Mike Westbrook
Just some junk I hammered out lately people always ask for yard art and I make it but it serves no real purpose and that's what the blacksmith used to be the man that made the items that made life easier tools cooking items hardware knives the parts that held the wood together still love the craft just need some purpose driven jobs hope everyone is heating and beating even if it's not what you love it's about the connection to how it used to be when you didn't just buy a set of hinges at Walmart happy weekend  Click image for larger version - Name: IMG_20190606_083820418.jpg, Views: 12, Size: 178.20 KB Click image for larger version - Name: IMG_20190619_125455855.jpg, Views: 12, Size: 82.12 KB Click image for larger version - Name: IMG_20190619_125449575.jpg, Views: 12, Size: 69.94 KB Click image for larger version - Name: IMG_20190805_094518172.jpg, Views: 10, Size: 151.22 KB Click image for larger version - Name: IMG_20190908_105328733.jpg, Views: 10, Size: 457.54 KB
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confederatemule
Mike Westbrook, I totally agree with you.
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jmccustomknives
It's the appreciation of the art that keeps us going.    

Rule #10;  "I can make that" translates to; "I'm to cheap to buy it new."

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Marc
Opinions are like navels. Everyone has one. 

"Yard art" or rather outdoor sculptures, are a great way to diversify out of what no longer serves any purpose, that is making hinges or nails. Yes you can make hinges and nails, but no one would buy them ... well almost no one. 

Since age 15 ... now 70, I have made exclusively object that are too expensive, take too long to make, and could be replaced easily with something you buy in a shop. Gates, Bed heads, Railings, Window grills, old fashioned water well frames, ... etc etc. 
And to top it off, I never waste my time making tools I can buy from the blacksmith supplier. And would never make a knife or a carpenters plane for example.

My reasoning is as follows. Making something that is "practical" like a tong or a hammer, a hinge or a pack of nails is nonsensical for obvious reasons.
I can buy it ready made and most likely much better than what I can do, so why bother? To satisfy my ego and tell myself "I can do it"?
I rather go fishing.

Making something that has an artistic content, something that comes out of my head, the conjunction of aesthetics, hard work and originality, is something that is unique and that can usually be easily appreciated by others that are willing to pay for it.  If it does not sell, that means I am out of touch and have to tune in with the market a bit better. 

We can not turn the clock back, but we can adapt our skills to a changing world. Art, ( my personal aspiration, to make outdoor sculptures for public display), is one way to keep our skills tuned and get paid for them. 

That is my navel ... I mean, my opinion 🙂
Much that passes as idealism, is disguised hatred or disguised love of power. Bertrand Russell
 
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anvil
Marc wrote:
Opinions are like navels. Everyone has one. 
That is my navel ... I mean, my opinion 🙂


Marc, I'm 72, so, considering our age difference, i'd guess age trumps youth here.  🙂  Hardware of all sorts, by the way, has been the mainstay of my business from the get go

" a great way to diversify out of what no longer serves any purpose, that is making hinges ".

Taking this to its logical end, do you mean that buying cheap Chinese junk hardware, the least expensive yet serviceable to date, is the answer for all hinge needs? Do you believe that government subsided housing, a inexpensive apartment, a starter home in the suburbs, your first and subsequent  personal custom homes, or if you are a general contractor doing top end custom houses that cheap Chinese junk is the answer to all hinge needs? 

" Making something that is "practical" like a tong or a hammer, a hinge or a pack of nails is nonsensical for obvious reasons.
I can buy it ready made and most likely much better than what I can do, so why bother?".

I can build a set of tongs in about 30 minutes. There is no source even close to close, so that means mail order which may take a few daze to a week or so. I use ~ less than a foot of 3/4" square stock to do this.  Time and money are essential considerations in any business. When making tools as a blacksmith, when the need arises you need the tool, not 3 daze to 3 weeks in the future.  Pretty practical, I'd say. Not to mention that my tongs are generally better than I can buy because they are absolutely custom made for me. Did you ever try to get a left handed set of tongs?, What about a specific rein length and weight and balance that fits you and only you. 

"Making something that has an artistic content, something that comes out of my head, the conjunction of aesthetics, hard work and originality, is something that is unique and that can usually be easily appreciated by others that are willing to pay for it.  If it does not sell, that means I am out of touch and have to tune in with the market a bit better."

I've always considered myself more of a craftsman than an artist. Thus I do very little spec work. If I dont screw up the job, I always get paid. Concerning art, well that's inherent in being a craftsman, and this, at least for me, developed over a long period of time. Thus my clients seek me out for many reasons. the primary is to get a product that fits their needs and they like my aesthetics. 

"We can not turn the clock back".

