In summer 2013, I have been interviewed by Jan Meyer, the chief editor of „Metal Flash“, the French magazine for metal construction. Jan Meyer also takes care for the blacksmiths trade. So the topic was on the European blacksmithing scene in general, in particular the French one, and what I think about the current situation. As former chief editor of „Hephaistos“ I want to let you know what I replied to his questions. The interview we conducted in German. Jan Meyer translated it into French and incorporated it in his magazine into a continuous text. Here I translated it in English.
Metal Flash: Tobias Schumacher, unless we speak of creativity and dynamism, how would you describe the European World of Blacksmiths?
Tobias Schumacher: A homogeneous world of blacksmiths does not exist in Europe. The term implies a good deal of idealization of the present and also the idealization of the past. Additionally, the question is not to be answered representative for every single country. As examples of creativity and dynamism, I would like to mention England and Russia, where the blacksmiths do a lot for the apprentices‘ education, for training and restoration. The most creative blacksmiths colleagues in an artistic manner for sure are the young colleagues from the Czech Republic, which have excellent training opportunities not only with the school in Turnov . In Germany, more and more outstanding personalities, who could lead a next generation intellectually and creatively, get lost. Similarly, I see that in Austria and the Benelux countries. In addition, the dynamism and creativity must be provided to the economic success of a blacksmith’s workshop. There, we lost significant markets in the past years. And that goes for all of Europe.
Where and who are the leading figures of the time in Europe?
If we mean by „leading figure“ professionally highly qualified and educationally savvy people such as Alfred Habermann, there are no more leading figures in Europe. In addition, it is a little dangerous to mention names, because we may forget people that achieve excellence in its immediate vicinity, in their workshop, with their trainees, perhaps even at a journeyman or in their field of expertise. Exceptions are England, the Czech Republic or Russia, where, in my opinion, an older generation is paying attention to an enforcement of a substructure. Similar trends I see also in the Baltic States, in Scandinavia and in Italy.
How do you see the blacksmiths scene in France?
For years, the Catalan blacksmiths have been most effective for an appearance in public. Also the bladesmiths in Thiers and, from another perspective , the “Compagnons du Devoir”. My image of the French scene is one of local „islands“ on which flares activity – and soon burns up again. There have been efforts in Provence, Brittany, Normandy and the Île-de-France, to connect blacksmiths colleagues with each other, to do networking, to bring the crafts ahead in marketing and training aspects.
But much of it was no more than a flash in the pan. Therefore, I am curious what the the newly founded „Fédération Francaise des Ferroniers et Forgerons – 4F“ of Burgundy emanates. They have aligned an international meeting in June 2013 for the first time, which was truly impressive. In the small city of Varzy, they plan a transnational blacksmithing class for training in France. Generally, my few on the scene in France has remained enigmatic, after the one decade that I have come to accompany the blacksmithing craft’s world. And I ‚ve heard quite a few of France who have said: „For us, blacksmithing is dead. “
(If you consider this article as useful for your crafts colleagues or considerable in any other way please feel heartly invited to translate it in your mother language. I’ll post your version here.)