Recovering the lost techniques of hand forging Gothic ironwork through the creation of a set of wrought iron windows
Hello potential backers!
I'm a professional blacksmith and have had the good luck to have worked with and studied under some true master artisans. If you would like to view a small selection of my past work, an online portfolio is available here:
My goal is to hand forge three intricate windows using purely traditional methods. The windows themselves will be a culmination of months of intense research and experimentation into the techniques that medieval blacksmiths used to create ironwork in the Gothic architectural style.
Why windows? I chose to create vizzys (small windows) because they are an excellent medium in which to showcase the style. They're transportable, and can easily be hung on a wall as a stand-alone piece.
Additionally, I will produce an illustrated book of my findings written with the intent to make this knowledge available to historic preservationists and fellow artisans.
I have already done many months of preliminary research and experimentation, and created a prototype window. Although this was not a complete success, what it taught me so far is invaluable. There is still a long road ahead on this project, but I now have a much clearer vision of where it must go.
Why It's Important
Forged ironwork is one of the Western world's finest artistic traditions. It has survived by knowledge and skill being handed down from master to apprentice for generations. What we now see as high art, at the time was not deemed worthy enough to be recorded in writing. When a technique ceases to be passed on, it is lost. However, by careful study, experimentation, and reverse engineering, modern smiths have deduced much of the old techniques from a variety of styles. There is one form of forged ironwork, and in my opinion, the very highest order of artistry, that suffers from almost complete loss of trade knowledge: the Gothic style.
It's important to distinguish between what is commonly referred to as "Gothic ironwork", and ironwork that incorporates the true Gothic architectural style. There are many examples of "Gothic ironwork", but this style has little to do with the actual Perpendicular Gothic style that was fashionable by all other trades of the time. "Gothic ironwork" is really a parallel style unto its own, and we already know well the forging techniques involved.
The examples of forging iron in the actual Gothic architectural style (such as Edward IV's Chantry Gates) are rare, mainly because the mechanics of forging lend themselves extremely poorly to the shapes that the perpendicular style incorporates. We know it was possible because not only was it done, it was done on such a level of mastery that it boggles the mind.
I feel that it is extremely important that the art community not just be simply pushing to the next big thing. If we are losing knowledge and techniques as quickly as we develop new ones, then are we actually progressing? My hope is that we solve the mystery and allow this truly amazing art form to proliferate for people of future generations.
I will strictly adhere to traditional tools and methods of the period for this project. Its also important that I use the same materials that would've been available to smiths at the time, as they have different performance characteristics. This would've been wrought iron. Unfortunately, wrought iron is an extinct material. Almost all of what is sold to consumers as "wrought iron" today is in fact mild steel that has been worked into a semi-traditional design.
Fortunately, it is possible to track down small caches in the form of scrap, which can then be re-worked into useable material. The design itself must be planned down to the smallest detail. Every hammer blow must be planned ahead of time; otherwise it is possible to work yourself into a corner and find that it isn't possible to continue.
Where The Money Goes
This will require me to invest a year of my life, which I am enthusiastic to do. The money will cover my shop space, fuel, materials, and any equipment and tools I will need to complete this during that time. It will also cover any research expenses (I plan on working closely with relevant museums, historians, and tradesmen). I'm not asking for living expenses and this is the bare minimum I will need just for the project itself. Any money above and beyond what I'm asking will help tremendously!
If you want to make this happen, please pick one of my totally awesome rewards to the right. !!!THANK YOU!!!
Have a question? If the info above doesn't help, you can ask the project creator directly.
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Pledge $5 or moreYou selected
An opportunity to vote on the final designs, as well as your name appearing in the credits in the published findings. Plus, a huge thank you!Estimated delivery:
Pledge $25 or moreYou selected
A mind-blowingly-amazing photograph of the windows taken by international fashion photographer (and all around awesome person) Scott Bilby. We'll both sign it. PLUS full-sized copies of the original project drawings.Estimated delivery:
Pledge $50 or moreYou selected
A limited edition copy of the guidebook. This is all of my findings compiled into a book, complete with instructional illustrations. PLUS, as always, a huge thank you.Estimated delivery:
Pledge $100 or moreYou selected
A small, hand-forged, commemorative sculpture made of true wrought iron. As a bonus, if I see you in person I'll buy you a coffee, give you a high-five, and listen to your woes for a half-hour while I nod in sympathy.Estimated delivery:
Pledge $500 or moreYou selected
0 backers Limited (20 left of 20)
One masterwork hand-tool. If you are a craftsman (or simply a collector of curiosities), I will hand-forge you a tool of your choice. A hammer, a pair of dividers, you name it. It will be exquisitely forged and decorated and will be of museum quality. It will be 100% functional, and completely customized to you. I will also create for you a decorative wall-mountable "thank you" plaque which can hold it.Estimated delivery:
Pledge $1,000 or moreYou selected
0 backers Limited (3 left of 3)
Immortal recognition. I will inlay your name in silver into the back of one of the windows with a short phrase of your choice.Estimated delivery:
Pledge $10,000 or moreYou selected
A wrought iron window of your own! I will reproduce for you any one of the three in the project. I will use the same traditional methods to create your copy that I used for the originals.Estimated delivery:
- (27 days)