Wednesday, September 8, 2010
From Bratislava to Santa Barbara
I give you Geza Kummer, the man whose initials are imprinted on most of my hammers, swages, and sundry blacksmithing tools. After expatriating from his native Bratislava, this wry, scrappy, and chain-smoking Eastern European built one of the most successful blacksmithing and ornamental iron businesses in Santa Barbara, circa 1980's and 1990's. If you have seen classically honed metalwork around town, it's probably his. When he went out of business about five years ago, Dan and I bought most of his tools for a pittance, partly because Geza wanted to retire and move on, but I like to think this old-world badass actually liked Dan and I.
Well, he just might have.
While I was forging components for the Morley Wine rack (piece in progress; more photos to follow), Geza strutted in to our shop, aglow with goodwill—as his weathered features would allow. One thing you should know about Geza: he hates Communists. Most people my age barely retain a distant ire for Communism. We of the late-twenties mostly remember Communists as the bumbly, nasally-voiced bad guys from Rambo movies, or, at worst, an anachronistic regime of boring, gray buildings and propaganda posters. Russia, as an axis of evil, no longer presides over our worst fears as a nation. When Geza lived in Bratislava, however, Communism was omnipresent and hardly benign. I won't relate his stories, but he still drops vengeful comments about "the Russians" in normal conversation. For all the Russians reading this, I apologize; being Russian does not a Communist make.
Anyway, this guy may look small, but he could probably break my anvil in half, and then put a cig out on his tongue.