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My Peruvian Odyssey
QuiQue - Wednesday, March 14, 2007 - 6:44pmBlacksmithing | OT: Sandbox YAK
I recently went to Peru to give a seminar on blacksmithing techniques to the local peruvian metalsmithing community. The seminar was sponsored by Aceros Arequipa - the main steel manufacturer in Peru. This video includes my experience of the traffic, sightseeing, visiting blacksmith shops, the seminar, and even my travels to Cusco, Aguas Calientes, and Machu Picchu. There is no narration, but there is some really nice Andean music, still photos and live video included in this movie.
The seminar, which is in its 6th year, is geared towards the revival of ornamental ironwork in the country. Most metalworkers are currently creating simple straight picket grillwork and gates which address home security. The emphasis on these seminars is to show other metalsmithing techniques which will allow peruvian metalworkers to find new markets for their products. The seminar I gave went into various forging techniques and the use of oxyacetylene torches to hot form and cut mild steel to create a candleholder.
This seminar was the first time in which the participants were actually able to learn by performing the various techniques. They learned the basics of forging a leaf from 3/8” round, hot cut textures into 1” square using the torch, twisted beautiful patterns in 3/4” hex bar, and learned to apply a rustic copper patina to the finished candelabra.
I also had the opportunity to visit several blacksmith shops and to learn more about the tools and types of metalwork the typical metalworker uses. I have to say that I was very impressed with the metalwork these folks are producing with the limited equipment they have at their disposal. The average shop has a welding machine, a grinder, and vise. Few shops have forges or anvils, and even fewer have oxyacetylene torch setups. I’ve learned that something needs to be done to make the equipment available and affordable to these metalworkers. They have the desire to better themselves and their craft, but they are running into roadblocks in being able to afford to purchase the basic tools needed for their craft.
I will be returning to Peru in the near future to give additional seminars. Now that I have a good idea of what the peruvian blacksmith is up against, the workshops will be geared towards their ability to independently sell their hand crafted products to markets other than the home security market. The key is in showing that the blacksmith can financially make a better living from being creative in the decorative arts and crafts field than simply cutting and welding straight bars for gates and grillwork.
I want to give a special thanks to Gerardo Castillo for going well beyond his responsibilities for Aceros Arequipa. He was a gracious host who helped me get around Peru. If it wasn’t for his assistance I would probably still be lost somewhere in the Amazon. Another thanks goes to Cesar Vasquez. His ability to communicate the needs of the peruvian blacksmith and the openness to listen to new ideas on how to unite the metalsmithing community was refreshing. It isn’t every day that a large steel manufacturer takes on the task to improve not only the professionalism of the metalworker, but insists on making an impact on creating a more beautiful Peru by increasing the level of craftsmanship among its native inhabitants.
I also want to thank Nicolas Monterroso Ramos for being my initial contact via my web site. He put me in contact with Aceros Arequipa and really made this trip possible. He also showed me around the beautiful city of Lima and showed me his shop. I have to say that out of all the blacksmiths present at the seminar, Nicolas has the most enthusiasm and desire to learn the art of blacksmithing.
Last but not least, a heartfelt thanks goes to Carlos and Jack. These two guys run the blacksmith shop for Aceros Arequipa. They did the brunt of the work to set up the forges, anvils, vices, helpers, and oxyacetylene equipment. When I got there, some equipment had been purchased, but the majority of the setup was yet to be realized. These guys stayed very busy all week not only having to learn my class so they can teach it throughout the year, but they had to get everything in order for the classes to start the following week. It was a true pleasure working with you guys!
All in all, this was a most noteworthy experience in my metalworking career! I actually have a 20 minute movie I created documenting “My Peruvian Odyssey” in the podcast section of my web site. Or you can click on the YouTube play button below to view the same movie. Take a look to see how I spent three weeks in beautiful Peru.