Sunday, January 25, 2009


The Fish Gate in situ.

Things here at the smithy are chugging along, albeit slowly. The economy has tanked, so new jobs are getting pretty scarce. Things have slowed way down cash flow wise. It's not just us, other friends in various construction work (stone masons, carpenters) are having to scramble for new jobs. The jobs we do have we are backlogged on, causing clients to become cranky, add to that our savings drying up as we used it to maintain our house and home.
This is a bummer to put it mildly.
This all comes on the heels of a fairly crappy three years health wise for me. My lower back got so bad last winter it slowed production down to a near halt.

Working was excruciating. After welding a panel on a railing I was so cramped up I actually just slid to the ground to lie on my back. I couldn't stand up straight. It was all too painful. Anyways, I tried my best to be tough, but when your body revolts...well..
After enduring severe back pain for three years I sucked it up and went to the doctor(all out of pocket, apparently national health care would turn us all into Commie Pinkos which is much worse than bankrupting the working class for eternity....) to find I have degenerative discs smooshing into my nerves. Gra-a-a-te!
Then the depression set in, the frustration at not being able to run, lift weights, or just bend over to tie my fecking shoes.
This malaise led to a backlog, and cranky clients. We tried to catch up, but honestly, it's just we two little worker ants in the shop. I can't afford to hire anyone, so we got behind, and this lost us a job. So I have noone to blame but my own lack of fortitude.
Then the economy crashed, people freaked out and stopped spending money on house jewelry.
All of this drama has led me to do some serious introspection.

I know there are other more successful ironmongers out there, who are doing just fine. Most of the ones I admire(okay, am green with envy of) have been around for decades, have big shops, employees and more education, skills and business sense than myself. They do awesome work, obviously make good money, and enjoy what they do.
Lately I find myself wondering what the next step is for me is. Comparing what I do to the other smiths I admire, I feel like a complete amateur. How do I evolve myself into a successful, skilled blacksmith? What are the things I do that keep me from evolving and growing as a craftsperson?
Am I willing to put the energy and sacrifice into this business that it takes? Or am I fooling myself? Do really want to do this work at all?
I find myself thinking , Okay, if I asked for a mentor in this work, architectural ironwork, how would I do it? Offer to work for free at a successful smith's shop? Time is money, and no smith is going to want someone underfoot who can't contribute. I have plenty of self doubt about my skills, being primarily self taught.Then there is the "training your competition" issue...More education? -How do I pay for it when we are tapped out?
Well, It's time to act on this stuff. Find the answers, and make the changes that will enable me to move forward in my life. She says with a nervous grin.


paula said...

heidi to me your skills are extraordinary - you work with talent, innovation and intuition, which is so very you and your personality (this, of course, is only my understanding from our ether-communication and jam and wool exchanges!).
Isn't there something in the words that the more we know the less we know? I feel this could be the cause of your introspection.
But I do understand that a hurting body could also be trying to tell you something…let me know how you go, won’t you.

FrauKlug said...

Thank you Paula..Sometimes it's just hard to not let all the daily grind , well, grind you down. You know how hard doing what you love is, that it is full of challenges, and rewards. Your'e an example to me of a strong, successful woman, working at what she loves.

Doing what I do really is a good thing. :)I just want to make the financial end of things more successful, they don't teach you the business end of art in school.
Oh, Iam just having my midlife crisis on top of it all. Things will move forward, they always do.

Lorena Moore said...

You may want to think about diversifying your creative skills to add something more sedentary that you can still do even if you can't work at the forge that day. No, you don't need to be "Jack of all trades and master of none" like me! But you can find something that will add to the forgework (copper or tinsmithing, etc.) or do something else entirely. I'd like to spend more time blacksmithing (and sometimes I'd like to make bigger things, LOL!) but I have asthma/COPD that limits my forge time. On the other hand, blacksmithing gives me upper body strength and endurance so I'm much more active than most people with my level of lung impairment. I'm not laying down the hammer any time soon - but it's getting harder to price my work, especially for commissions, which often leave me feeling ripped off. That's another reason for artistic diversity - you get more sources of income and a better idea of what your work is worth. And I might be more successful if I wasn't the world's worst at self-promotion!