The intimate connection between a metalsmith and their materials

In the heart of every craft lies a deep and symbiotic relationship between the artisan and their medium. Perhaps nowhere is this bond more profound than between a metalsmith and the materials they use. From the ancient forges of blacksmiths to contemporary jewelry makers, metalsmithing is an art that demands a synergy between the maker and the metal.

Jewellery by Toni-MareeImage by Jewellery by Toni-Maree
The making of I Know I'm Home, 2021. 

The historical bond

Historically, the metalsmith was a vital figure in any society. Whether forging weapons for battle, tools for agriculture, or items of spiritual significance, the metalsmith worked closely with various metals, understanding their properties, and pushing them to their limits. This bond with materials was not just about functionality; it was about trust. A bride trusts that her wedding band will stand the test of time. A mother relies on the heirloom pendant to carry the legacy of her ancestors. Behind this trust is a metalsmith who knows their material intimately.

Reading the metal

For metalsmiths, understanding the properties of metals is akin to a pianist understanding the nuances of each key on their instrument. They can 'read' the metal, gauge its temperature, understand when it's malleable or when it's prone to breaking. This deep knowledge comes from experience and from countless hours spent at the forge or workbench.

Each metal, whether it's iron, gold, copper, or silver, has its own temperament. A metalsmith learns to respect these temperaments, working in harmony with them rather than against them.

Jewellery by Toni-MareeImage by Jewellery by Toni-Maree
The making of I Know I'm Home, 2021. 

Emotional connection

Beyond the technical relationship, there's an emotional connection between the metalsmith and their materials. Crafting an object, whether it's a piece of jewelry or a functional tool, is an act of creation. It involves imprinting a part of oneself into the work. The metal, in return, bears the marks of its journey - the hammer blows, the heat of the forge, the intricate detailing.

Sustainability and respect

In contemporary times, as we grapple with issues of sustainability and environmental consciousness, metalsmiths often find themselves forging a new kind of bond with their materials. There's a growing respect for sourcing metals ethically, for reusing and recycling, and for understanding the broader implications of their craft on the environment and society.

Jewellery by Toni-MareeImage by Jewellery by Toni-Maree
I Know I'm Home, 2021. Aluminium, eco paint, hemp cord. 70 x 35 x 8 cm.

Closing thoughts

The relationship between a metalsmith and their materials is a dance of heat, pressure, patience, and understanding. It's a bond forged through years of interaction, respect, and mutual growth. The finished pieces that emerge from the metalsmith's workshop are not just objects; they are stories of this profound connection, bearing witness to the journey of both the metal and its shaper.

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