God forbid turning back the clock! The greatest thing the industrial revolution has done for all craftsman is to separate the wheat from the chaff! Thanks be to the gods of our craft that the Chinese are making all those very necessary cheap but serviceable hinges. That leaves all the creme de la creme for we modern day craftsmen! This is the point that most people\craftsmen miss. This market has never been affected by industry because industry cannot possibly compete at this level, just as a smith with hammer in hand,a forge and a post vice can never compete with industry. I'd go so far as to say, haltingly, that the market share for this type of work is very little different than in times past. The market for a "good, cheap spoon" has always exceeded by a magnitude that of a "golden spoon" to put into the mouth of your offspring.  🙂

Marc wrote:
Opinions are like navels. Everyone has one. 
That is my navel ... I mean, my opinion 🙂


By the way, I was in the navy for ~4 years. Thus I have much experience with things navel.  🙂

Its very hard for me to not be positive about our craft being a viable business today because I am one of the many that in fact, disprove your opinion. Especially on a web site where many newbies come.  However, its important to not hide the fact that succeeding as any type of craftsman is a tough road to follow, for many reasons. And this too has been the situation from time eternal.
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Marc
Yes Anvil, every umbilicus is different, and I mainly answered because of the OP stating he "hates yard art" yet makes it anyway. 

Making things that can be sourced in a shop, is starting with a bad handicap. In that case you need to sell the quality and differentiate yourself from what can be bought for a fraction of the price. Sure you can still make it and sell it. And I have made many hundreds of hinges for my gates, hardware for front doors and window shutters etc. Making old fashioned padlocks is fun. 
What makes no sense is to reminiscence about the times the locals would come to you to make them nails and hinges because the blacksmith was the natural port of call rather than the chinese imports. 
And obviously if you have a market you serve it, no questions asked. Every county, every region, every town is different and each will have viable markets and non viable ones. 
Just like navels 🙂
And as for competition, we have a large influx of handmade products from Indonesia, Vietnam, Pakistan and other places, at ridiculously low prices, and of ridiculously low quality, yet who can tell? Only last year i was looking at a coffee table made in some of those countries, banged together at a speedy pace, still showing the welding spatter. They tried to mimic a sort of forging process by using a ball peen hammer and hitting the angle every 4 inches or so once. It was a pathetic attempt but it sold like hot cakes. 

As for art, I had this conversation a long time ago, not sure if here or elsewhere, about art vs craft. And I heard this subjective limitation that people place on themselves ... I am no artist, I am a craftsman. 

I digress. Everyone has emotions and art is the expression of such emotions, or rather seeks to provoke emotions in the viewer. 
And the artist is made not born, needs practice and guidance, just like any other activity, craft or trade. 
The limitation is in our head. Just like with almost anything else. 

But we don't want to get too philosophical. Newcomers to the trade, will find their way to making everyday things or making things that serve no practical purpose but make life a nicer experience. There is no right or wrong way. Life is what you make it. 
Our peers, family friends all compete to impose limitations on us, in the name of "common sense", "Experience", "Moral principles" and various other phantoms that belong in the realm of superstition. And we fall for it mainly because they are imposed on us before an age we can revert their ill effect with some critical thinking.

But I am drifting into uncharted waters and my draft is not negligible ... 🙂





Much that passes as idealism, is disguised hatred or disguised love of power. Bertrand Russell
 
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Mike Westbrook
You have all hit on basically what I was thinking I more or less add my own touch to these types of things it's just that people draw a sketch up and sort of have an expectation that it will be " just like this one I saw " I will make them most are forged and fabricated just to save time and make financial sense but like the artist I prefer to make things from my own muddy imagination and just let the metal come to life so to speak but as Marc mentioned times are a changing I have shelves of stuff I made that I liked and probably will for sometime 😊
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anvil
everything you say I agree with. Its your over all tone of negativity and apparent belief that all things smithed is a, business-wise, a dead end anachronism suitable only for a hobby. This may not be what you actually believe, but it is what I get from your posts. 

Again, from your posts over this last few years, You seem to lump crap from Pakistan,China etc To be competition. They are not even in the same league. They are not competition, as long as your goal is to succeed as an architectural smith. The people that go to them are not my clients and my clients would never deal with them. Lol, when I did crafts fairs I would get that logic. You know,,, "Why I can get that very same thing over there for a buck and yours is 5. will you lower the price?" My response was always "if you cant tell the difference, dont waste your money on me!"

"Our peers, family friends all compete to impose limitations on us, in the name of "common sense", "Experience", "Moral principles" and various other phantoms that belong in the realm of superstition. And we fall for it mainly because they are imposed on us before an age we can revert their ill effect with some critical thinking.". 

This is prolly one of the main and hardest obstacles  to overcome. The demise of many a good craftsman. What can I say, I prevailed, they didnt. And the end results was I lead my own life, not one imposed upon me. And yes, there was a cost. Truth be known, that family problem will raise its ugly head no matter how well you do. Like just last week, for crying out loud.

My stated purpose to any who have an interest is to show that, particularly architectural smithing, is a viable profession now in the 21st century. Along with that I do my best to not paint a rosey picture of the journey.

