Passing this long letter on as a matter of possible interest here @ Timber Framer's Guild
1 Why are we launching this project that requires the exclusive work of eminent smiths outside their home countries?
Joy, pleasure and also seriousness.
For this daring initiative, we are not afraid to name it properly "The first international meeting of blacksmiths edge tool makers of old-fashioned axes", a group of some, passionate about cutting tools, as the saying goes, created in determination, good will, intelligence, in its morality, the international association AXEMEN.
This is because we are fully convinced that the contributions from age to age should not be eliminated in the face of the technical improvements brought on by modernity. The work of the past always seems useful and sometimes indispensable to use.
The remarkable character of our association is the emergence of this preoccupation outside the national or, even more fixed, individual compartmentalization.
On the other hand, the socialized form of the work to which we are destined brings together in a whole the ardor, the gesture, the aspiration: the violent desire to know and assimilate, the transmission fever - this has already been mentioned but it is willingly repeat - and, finally, the common work.
The context of international diversity opens new or unexpected possibilities in which the personality of each individual is exalted and confers on each participant the maximum means to flourish through his work in the rest of the international multitude.
It is possible to give the interest of the present work dimensions larger than the pleasure of communion and to accomplish together some technical feats.
It is understandable that in recent years a great impulse has been directed towards joint production, accompanied by an encroachment of the tradition on modernism, of a very curious reconstitution of the small local economies considered as backward, fragmented in the great economy. More and more is spreading the meaning and the taste of so-called manual trades. Great fertile harmonies seem to emerge in the concrete panorama of new orientations.
This is the place to insist on the role that our company can play for our time and that is to fulfill a sacred mission: to have influence on the growth of these wonderful professions that have become weakened or even denigrated and restore them to their rights. Therefore, we are grateful to the power of the craftsmen we have assembled to produce the most vivid impression on a public useful to the contours of our future.
2 A few words on the organization of our company
First, a small agenda of facts:
On the occasion of an extended weekend at the forge Beumene, located in the town of Saulgé, came together around a joint forging project concerning the unique reproduction of a model of prestigious Swedish ax, a group of friends gathering axe blacksmiths, users and connoisseurs of ancient axes. Despite the hardness and fatigue, they experience genuine joy.
Very eager to push the experience further, they decide by mutual agreement to extend their work network to a few selected foreign artisans. The organization of a new international meeting is planned for April 2019, from 20 to 28 inclusive.
The proposal is immediately enthusiastically received by these isolated artisans who have been contacted and added to the initial nucleus, awakening in them aspirations identical to those shared in the ranks of the initiators. We will not return to the place of elite that this small crush of nationalities - Canada, United States, United Kingdom, Switzerland, Norway, Sweden - which mixes is among all the world enterprises of comparable nature.
Each blacksmith agrees to self-finance his coming to Poitiers, which settles the question of transport. But it is clear, of course, that this expanded network extension involves a large number of preparatory measures, the problem of accommodation of additional craftsmen among them.
The fact that the transition from the old system to the new must be sufficiently studied and matured indicates to us that the whole of our project requires especially the official creation of an association.
For almost four months from April 2018 and almost without interruption until September, we plan the extensive work that will be undertaken in April 2019 and we do not hurry to conclude in the direction of accommodation, mistakenly believing that this question no longer seems to depend on the fulfillment of a few formalities.
During this period the mobilization of the participants becomes more thoughtful and unified, contacts are established with the local press to include a video production around the subject.
After meticulously proceeding to the drafting of the statutes of the association AXEMEN, the founding members deposit them in the hands of the representatives of the French administration which records it, which constitutes in all respects a decisive advance in the annals of our project .
Now that we have formed the association, the most effective competition we need is to gather the means of external support in our approach to make the most of them.
For an unforeseen reason the financing of the cover of the foreign craftsmen during their stay in Saulgé disappears.
Since this unfortunate event, all sorts of attempts have been made to cope cleverly with this blow of fate.
We are mainly concerned with establishing the budget estimates.
On the one hand the expenditure allocated in the budget to the accommodation of the craftsmen, on the other hand the technical expenses intended first of all for the necessary adaptations and the planned works.
The installation of the structures is started, a supply of tools is in progress.
This completion is only a matter of a few months, much remains to be done.
The program: April 2019, a flowering of original ideas
The leaders managed to unify all the collaborators around an original idea that the association gave as objective to the demonstration of April 2019.
The first edition of our company presented itself as a workshop whose objective was the rehabilitation of a Swedish old ax dating back to the 18th century. It was able to form an experiment still insufficient to generate the integral study of the forging of this complex ax in its manufacture, which constituted the technical challenge for this group as much as a exercise of very complete style putting into play the most advanced skills in the field of making traditional edged tools.
In the perspective of leading the initial project more fully, striving to bring together thought and action, the association will be able to count, during the following year - and especially during the meeting next April - on a series of contributions that will give rise to the most successful synthesis of technical and historical knowledge with fuzzy contours on this unique model of ax considerably emblematic of which some authentic pieces are very conveniently gathered in our possession.
