane chisels with katakiri-bori engraving in the background.

Recently sold at auction for about $200,000

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Edited by Jim Kelso
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Sweet mother of God that is the most amazing Hilt I have ever seen!

The colours and textures in Japanese work never cease to take my breath away.

 

Thanks for the note and the incredible examples Jim!

I find the kojiri mesmerizing, it changes perspective all on it's own when I look at it.

 

I think I'll go look at your website for awhile, it's been awhile.

:0)

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The tsuba that you posted Jim are almost unbelievable. What a treat it must have been to handle them, and see them so intimately. It is amazing when that moment strikes where you are literally speechless. I felt that way when I watched Ford documentary on the making of his Utsushi, the one based on Katsuhira's tiger tsuba. I had no idea previous to watching it that such work was possible. Thanks for posting those.

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Thanks guys.

 

I've been extremely fortunate to be able to handle works like this. In 2001 when Joe Earle was curator at the MFA he was kind enough to let me handle the Natsuo katana. Again a transfixing experience after years of goggling it through the glass.

 

Yes Ford's utsushi (emulating a masterwork) is very finely done.

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Wait, what, huh, how, who...? Crazy, I have soooooooooooo far to go to go to there

 

I know the feeling. When I started down this path I had no idea what I didn't know and the road didn't look too long. Once I got a very slight inkling of just how much I don't know I nearly packed it in, but now that I have a better idea of how much I don't know, how much skill I have yet to attain, and how much I'll never be able to do, I have settled into the madness quite comfortably. The road still streches out infinitely, but I'm still hiking along. B)

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