I have had the honor to serve on
the ABANA board and also serve as its
President. In November, my term is up and
I will be off the board. I would like to thank
all the board members that I've served with
for their hard work. It has been interesting
at times getting 15 board members to agree
on something. But for the most part, once
something was decided, we worked as a team
to do it. I think we have made progress but
there is more to do.
Dimitri Gerakaris was one of ABANA's
founding members. He sent me the following
questions and answers. The questions are
from Matt McGee who was concerned about
recording the basics of early ABANA history.
Thank you Matt and Dimitri.
Dimitri has provided us with great
insight into ABANA's formation and purpose.
He has said it better than I can . . .
I believe it still holds true today.
1. Why did the founders of ABANA feel
it was important to preserve the old
ways of blacksmithing?
We knew we were not going into competition
with the changes in mode of production
brought about by industrialization. The
day of the blacksmith hammering out every
tool and piece of hardware is gone. We found
artist-blacksmiths were primarily coming
from an art and design background and were
interested in using the traditional techniques
of the blacksmith to fashion new and artistic
works according to our own visions. Ivan
Bailey and I both spoke German and knew of
the German word Kunstschmied. The term
"artist-blacksmith", which does not have a
counterpart in English, is a direct translation
of that German word. We wanted to go
beyond the then-current technique of only
welding found metal objects together which
is very limiting and restricts you to what you
find in the scrap yard. We wanted to be able
to make exactly what we envisioned. This
applied to items that were strictly sculptural,
as well as items which were functional
and artistic in nature, such as gates, furniture,
weathervanes, and lighting fixtures.
2. What was the long term goal for
ABANA when you established it?
How has it met or not met those
Despite our humble origins, I purposely
called it the Artist Blacksmiths'
Association of North America because I
knew this had international appeal and was
not restricted to just one country. Please note
the correct position of the apostrophe after
the S. Somewhere along the line, somebody
put it between the H and the S which connotes
the possessive of only one blacksmith.
I suspected we would have continued
get-togethers, but given that the movement
would eventually grow to far greater size and
geographical area, the vast majority of our
communications and education would have
to occur through our journal, The Anvil's
Ring. When we founded ABANA, I was
preoccupied with not only running my own
forge, but with laying up stone walls building
a new forge and a new home. Alex Bealer
and his secretary Joan Abbott got things
going by putting out a stapled newsletter of
several pages under that name The Anvil's
Ring, which I co-edited, and upon moving
into my new forge and home, took over the
editorship of the Anvil's Ring. I had edited
and produced a quarterly magazine when I
was a student at Dartmouth and my wife,
Mary, also had layout and publishing experience
so we turned it into a magazine. We
did the labor intensive, pre-computerized
publishing for four years until we began our
family. We realized we had established and
refined the format of the Anvil's Ring which
could be contiued by others. We had established
a circulation of around 6,000. We
have since been delighted to see the Anvil's
Ring continued by others, as it is the lifeblood
of the organization.
3. What would you like to see happen
in the next 50 years for ABANA and
blacksmithing in general?
The most notable feature of ABANA
from the beginning was the openness of all
the members to freely share information so
nobody would have to re-invent the wheel
and not be petty in keeping secrets. That
has largely continued and is one of ABANA's
greatest strengths. We were also very fortunate
to begin with people who would not let
their egos get in the way and NOT focus
simply on growing ABANA for the sake
of making an organization larger and more
powerful, and especially not for organization
leaders to set themselves up as something
special. The greatest threats to ABANA in
its history so far have been when individuals
strayed from that philosophy and saw
ABANA or their leadership positions and
egos as the end goal. Fortunately, those deviations
have more than once been corrected
by the other level-headed members and the
course re-aligned to the founding purposes
of freely sharing information. If in the long
run that simple goal can be kept straight,
ABANA will continue and prosper.
4. What do you feel are the most important
things blacksmithing can teach
We face the danger of our nation
no longer producing things. We face the
danger of retreat to a virtual and digital
world. We face the danger of passive
lives. Blacksmithing can teach children
that we can actually make things and produce
what we want. As helpful as computers
may be, blacksmithing can show them
the physical world is infinitely more real
and more rewarding than the digital world.
It can show them we do not have to passively
take only that which is offered to us,
but that we can actively make the world in
which we live and make it according to our
own ideas and inclinations.
5. Why Westville? Why did the founders
of ABANA consider Westville
an appropriate place to begin the
Westville was a natural place to meet
because it already had a forge and we were
allowed to set up a number of smaller portable
forges, and hammer on into the night
as long as we wished. Westville president
Joe Mahon graciously made us feel most
welcomed. We did not meet there with the
intention of setting up an organization. Alex
Bealer called for a one-time gathering of all
the blacksmiths he knew. But that Saturday
night of March 17, 1973, after the official
demonstrations and talks and our hammering
into the evening, we later gathered
in Alex's motel room at June's and sat in a
circle, going around with each providing a
tip or technique. Finally back in my room at
June's after 2AM, it occurred to me that we
should get together on a repeated basis, and
particularly to have a journal so we could
keep sharing information and not have to
independently re-invent the wheel. I was also
very tempted to just go to sleep, as it had
been a long day and because Alex had been
liberally pouring, as he repeatedly chimed
"Aren't we all just a bunch of nuts?"
But I fought off sleep just long enough
to scribble in my notebook the framework
for an organization to share the love and
knowledge of smithing . . . called The Artist
Blacksmiths' Association of North America.
The next morning, I shared this idea with
Alex and Ivan Bailey over breakfast, asking
if at some point that Sunday morning, I
might read that proposal to the group. Alex
said, "You better watch out, you just might
get elected president!" I said, "No way, I am
building a new home and forge while running
my business. You have a secretary, you
are well-known, and would be the perfect
first president. I'll help you edit the journal
and we can get this off the ground. Besides,
I like the way Thomas Jefferson wrote the
Declaration of Independence and then helped
out, but waited to become the third president."
And that's exactly what happened.
The next morning, Alex introduced
me to read my proposal to the group. As I
did, people all started reaching into their
pockets to pull out the $5 dues which I proposed.
I could hardly enter their names and
addresses fast enough into my notebook.
Before we knew it, we had founded ABANA.
We unanimously elected Alex president
and, because I had the records, was the first
secretary-treasurer. Because I did not want
to be both Thomas Jefferson and Alexander
Hamilton, I handed all the money to Alex's
neighbor, David Wall, and told him he was
treasurer. The rest is history.
Canaan, New Hampshire
July 11, 2015
Where are we going? That is up to
you, the Members. Let your board members
know what you want. We have some things
coming down the pike and I am excited to
see how they work out!
David Hutchison, President