Szombathy Gábor

szombathy_gabor-1-274x412It was hot with high humidity. Suddenly a big butterfly landed on my feet. I let it park there. Resting with closed wings for twenty minutes, we watched each others motionless, then it flied away. Nishida Mitsuo invited me to Japan, whom I know since 1998.

We met in Finland at an international meeting of blacksmiths. Nishida learned his craft from books. Japan has small amount of iron, there is no tradition of ornamental blacksmithing. He tried to use arc cutters. Ten years later he built a forge-hearth. He saw how it was used in Europe.


szombathy_gabor-2-570x378 szombathy_gabor-3-274x365

He called me several times, finally I joined him to teach and to work for six months. I made tools for him, and I had seven apprentices, including an architect, a sculptor, and a former stewardess. I received payment plus full boarding and was allowed to enjoy the full possibility of experimenting. The butterfly arrived in that moment. I wanted to create the perfect replica of it. When it was ready, I made it corroded by acetic acid, fretted by rain, until the wings became rust-colored. Fitting together brass tubes, cooper bars, and tin wires, discs of 5 mm were riveted into holes, drilled to the wings. These became the eyes, legs were formed from a wire brush.

szombathy_gabor-4-274x412 szombathy_gabor-5-274x412 szombathy_gabor-6-274x412

The Japanese lacquer boxes are beautiful. I wanted to create something similar and special. To make the “snake box”, first I hammered an expanded steel mesh into the iron plate, to produce a pattern of snakeskin, and then rolled. Similarly surface of the “snake” box, after twisting and rolling up a rod of 3 m length, I made a head of sunflower.

szombathy_gabor-7-570x378 szombathy_gabor-8-274x412


szombathy_gabor-9-274x412 szombathy_gabor-10-570x378

My hobby is the bow making. My greatest desire was once a Korean composite bow. You need bamboo, wood of mulberry, other wood for the siyahs, horn, sinew, and birch bark for cover. The bended length of the string is 110 cm, in undrawn state it fit to my suitcase. This was no problem for me, but the iron boxes caused me to be unpacked in each airport transfer.

szombathy_gabor-11-274x412 szombathy_gabor-12-274x412 szombathy_gabor-13-274x412

My New Jersey experience was totally different. Twenty years ago the French blacksmiths arriving to restore the Statue of Liberty received huge media attention. No wonder that the interest of the upper circles revived in the French metalworks. An American subsidiary of the Les Métalliers Champenois (LMC Corp.) was established to serve exclusively the needs of the millionaire customers in architecture. A Hungarian guy, working for this company, told me they needed blacksmiths. I, as a stranger, had been tested for two months, until I could make my first independent work: an 11 m long handrail of 150 000 USD worth.

szombathy_gabor-14-274x412 szombathy_gabor-15-570x378

The Hungarian and German blacksmith craft based on traditions different to the French one. We make a lot of forging, while the French prefers the locksmith methods. They connect pieces with hidden connections, bolts and rivets. Plate snarling (au poussage) is a separate craft of stunning techniques. They rarely use anvil. I worked and was trained at them for one and half year, but I must confess, I was not totally successful to learn the all.

szombathy_gabor-16-570x378 szombathy_gabor-17-274x412

At this company I got some piece of titan, and in my spare time I forged lightweight bracelets. I went through the boutiques of Manhattan to sell them. Nobody wanted to buy. Then I thought: the American tourists in Budapest would buy them. And so it happened.

szombathy_gabor-18-570x378 szombathy_gabor-19-274x412

The craftsmanship of smithery is vanishing all over the world. To save the knowledge, the Ornamental Blacksmith Guild of Hungary was founded in 1991, and contacts were established with the similar associations of other nations. The first step was to participate in the First Baltic Forging Week, where Finland received 150 masters. Using even the address book of this Week, an international meeting was organized in 2000 at the Buda Castle, on the occasion of the traditional Festival of Crafts, presenting the skills of 60 masters. 3 workshop sheds were produced for the meeting, if it were possible, these sheds could be utilized by the Guild even now.

szombathy_gabor-20-274x412 szombathy_gabor-21-570x378

The profession itself no longer exists officially; according to the register of the Central Office of Statistics the ornamental and artistic blacksmiths (decorative blacksmiths) became bijou sellers and fashion jewelry makers.

szombathy_gabor-22-274x412 szombathy_gabor-23-570x378

After graduating at high school, I feel no impetus to do something, getting lost for two years. Then I saw a TV interview with József Kovács, ornamental blacksmith, and next day I was looking for a master to learn to forge. I went to the workshop of Mr. Seregi, and I was his trainee for 6 years.

23/2/2011 Zsámbék





Follow Comments via RSS feed. Trackback Comments from your website.