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Teach Blacksmithing in Buenos Aires

June 07, 2017 11:41 PM | Julia Stepro (Administrator)

Want your blacksmithing skills to make a difference in the world? Want to help restore and preserve the historic architecture of one of the most beautiful cities in the world? Join us in training a skill-hungry and passionate metalworking community in Buenos Aires, Argentina, from February to March 8, 2018.

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  • January 16, 2018 6:26 PM | Anonymous
    I have written a history of our project :Reviving the Trade Skills of Buenos Aires
    February 26 to March 7, 2018
    In the summer of 2014, the California Blacksmith Association presented a grant to blacksmith Jerry Coe after viewing his presentation documenting the artistic ironwork of Buenos Aires. He used the grant to return to Buenos Aires in autumn of that year to further study not only the architectural heritage but also the original designers and artisans of those buildings.
    In Buenos Aires, Jerry sought out the only blacksmith he could find, Fabian Rossi. The region had a few knife makers, horseshoers, and welders but no blacksmiths with an artist bent. A local architect, Salvador Napoli, joined in Jerry’s blacksmithing cause because he was interested in the careful restoration of the city’s historic buildings.
    Buenos Aires’ architectural splendor was at its zenith in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The glorious buildings that were created in Buenos Aires during those times gave the city its nickname, “The Paris of South America.” In 1930, due to a change of government, foreign national companies were forced out of Argentina and construction of major new buildings virtually ceased, except for a few exceptions, like the train station. Even the national railroads, constructed by British investors, were closed in 1948. Trains still sit rusting on the tracks everywhere. This led to a dying off of the traditional trades in stone carving and masonry, carpentry, blacksmithing, and glass sculpting.
    In 2015, Jerry brought Salvador and Fabian to Berkeley, California, for three weeks. Fabian studied in six different shops of master blacksmiths around California, and Salvador was able to meet and talk with important architectural preservation architects in the San Francisco area. On their return home, they invited the US blacksmiths to come down and teach blacksmithing in Buenos Aires.
    A group of US artisans was assembled for this task. 34 people volunteered to come at their own expense and two young artisans received grants from blacksmith associations to join the group. On arrival, in February 2016, our group explored the city and its architectural heritage on walking tours. We then set up six forges in a public park in the Palermo district of downtown Buenos Aires. The mayor of Palermo and the head staff of the city’s park department welcomed us at our site. The chief of police even provided security, as we would have to leave our forge stations overnight in the park. We worked in the park for four days and connected with about 40 local individuals as well as many of the neighbors who live around the park. We built an abstract sculpture in the process, which is now permanently installed in the park.
    Now two years later, the local Buenos Aires people who joined us have been meeting, studying how-to videos from the internet, teaching beginning classes, holding barbecues, and sharing their new knowledge. They have also collected and restored tools long covered in dust. This Buenos Aires group has now grown to over 2,000 people who have showed enthusiasm in learning traditional skills. Several of them have received commissions from the city to do restoration as well as new creative designs.
    Our group will be returning to Buenos Aires from February 26 to March 7, 2018, with 34 individual master blacksmiths, along with five talented young artisans who are joining us courtesy of grants. For this upcoming event, we have a team of teachers who will present hands-on lessons at six forging stations, while a separate forge will be used to demonstrate the blacksmithing craft in short projects. Another two forges will involve people from the neighborhood who come to participate. The students will assist in the making of a park bench under the guidance of a master blacksmith.
    In preparation, teams have been meeting on weekends here in the US to make tools to bring to Buenos Aires, which lacks tools such as tongs, chisels, and hammers. During the event, the master teachers will teach the locals how to make the tools to make the tools, a true foundation of skills. They will also teach skills in how to forge historic motifs such as acanthus leaves. One teacher and an assistant will be focused on copper and bronze repoussé, and another team will concentrate on the making of wearable art.
    On the final Sunday evening of the event, we will present a community folk dance supervised by professional dancer Analia Vega, with the music of Norberto Vogel, a bandoneonista, and his quartet. This will be a chance for everyone to dance and celebrate together, from blacksmiths and students to neighbors and friends.
    In the evolution of our event over these last two years, we have become aware that we are not simply raising awareness to preserve and restore the architectural heritage of this beautiful city, but that we have also brought back to life the city’s long-sleeping trade skills in blacksmithing, wood working, carpentry, stone masonry, stone sculpting, artistic glasswork, and many more. This is only the tip of the iceberg, and we hope to see a full restoration of the trade skills and the passing on to apprentices in the oral tradition in the next few years. The arts of Buenos Aires are awakening.
    Follow us on Facebook at “Forjadores Argentinos”, and Artisans Sharing Skills/ Artesanos Compartiendo Habilidades”.
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