The Artist-Blacksmith's Association of North America (ABANA)
Anvil's Ring and Hammer's Blow Editor - Dan Nauman
Born in Milwaukee in 1957, and raised in the suburb of Whitefish Bay, WI, Dan Nauman moved to rural life in 1977. Nauman’s interests centered around self-sufficiency, and a yearning to be independent. This led him to research many of the hand trades, primarily working with wood, iron and livestock.
At age 16, he began working in metal working shops, primarily in quality control. At 19, he became Quality Control Manager, and was in charge of four inspectors. For brief periods of time he was a self-employed taxidermist; worked in other metal working factories; and later found himself in metrology tool sales. In 1987 Nauman moved to an 1880 farmhouse with outbuildings, on five-acres in rural Kewaskum, WI. In 1990, he married the love of his life, Toni Farrell.
It was at age 21 (1979) when Nauman entered his first blacksmith shop in Cedarburg, WI, enrolled and took a week-long class in forging. The owners of the shop noticed his ability to understand the mechanics of the trade, and invited him to stay and work in his spare time, his only compensation being “knowledge of the trade”.
The real turning point for him was in 1990, when Nauman spent eight days with Francis Whitaker at his shop in Carbondale, CO. He came away from this experience armed with new knowledge, as well as new insight. He returned in 1991 to spend another five days with Whitaker, and then took Whitaker’s Master Class in 1993. Also in 1993, Nauman went to Boise, Idaho to learn from the repousse’ expert Nahum Hersom. It was in March of that same year that he began forging full-time at his studio in Kewaskum.
In 1995, Nauman opened another shop in Baileys Harbor, WI. This shop was originally built by a German blacksmith, August Zahn, in 1904. In 2000, Nauman took over the blacksmith shop in Cedarburg, WI, in the “Cedar Creek Settlement”…the very shop that Nauman first touched a hammer to hot iron. At this point in time, he had three working shops, and 14 employees. The Baileys Harbor shop was closed in 2002, to concentrate efforts on the Cedarburg shop. In 2006, the Cedarburg shop was closed in an effort to concentrate on private commissions. (Nauman now works by himself in the Kewaskum studio.)
In 2005-06, Nauman was commissioned by Villa Terrace Decorative Arts Museum in Milwaukee, WI to redesign two galleries which house some of Colnik’s works as well as his tools, drawings and photographs.
In 2008, the “American College of the Building Arts” (ACBA) offered Nauman a position as Professor of Forging. Though this would have been a fine opportunity to teach, Nauman decided to decline the position for personal reasons.
Nauman has dedicated himself to learning about the ways of the old-world blacksmiths. He has been blessed by learning first hand by whom he considers some of the finest smiths this country has to offer.
Milwaukee was the home of the late Austrian born master blacksmith Cyril Colnik (1871-1958). Thus, Nauman had a hard act to follow, but he surmised that he could learn from the works of Cyril Colnik. He received grants from the Wisconsin Humanities Council, the Francis Whitaker Blacksmith’s Educational Foundation, ABANA affiliates, Miller Brewing Co., and other foundations to not only photograph Colnik’s works, but to provide a video on the life and works of the great master. The video was completed in 1998, and aired on Wisconsin and Milwaukee Public Television. (Copies available.)
Many reproduction and restoration opportunities have come his way from Milwaukee, and more recently, Cleveland, Ohio. Milwaukee’s rich architectural potpourri is currently being preserved by philanthropists, museums, foundations, and others. Each commission from these restorations serves as a unique study for him as a student of traditional forging techniques. Once the original piece has been thoroughly cleaned, a bounty of forged processes often reveal themselves. Many of these restorations/reproductions have been of the work of Cyril Colnik. The Cleveland commission is a restoration effort for gates made by the late French master blacksmith “Edgar Brandt” (for the former estate of Harvey Firestone, Jr.). Thus in this fashion, Nauman continues his learning experience.
Nauman’s earlier works in iron primarily revolved around classic style, and traditional execution. He is a firm believer in that one must be well-versed in classic style before being able to create a style of his or her own. In recent years, Nauman’s designs are pushing into more expressive and organic forms, often showing the intrinsic plasticity of the metal.
To return the many lessons life has bestowed upon him, Nauman teaches at his home studio, as well as at workshops and conferences around the country. He served for six years on the Artist Blacksmith Association of North America’s (ABANA) board of directors, and chaired the ABANA committee which produced lessons in forging, some of which were printed in ABANA’s trade magazine the “Hammer’s Blow.” His love of teaching and writing go hand in hand with his career as a smith. By continually searching for the treatises of specific forging techniques, and then passing on what he has learned, Nauman enthusiastically continues his mission to strengthen the craft of the blacksmith.
“Learn from the learned, respect their wisdom, inherit their teachings. Practice relentlessly; work hard and long hours. If lessons are learned from failure...there is no failure. Be ever critical of workmanship; never settle for less than a valiant effort. Fears will be quenched by experience; wisdom will silence the critics. Teach what is reaped to all that will listen; your efforts will be reflected in them. Devotion with heart leads to victory.”………Dan Nauman, February 2006.
Former Captain Frederick Pabst Mansion, Milwaukee, WI (Pabst Brewing Pres.)
Former Herman Uihlein Mansion, Whitefish Bay, WI (Schlitz Brewing Pres.)
Villa Terrace Decorative Arts Museum, Milwaukee, WI
Governor’s Executive Residence, Madison, WI
Former Danielle/Blazer Residence, Ellison Bay, WI
Bjorklunden Lodge, Baileys Harbor, WI
Carroll College, Waukesha, WI
Lynden Sculpture Garden, Milwaukee, WI
Harvey Firestone Jr. Mansion, Cleveland, Ohio (restoration) (Former CEO Firestone Tire and Rubber Co.)
Holy Family Catholic Community Church, Fond du Lac, WI
St. Patrick’s Catholic Church, Fayetteville, NC
“The Contemporary Blacksmith”; Meilach, 2000
“Plain and Ornamental Forging”; Schwarzkopf, reprinted in 2000 (Front and back cover)
“Architectural Ironwork”; Meilach, 2001
“Fireplace Accessories”, Meilach, 2002
“Ironwork Today”, Meilach, 2006
“Cyril Colnik-Man of Iron”, Strekow, 2011
“Anvil’s Ring”; Artist Blacksmith Assoc. of North America, numerous issues
“Hammer’s Blow”; numerous issues
“Artist Blacksmiths Assoc. of North America”; 1980 to present
“National Ornamental and Miscellaneous Metals Assoc.; 2004 to present
2005- National Ornamental and Miscellaneous metals Association (NOMMA),
“Top Job Award” for a chandelier made for the “Captain Frederick Pabst Mansion”, Milwaukee, WI.
2008- NOMMA, “Top Job Award” for a set of driveway gates in Port Washington, WI.
2013- NOMMA, “Top Job Award” for the “Entry Gate”, “Lynden Sculpture Garden”, Milwaukee, WI.
2013- NOMMA, “Top Job Award” for a bronze railing, “Lynden Sculpture Garden”, Milwaukee, WI.
2015- NOMMA, “Top Job Award” for a gate restoration, former estate of “Harvey Firestone, Jr.”, Akron, OH.