It would nevertheless be to reduce our speculations to circumscribe them to the object produced: the whole work, indissociable, including the rediscovery of the gesture.
The association, and with it the project that it carries, profits from a public window which is already a sensation through a first great initiative: a website in bilingual publication (French-English-Norwegian) directed from abroad by it's vice President Don Wagstaff, former journalist turned artisan. This site already contains several articles intended for the general public as well as insiders as well as many documents still unpublished on the subject.
Very active, the blacksmiths welcome for their part to have carried out experimental methods that manage to overcome the technical difficulties. The teaching value of this immense work that represents on the development of a professional movement certainly expanding and likely to interest future practitioners whose ideas would be closer to our conceptions, is probably one of the most important of these times.
The goal of our association is indeed didactic, as is the goal of our animations that give visitors an idea of ​​the components of the characters of two trades. They allow them to enter full into the sumptuous entrails of them.
One that groups the traditional tool-forgers, the other which groups the woodworker or traditional carpenters.
Each annual event will therefore consist of two parts respectively to these two categories of members grouped under our same association:
1 Workshops representing most of the forging work of axes and cutting tools
2 Rendering or shaping of timber for construction.
This is obviously for the second to show the use of tools produced by the first.
Added availability at any time for the exchange of a large amount of information
through the response to observations, the sharing of experiences, knowledge, as many varieties of instruments that may interest or be used for the transmission or conservation of these activities.
Finally, to finally take full advantage of the opportunity that comes with the presence of masters of similar value, led by each of the great national specialists, a public presentation of the manufacture at the forge of a model native to their country, followed by an introduction to the typology of the axes of their nationality will familiarize them with each others culture.
Add to all this that each of the workshops we undertake to intervene for the dissemination of the gesture and the ethics of the job including as far as possible a training session for a few apprentices. Provided, of course, that they possess some prior personal qualities, that is to say that they show themselves capable of demarcation sufficient from the point of view of the mind, and manifest it in practical implication. We must not be fundamentally elitist or, what is much worse, fundamentally sectarian. We must balance according to our imperatives and select, that's all.
The know-how must spread and must not stop being, in this perspective the association will try to accompany the flourishing talents in their future experiences.
Now that we have determined a content for this program, it is the places where the realization of the work by our special guests and the reception of the public will take place that must be presented.
The forge buildings extend on a periphery of territory including the communes of Saulgé-Lathus Saint-Rémy-Plaisance, they are five in number. They enjoy an interesting relative proximity that will allow the circulation of the public to each other during a single day. This proximity contains another element of interest: it lends itself to tactical necessities concerning work.
These communes reunited in their cultural identity will at this juncture join a whole community of life turned to rural life and embraced by the region, to discover the activity, customs and habits of yesteryear in a more complete, comparing it to what is left today.
It is because we are a complete kinship in these rural worlds that we intend to engage in the rehabilitation, preservation and attendance, whether by a public of visitors or users, local facilities that are related to metal work.
These buildings, which were used regularly in the past, now give sanctuary to chickens and cats when they are not just piles of bricks or stones. Several generations have succeeded one another. Their actions were the same. Their concerns identical. These men and women who, by dint of hard work, had built their lives and their identities: it was also that of the peasantry and the villages from which they came. These are moving fragments of history. By opening the doors of these workshops and by beating the iron, for some old memories come back, for others we soak up this place and is born the desire to question this culture and come to know. As for the villages, it's about getting them out of the ground.
Here, as in many places elsewhere, the features of local cultures scarcely survive the standardization of life. It is true that the campaign is in decay and its culture well eclipsed. Thus one can count us among its loyal defenders.
It is largely in the Beumène forge that we are going to bring the group together and that a significant part of the activity will be orchestrated while the opening of the Lathus CPA forge to the needs of our association will allow us to to welcome a larger audience for episodes of greater human concentration.
In addition, we rely on the frequenting and coming visitors to animate these places periodically. It is obvious that the attractiveness of the region is part of the campaign's power to produce its own places of culture and entertainment that are the object of research for city dwellers who also appreciate, and above all outside the city to acquire a change of air a revival of joie de vivre.
3 To conclude
We are a few of us who are determined that this project and the principles that led to it will emerge and we certainly would not like to see reasons that could lead to their ruin. There are many other things in this project that may compromise the coming of age or the end. All these questions, however difficult they may be, remain secondary and can be solved in principle, and even fairly quickly in practice. Nothing is insurmountably difficult. Not even the financing of the cover for the guests which is not yet resolved. This last difficulty is aggravated by the delay accumulated in its resolution. We must hasten it.
In the absence of this technical organization and preparation, there are no triumphant results.
The work decided and initiated is not yet fixed in all its details, and it is also voluntary, to give a certain margin to the modifications and new initiatives that the practical resolutions will undoubtedly impose.
In the unfolding of the last act we can see an intensive task now, for which we need energy and inspiration.
Like other similar experiences in many parts of the world, with ups and downs in the beginning of their training, ours strives to give place to small things that can become great things. Although these beginnings are still just an effort to hatch, there are many other things that we kiss with our eyes and continue to call our commitment.