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Christopher Price

Knifemaker Interview Series, a biography workshop

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Thank you for those pictures, Petr!

 

I agree, much of what we in the present try to do in the realm of historical styles of carving, etc. falls far short of the originals simply because we are not of that world anymore. That is where I think your work shines. You actively strive to be of that world, and it shows. For lack of a better word, you just "get" it.

 

With that, unless there's anything else you want to add, I can't think of another question right now.

 

Therefore, after any additions you care to make, the next interview is up to you! :P Unless anyone else wants to ask you about something?

 

You can ask anyone, but please be more considerate than I was when I asked you. :lol: That is, make sure the subject agrees to be interviewed. I knew you'd do it, and I thank you for your time and thoughts. I've enjoyed your presence on this forum quite a bit, and I hope you continue for years to come. B)

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Thanks Alan, i was fun!

I will let you some time to ask any other questions, and in given time, i will contact next (hopefully) participant.

Petr

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Hello! its my pleasure to give you another participant, man with whom i share (or at least i think so) artistic aproach, love for humble materials and (i guess) narrative kind of fantasy. His knives seems to have strange stories behind them.

 

its

 

SERGE PANCHENKO

 

Serge could you tell us about your life, your cultural background, your formative experiences? Who you are, and whats your philosophy as an artist (i try to avoid this word speaking about me, but it surely fits you :-))

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Petr, I would like to thank you for this opportunity, I am honored to have been chosen to be among some of the greatest knife/sword makers in the world included in these pages. To begin...

 

My parents, sisters and brother moved to the US from Ukraine in the summer of 1992, I was 8 years old. My earliest memory of anything art related is drawing Ninja Turtles for friends in the 3rd or 4th grade. After that drawing many pictures of Garfield for my 6th grade teacher who had an obsesion with the cat. I have always liked knives, I remember hanging out with boys from my street in Ukraine, I think I was 6 or 7 then, and watching them play a game where you flip a knife from different parts of your bady and try to get it stuck into the ground point first. I remember thinking that I wish I had a knife too (but then again maybe I would have wished for a pencil if that was what the boys were flipping :D )

 

I began working at a local flea market (the same one I buy all of my Nicholson files from these days) at 12 or 13 years old, selling rugs for $25 a day. Obviously, flea markets have knives, so it was a rare day that $5 or $10 were NOT spent on a new knife every week (I only worked on the weekends of course, school). I began drawing weapons of all kinds in the early years of high school, knives began to appear more and more in these drawings. I have to mention (as a big part of my knife style developed from it) that since an early age I greatly enjoyed reading, and still do, mythology, science fiction and fantasy novels and stories. I have always been attracted to the warriors/fighters of ancient times, and especially their weapons. I keep thinking back to reading Russian folk tales about Bogatyrs and their deeds when I was young, Bogatyrs, their weapons and stories still inspire me greatly to this day. Here's a great picture of what I see when I'm reading those stories:

 

800px-Die_drei_Bogatyr.jpg

 

Notice the mace, an extremelly popular weapon in the majority of the stories (I plan to make one some day :) )Vikings have always been of great interest to me, and alot of the stories from the old testament where great warriors were described.

 

In a sentence, I guess the best way to describe what my knives are about (the artsy ones), is knives that could have been tools or weapons of ancient warriors, or warriors from some fantasy story.

 

At this point I KNOW that I'm rambling, so thats it for now and I'm looking forward to answering more of your guys' questions. Petr, thanks again my friend:)

Edited by Serge Panchenko

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Thanks for first batch!

 

Did you have some artictic and/or technical history in your family? or you are the first from the lot?

Do you still speak Ukrainian/Russian?

 

I (and surely others) see big progress in your art style last times, whats fueling your imagination? Some influential makers?

 

I can tell you that you are starting to be recognised evem in Czech knifemaking community :-)

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No one in my family draws or does anything artistic, so I guess I am the first. Yep, I speak both languages still, my wife Julie is Russian so we use both English and Russian evenly.

 

The knifemakers who I admire and who have influenced me with their styles are (in no particular order, except for Virgil England who influenced me the most)...