In case you are interested, here is a u-tube vid on Francis Whitaker. I will assume you know who he is. If not do a google search on him. This is first in a series done by him late in his long life. In the first part of this vid it shows him making a scroll for a belly rail. He states, more than once that this belly rail is the most complex and hardest project he ever did.  I've always thought your early start in blacksmithing was a boon to be proud of that puts you hands above many.


Heres the kicker.  😉  This was my first project with Francis. I was his helper. I was 30 some years old at the time. How time flies.
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Marc
How lovely to revisit basically what we used to make in the sixties and seventies. I also was the apprentice to a master who was 45 years my senior. 

To your post ...
Blacksmithing today, is by definition anachronic and was anachronic even when I started in the sixties. I knew that from the beginning yet did not bother me. Anachronic is something that is out of step with the times, something you make by hand when you can do it using an electric tool for example is anachronic. 

Anachronism on the other side, is the action of attributing something from a different era to today. Someone dressing in a powdered wig and a cape is being anachronic. Someone lamenting the fact that folks don't flock to his shop to get hinges made by hand and instead buy then at the hardware store made by a machine is being anachronic. Imports from third world countries competing with our local industry is a political debate and exclusively attributable to our deadbeat politicians who steal their generous salaries and our taxes. A debate for another time.

I hear many times people talking about something 'Not being competition". An olympic sprinter will not feel challenged by an old lady running in the park, sure, but can be beaten hands down in the popularity contest, and in many other areas that are not strictly speed. 
Imports are competition simply because most people don't know the difference, can not see it, can't be bothered learning, and don't want to pay the difference for something they do not appreciate fully.

I grew up with a Vincent Van Gogh sunflower reproduction hanging from the wall. It was a quality copy, but a copy. In my early years my father who was an antique dealer, showed me how to differentiate between the original and this one. In my ignorance I secretly thought that whoever paid millions for the original was a fool. 
Was that copy competition for the original? Absolutely. Just like a Fiat is competition for a Lamborghini. 

So low quality work, regardless of origin is competition. They compete for the money of our potential customers. 
One way to win the contest is by showing the difference, something not always possible, and something that is no guarantee of success. Basically unless you have  money for advertising, you rely on what the market already knows about your product. Considering that folks think that Forged in Fire is a true representation of blacksmithing, you have low chances.
And this is the key in my thinking. When a customer is faced between buying a fireplace set from a blacksmith hand made, or from ebay for a tenth of the price, the thought process goes as follows ... they fulfill the same purpose. The expensive one will obviously outlast the cheap one, but by how much? The family will most likely see no difference ... and ebay delivers and accepts PayPal. 

Does it mean that starting or continuing in blacksmithing is a lost cause? Not for a minute. You must choose your battles.
A friend of mine is a fine chef and runs a restaurant that serves great dishes. His menu goes for pages and some of the dishes are a bit odd in my view. Yet he thinks that his quest is to "educate his customer". If someone does not like one of his dishes he thinks less of him and attempt at schooling him in "understanding" his work. 
Bad idea.
It reeks of arrogance and will gain no new followers. The art of commerce is to learn from the market not to teach the market. Produce what is in demand, not attempt imposing one's own ideas. No even Coca Cola succeeded in that. Our local Pubs used to serve massive dishes to their hungry patrons for relatively low prices. Customer were hungry because they worked in demanding physical jobs, Construction workers, labourers, bricklayers, they all ended the day exhausted and hungry. Today they work on a computer all day and grow fat and arthritic. The dishes are smaller and dearer. The change came from the customer not from the publican.

The blacksmith today must a) sell what people buy, b) produce something that is unique and that has an artistic component.
Point a) is not necessarily to make what you dislike. If the market asks for toilet seats i suppose I would politely pass. 
Make what gives you satisfaction to make and what is in demand. 
Point b) is what started my initial reply, confronting an unfair competition, we must diversify into something that is much harder to copy. Our imagination and artistic vein. Produce something that generates emotions in the customer and you get free advertising from him and whoever sees your work. 

And for goodness sake, realise that what you do is art. the practical purpose of our products is secondary to their artistic value. The balustrade i finished recently has the purpose of preventing kids from falling off the balcony. I could have used chicken wire nailed to the post for that purpose.  🙂
Henri Matisse is quoted as saying that "Creativity takes courage" 
I like that one 
Marc
Much that passes as idealism, is disguised hatred or disguised love of power. Bertrand Russell
 
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Mike Westbrook
I appreciate everyone on this forum you have all given me good criticism it just seems lately that anytime I say something meant to be simple on these electronic devices that it goes to a pissing contest between who has the largest male organs in the group so I believe I will take and delete all my interactions for awhile I'm a simple hillbilly from the mountains that just wanted some outside input but it has only confirmed what I already knew sorry if I upset anyone ive never not had to work for anything in my life  and at 37 years managing an agricultural dealer with a great family I don't need the extra nonsense ps.....marc your cool as hell buy y'all  
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