Balla József

balla_jozsef-1-274x412“How old is the domestic art of forging? I’ve never thought about it. It started probably in 1963.” The book of Károly Bieber was published that time.

At the beginning of the last century it was quite a time to create wrought-iron handrails, window grates, and gates.

In the old times the church was in the centre of the village, the blacksmith was at the end. This craft was connected to the agriculture; they made wagon wheels, and put shoes on horse.


“I was born in 1951, under Pisces. 43 years ago I joined a modeler workshop. We made wrought-iron patterns for Austrian export. What they did not accepted, all we sold at the home market. That time the Artex and othed firms were engaged in foreign sales. I worked abroad as well, but I never thought to remain abroad, even if my grandmother was Austrian.”

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I started to work at the workshop of Zoltán Pócs. He died in the eighties, but I maintain his sign above my entrance. The master had a huge prestige. If he received an official letter of the local government, he sauntered off to them as he worked, with greasy and smokey apron. The immediately sent back: “ It is all right, Uncle Zoli…”

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In the house near to the Italian Institute, downtown Budapest, we carefully descend in a lightly illuminated stairs. In the vaulted cellar there are handrail samples, lamps and chairs. Inside the coal is glowing red, the hammer clangs on iron, a welding torch is sparkling. Dwellers were accustomed to this noise. This workshop is a part of the downtown life.

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Budapest has many valuable relics of wrought iron. As he thinks, a lot was destroyed even in the last decades. At the renovations there is no documentation sometimes. “We need ourselves to find the right pattern. After many years of practice, we can reconstruct anything. A piece of the handrail is sufficient. We use contemporary procedures, for example, riveting.”

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Our house was built in the 1920 years. Already five years I am reconstructing the wrought iron handrails, the gate, and the lamps. The glass lampshades were stolen. I made the globes blown at the Tokod plant. Since then, the plant closed.


At one time I had a lot of orders. When I made a gate, the neighbor came: How many leaves are on that gate? Thirty? Then made me one of sixty!”


Ten years ago he employed 4-5 workers, now only one. “ I came here in 2001. I saw several places, but this workshop has had a feeling, I liked the atmosphere, it is in the city, I like to work here “- says handling the cutter. Maybe this craftsmanship comes to the end with his generation.

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Many prentices were here in the past, but they did not stay at this trade. There is no vocational training recently. “ I am not calm: you cannot bash a nail using computers. If I were born again, I become a smithy again. I am a king. It is a royal feeling to create something with fire.”

30/6/20112 Budapest





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