The art of blacksmithing is enjoying a revival these days and two metal artists who spend a lot of time in their Errington blacksmith shop are also bringing their art form out to the public.
Dave and Tamaki Friesen are the metal masters at Crossed Heart Forge and the couple use construction scraps to produce handmade charcoal for fuel and then turn unloved metal and discarded wood into useful and artistic works.
What is different about their work is that it uses lots of reclaimed steel, human power and traditional techniques; old school all the way. The artists can be found forging the old fashioned way using a portable forge at various locations in District 69 and over the summer will be forging at Craig Heritage Park in Parksville and Morningstar Farm in French Creek.
What is cool about their handmade art metal is that it is forged in fires fueled by handmade charcoal from reclaimed scrap wood. Most blacksmith shops are run on mineral coal because it is cheaper, easier to store, and more available than charcoal. A couple hundred years ago, though, charcoal was the most common fuel, and to this day in Japan and many other countries, blacksmiths and sword-smiths still use softwood charcoal for their work.
“To our knowledge, no one in North America is selling softwood charcoal so making it is the only source. Barbecue charcoal is usually hardwood, briquettes too … and they sometimes have some kind of unidentified binder material that sticks them together,” said Dave.
Dave is an artist, designer, blacksmith, and general maker of things.
He began blacksmithing in 1992 and spent a decade hammering on red hot steel to supply traditional ornamental ironwork to boutique shops in Calgary. He said he got the blacksmithing bug when he was a young teenager growing up in Alberta.
“I am not sure of the start point … it was Grade 8 or 9 social studies. I made a mini samurai knife,” he recalled, adding after that he spent a lot of time melting metal in the garage and his parents were concerned he may burn down the house.
“My parents said I could go to Ohio for a two week course with a former Amish blacksmith. He was super old school. I worked with him, and then I came back and my grandpa found an old forge and broken anvil and I bought it at age 14.”
Dave set up a shop and lean-to in the back yard and for 10 years he forged projects part time which paid for part of his university tuition for his early childhood education degree. He spent several years in Japan teaching art and web development at a design college and international school.
That is where he got married to Tamaki, who is also an artist, educator, and ninja master of colour.
With roots in Japan, her art and style are informed by the rich culture and aesthetic of thousands of years of creative history. Her specialty is handmade metal buttons.
Dave does general blacksmithing and hand forging and makes handcrafted knives and tools, traditional ornamental wrought ironwork, reclaimed steel objets d’art and custom artisan metalwork.