 

Virgil England

England_AKG04-w.jpg

Photo taken from artknifegallery.com

 

Arpád Bojtoš

04_chameleon.jpg

Photo from Arpáds website

 

Anders Högström

DSC06237.jpg

Photo from artknifegallery.com

 

David Broadwell

Broadwell_AKG01-w.jpg

Photo from artknifegallery.com

 

Paul Jarvis

Jarvis_AKG01-w.jpg

Photo from artknifegallery.com

 

Don Fogg of course! Don's swords inspire me big time.

Leafsword.jpg

 

I owe my use of copper on knives exclusively to our very own Tom Sterling who nudged me onto using it, thank you so much Tom!

Knife_94c.jpg

 

There are many others who have influenced me with their work, you being one of them Petr. I have been drawing up some small seaxes which are a direct result of seeing your awesome work. Also, I've seen several posts by you on CR knife forums where you either talk about me or posted pictures of my work, thank you Petr!!

 

Whats fueling me imagination? I guess it can be anything lol :lol: Nature has been an inspiration lately, as soon as I finish the "Darter Dagger" I have a much more intricate and awesome piece that I designed yesterday to make, I want to do a WIP on it as well, but well see.

 

I think that answers all of your questions, looking forward to more:)

Edited by Serge Panchenko

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Hey! Its pretty various pile of examples, i can see what influences you in most of them, but you blend very powerfull style of yours.

 

Seeing this, question comes to me: You have very sculptural concepts lately, but you seem to stay, for no better terms say "in flat plane" mostly.

 

Do you plan to add some more of third dimmension to your techniques? like casting, sculptural forging. I love your pieces as they are, but i am interested where you see your future art.

 

Virgil England sort of created his own world, in which his pieces "live", do you have anything like that in your mind? Your relic series tell me so :-).

 

and one more q:

What part of process do you like the most, and what the least?

 

Thanks for your kind words, i only say what i think.

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You have very sculptural concepts lately, but you seem to stay, for no better terms say "in flat plane" mostly.

 

You are absolutely right about that Petr. I hope to add the third dimension as I gain more experience, after all I'm still a newbie. I bought all necessary tools for casting and only need a bigger forge to begin casting parts of future knives, so that is definitely in the future. I think that I will eventually end up with 3 dimentional knives with cast parts like England, hopefully retaining enough of my own lines to not be obviously similar to him. I greatly enjoy the fact that Virgil created "the Hetlands", I wish I could do so too but obviously it's not possible anymore because I would never want to step on Virgil's toes like that. I think I'll be content with our own world, although a long time ago (as a time frame).

 

What part of process do you like the most, and what the least?

 

I really love drawing up and developing new designs. I also like when the knife is close to completion, such as right after aplying the final patina on a blade and fittings...I guess that is the point where the blade begins to take life. What I don't really like doing is the grinds. I'm still a little weak in this area so I get really nervous sometimes when there is alot of time vested in the blade and the grind is not going well. I don't really like to do sheaths as well, but, as with an almost finished blade, I begin to really like sheathmaking when the sheath is almost finished and I'm beginning to see what it will be like.

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thank you Serge!

 

Tell us please (this will be easy, its getting late)

Do you do commissions, or only make what you want to make?

 

and i am probably able to find out, but, sorry, i am lazy :-)

Do you make living by making knives?

if so, do you like it? what are the disadvantages?

if not, would you like to? and whats your job then?

 

How true do you keep to original concept art, and if there are some deviations from it, what causes them? Material, working method, or just balance in 3D piece? (this one is interesting to me right now :-))

Edited by Petr Florianek

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Do you do commissions, or only make what you want to make?

 

Petr, I was taking commisions up untill about a month ago. I was getting enough to where I couldn't catch up, and most orders were for simpler stuff like Kiridashi, Kwaiken and hunters which are not a challenge to make and which actually really bore me. So the orders began to get in the way of my making whatever I felt like making and finally I decided that it's more important for me to continue developing my work than to just treat this as a business which brings me to your next question...

 

Do you make living by making knives?

if so, do you like it? what are the disadvantages?

if not, would you like to? and whats your job then?

 

I have a full time job as a nuclear security officer. I think that I could make a living making knives as several months that I was NOT lazy, I've made as much as my full time job. But, the security of a steady paycheck is nice and I don't really want to make knives a job instead of a hobby just yet. I would like to be a full time knifemaker in the future though.

