Monday, February 21, 2005

Uri Hofi

Today I met a Master Blacksmith. Some say Uri Hofi is to blacksmithing what a modern Beethoven would be to music. Hofi was trained in blacksmithing by Grand-Master Alfred Habermann but he added his own contribution to the art and asked why things were done the way they were. Why hold the hammer that way? Why stand at the anvil that way? Hofi has refined the art in many of his own ways.

I must add here that he is not a man without some controversy. Some claim that Hofi is a simply product of the marketing of Tom Clark, the late founder of the Ozark school of blacksmithing in the US. Many say that Hofi takes credit for things he had nothing to do the 'so-called' Hofi hammer. To be sure there are other masters of the craft that are just as good, and some better than Hofi. We have many here in the US that are masters in every sense of the word. These controversies don't take away from the fact that Hofi has helped spread the art of blacksmithing to a new generation. For that alone he deserves some credit.

Hofi is a seventy year old, Israeli citizen, who calls himself a Hippie. He uses the term to mean that he is in touch with life. He loves flirting with the ladies! He says he doesn’t pay any attention to time and he doesn’t waste any energy on anger. He says to waste time on such things is just stupid. He teaches his students to draw on their own experiences, all of them, to express their creativity in iron. I didn’t quite know what to expect from this old gentleman. What I learned was was a unique perspective on smithing and on life.

Hofi's focus in blacksmithing is on the simple, the basic. He has elevated basic skills to perfection the way only a master can. He studied the Discipline of his art before he struck off on his own tangent. That’s something too many people who call themselves ‘artists’ haven’t done these days. He says without mastering the basic skills you can’t bring the images in your mind into existence in iron.

The real artist creates a love for the art in his students by sharing his own passion. This, Hofi has done. I am fortunate to study with one of Hofi’s students…William Bastas. William is an instructor at Austin Community College in Austin, Texas. It's one of two schools in the US where blacksmithing is taught for college credit. William has studied under several masters of the craft. He is a believer in the stream of consciousness approach…he follows his thoughts wherever they take him. That's allowed him to come into contact with his own creativity. William has turned his life into a journey of understanding and creating. He freely, and happily, shares everything he finds to ignite the passion for his art in others. After meeting men and women like Hofi I can see where William gets his passion. He, too, is on the path to mastery. He may not have Hofi’s years or his ability to make things look so simple but he is well on his way. One day he will. I told Hofi that William was carrying on in his spirit. His reply was that William 'is' his spirit... I can't imagine a nicer complement from a teacher to his student.

The Talmud says: “Find thyself a teacher.” Hofi found Habermann; William found Hofi and I found William. Such men and women are an inspiration. People like these are true teachers. People like these draw you to them. They draw you into their passion and it becomes contagious. I’ve been fortunate in my life to know a few teachers like them.

Smiting the black metal dates back to Tubal Cain in the Bible. It's written he forged all kinds of tools out of bronze and iron. Without blacksmithing there would be no modern world. It was instrumental in building civilization. Blacksmithing almost died out after World War II. Modern welding and machining has replaced the need for most of it. The world could have lost an art almost as old as humanity.

Metal artists like Habermann, Hofi and the several masters of the craft we have in the US have revived the art and it has found new disciples like William Bastas to preserve it and pass it on. The circle of life becomes complete by passing on one’s passion to the next generation. Alfred Habermann did that. Hofi is doing it. William is too. Hofi travels the world to spread the Habermann school of blacksmithing. William does it from the halls of a community college.

Today I had a good day. Today I heard echoes of Alfred Habermann. Today I met a Master Blacksmith.

1 comment:

Mist said...

Amazing, great blog! I've been researching and gather knowledge and materials to smith myself in the past year or two, even though I'm still in high school. I've seen many local smiths at work and try to get what I can out of them. Uri hofi, from what I've been told and seen is a talented and wonderful guy. I'm glad to see a great blog such as this! I hope to see black smithing make a booming come back in the next decade or so.