"Of the four elements, air, earth, water, and fire; man stole only one from the gods. Fire. And with it, man forged his will upon the world." ~Anonymous
We first visited Tom Southerndon at Buscot Forge in October with our initial Mojo launch. I have always had a fascination with fire and the application of heat, perhaps because I am a fireman’s daughter? Ultimately, I am most curious, as a foodie, to understand the various ways that heat is used to enhance our palates and our lives. Who better to help me understand more about this versatile element than a blacksmith? Say no more, Alun was on it and quickly arranged for the Mojo team to head to Tom’s forge. The experience was more than we could have anticipated. As Tom expertly stoked the forge fire, explaining each step in the process, I felt something happening deep within my being. Something stirred that I couldn’t quite identify. The fire whooshed, the flame danced to life, and the first clear bell of the hammer on the anvil woke some primal awareness in my soul. For a moment, completely without explanation, tears sprang to my eyes. I was hooked!
We spent the rest of the afternoon watching Tom and Morgan Scoble-Rees expertly apply heat and hammer to craft the cold iron pieces into their desired end. All I could think about was giving it a try. Tom was game to give me a lesson in the forge and we arranged a day on my return trip.
The day arrived crisp and cold. We first went to get supplies, which helped build my anticipation and then we made our way to the forge. Winding along the small backroads, the sun playing on the trees to the right and left, I imagined what the day would hold.
Finally, we arrived in Buscot. Tom was opening the doors and beginning to make the forge ready for my lesson. He showed me how to light the forge, stoke the fire and apply draft to bring the temperature to where I wanted it. He showed me the various tools and how, why and when to use water to cool whatever project I might be working on. Then he brought out a sheet of paper with some pictures of iron pieces. A simple ringed hook piece and then a lovely scrollwork heart. He thought we’d try to make these today...Oh no, I thought, there is no way I would be able to do either of those things. They looked very difficult to my untrained eye. Oh well, at least I could give it a go and just see what happens.
Then Tom gave me the appropriate safety instructions and we jumped right into it. Slowly, slowly, despite my skeptic mind, the initial piece began to take shape. Suddenly, I could begin to see how to look ahead and anticipate where and how the next hammer blows would need to be applied. Tom helped me to understand the variations of applied heat and how to place my work in the coals to focus the heat optimally without overheating other areas. We heated, stoked, dipped, hammered, and finally the straight piece of iron was shaped into a simple ringed hook. Hooray!!
Feeling slightly successful, I was a little more game to try the heart shape; still worrying that I wouldn’t be able to coax it into the desired result. However, with Tom’s infinite patience and excellent tutelage the iron began to give and before long ends were tapered and scrolled, straight lines were transformed into angles and cold, hard metal took on the rounded quality of crafted work.
I did it!
Afterwards, as I proudly held my creation, I reflected on what the day had held for me; what it had evoked. Life lessons abound from the blacksmith’s hearth. I am left with the awareness that patience and easy persistence are the elements required to shape life into our desired results. It was only patience and understanding the elemental qualities that allowed me to shape that iron. There was no way to force the metal to my will or take shortcuts, not and produce this piece that would symbolize so much. I also noted that even with the seeming harshness of the hammer’s fall, it still has an inherent quality of softness. Perhaps that is one more reason it is referred to as a hammer stroke. Meandering back down the afternoon sun dappled roads, I recognize I am changed and the anvil’s ring sings to the deep places within me that are connected to an ancient and primal heritage.
I wholeheartedly recommend getting to know the elements more personally and visiting a forge near you!