 

How true do you keep to original concept art, and if there are some deviations from it, what causes them? Material, working method, or just balance in 3D piece? (this one is interesting to me right now :-))

 

I don't really try to get the knives EXACTLY as drawn for several reasons. First, it would be more time consuming and difficult to replicate a design EXACTLY as the drawing. Second, any kind of mistake or slipup will modify the original design (obviuosly depending on how big the mistake is), things like the grind being higher than planned because of adjusting first one side that the other untill they are perfectly even, and of course a really important part of a design change is the fact that when you are holding a profiled knife in your hand, you may notice something that needs to be modified that you couldn't tell from just a drawing.

 

By the way, this forum is where I got my real start making knives. I have only made 3 or 4 knives before a co-worker intruduced me to this place. Don, thanks again!!

Edited by Serge Panchenko

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Thanks for your replies!

Are you completely self taught? Or there is someone who had been teaching you techniques?

Can you tell us more about what for do you use this place?

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Are you completely self taught? Or there is someone who had been teaching you techniques?

 

I have visited Dan Pfanensteil in his shop who taught me clay tempering but otherwise everything else is self taught, although I should say learned from the forums.

 

Can you tell us more about what for do you use this place?

Before my co-worker told me about knife forums, I had no idea there was such a thing. And a year before that, I didn't know there were custom knifemakers! lol

I am very thankful for this place because I doubt that I would be making knives at all if I didn't join here. Joining the family here made it so easy to ask questions, get opinions and advice. Prettyu much everything I know has been learned on the forums.

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Hello!

Another batch:

Did you ever met Virgil England? Does he knows your work?

and

Who are your customers for relic pieces? I can pretty much say that your more common stuff is buyed by general public :-)

Edited by Petr Florianek

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Hi Petr.

 

Did you ever met Virgil England? Does he knows your work?

 

No, I have never met him although I very much hope to someday.

 

Who are your customers for relic pieces?

 

Most go to collectors, several went to dealers.

 

Sorry about the short answers, not sure what else to add:)

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Is there something you want do say about your work? Some ethical issues concerning making of blades, for example?

Thanks for your participation!

If there is someone wanting to ask Serge something, please do!

 

Then move it!

Edited by Petr Florianek

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Serge, did you do the Bogatyr illustration? That is awesome and it's a very inspiring piece of art!

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Petr, I'm not sure what else to add:) Michael, I wish! :) If anyone has any other questions please ask, I'll be contacting the next interviewee, hopefully he'll agree:)

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Petr, I'm not a very big fan of damasc, especially the neatly patterned stuff like ladder. The only damasc I like is random patterned which I hope to use in the future. The neatly patterned stuff looks too busy and decorative for my taste.

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Alright, our next interviewee has been out of town and just got back, it's Tom Sterling! Tom, thanks so much for agreeing to this, I'm a huge fan of your work and would love to get some insight on your thought processes and inspirations to your work. Lets begin...

 

Can you tell us about yourself, how you got into knifemaking and where your inspiration comes from?

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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.

F-111.jpg

 

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.

Netsuke.jpg

 

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.

Stone_Knives.jpg

 

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.

Steel_Knives.jpg

 

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...

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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.

Blepharopsis.jpgBlepharopsis2.jpg

 

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.

Peter_Florianek.jpgSergePachenko.jpgJimKelso.jpg

 

I also watch Ford Hallam (Japanese style metalwork) and his brother, Clive Hallam (netsuke), Sue Wraight (netsuke), Janel Jacobson (netsuke) closely.

FordHallam.jpgCliveHallam.jpgSueWraight.jpgJanelJacobson.jpg

 

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.

RayCover.jpg

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Dear Mister Sterling, I'm very happy and interested to read your interview, so as I was for Serge and Petr...and more!

You are a great artist with understandig of live and craft, so as are Petr and Serge.

I have seen that you showed a knife of Petr : I would say I'm the proud and lucky owner of this knife, I bought in Prague, from Petr.The name is Fliccebana. Petr made also Merowingian Sax for me, for my 65th. birthday.

 

I admire peoples as you all and can only say that it' s always a very great pleasure to read and appreciate this thread!

you are very inspirating for me, as a simple hobbyst knife and sheath maker.

Congratulations, Sirs ! :)

Edited by Jacques Delfosse

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