Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Perfect Taper

I'm tired.

Ten-hour days in the shop are already long and arduous, and the ever-steepening learning curve compounds my exhaustion, so in between eating, sleeping, and working, I barely have time to think. The name of the game right now in my Baltimore Blacksmith Vacation is forging a perfect taper. If you've paid attention at all to the ubiquitous Spanish revival metal-work in Santa Barbara, you've probably seen (and yawned at) the frilly, scrolly, and spiral-ly gates. Pay closer attention. Notice how your eye intuitively follows—even WANTS to follow—the interior curve of the lines. As your eye travels ever closer to the center of the spiral, the width of the bar likely tapers gradually, terminating in an elegant, thin, and subtle curve. If you were to unfold this spiral in to a long, straight bar, it would, in a perfect blacksmithing world, taper incrementally. Sadly, much of Santa Barbara's scrollwork vaunts the spirals without the elegant taper. Chris believes that a blacksmith should be able to form the most perfect of tapers before ANY other work is done.

Forging an elegant taper is a right of passage, a removing of training wheels, a graduation from "hack" to artist-blacksmith.

I'm getting there.

The last few days have been long, but Chris and I are finding our groove together. Hard, physical labor, coupled with keen intellectual attention, is a beautiful thing to behold. I can't imagine a better line of work. I'm also settling in to a rhythm of working, returning home through the funky, old, and evocative neighborhoods of west-Baltimore, cooking dinner with Chris and Rowena, and falling asleep to cicadas and crickets. The humidity is suffocating, as is the greenery of Maryland, but not in a negative way necessarily. It reminds me of long summer nights as a kid, yard-hopping at dusk, throwing water balloons at my sister, and dreading the end of vacation and beginning of school. Nostalgic, I know. I should also point out that I haven't worn a shirt ONCE while at home; it's expected that you do not wear an upper-body garment upon entrance to Chris' home. He does not have AC in his house, so this rule makes sense.

This is a bending template for the sconces we are making. Notice how a metal wedge secures the piece in place so we can bend the "arms" around the template.

Baltimore has so many old, run-down, but hinting-at-revival buildings. This is a cool industrial complex by the shop that some rich dude has bought and planned on renovating.

I should say something about the heat in Chris' shop: it's been high 90's every day, and extremely humid. And that's outside. The shop, with several 2300 Degree forges going, can exceed 120 degrees. I had a FULL gallon of water today before noon, and I still felt wickedly thirsty. My clothes are so wet at the end of the day it looks like I jumped in a pool.

Pepper isn't looking too good these days. He's been vomitting in the mornings. Poor guy.

These beautiful tapers by Chris are based on the Fibonacci sequence.

Whaddya think, should I get new ear-plugs?

These little guys may not look like much, but they kicked my butt. When you see what they eventually look like, you'll understand what I mean.


Emmet said...

Great posts (and pics). Seems like you're really getting the most out of your time there (and it's getting the most out of you - gallons worth). In any case, I wish you the best in your battles, both aesthetic and osmotic, and glad I can share this bit of the journey.

Oh, and I'm strangely intrigued by the concept of mech-erotic. It's kind of like byzantine noir, except maybe more platonic and less existential.

erica said...

Fun to see and read about your latest adventures. The Roman-style baths sound like true decadent fun!

Pepper looks like a really sad cat. poor guy!

Keep up the good work and looking forward to seeing more!