The Artist-Blacksmith's Association of North America (ABANA)
is dedicated to perpetuating the noble art of blacksmithing. A blacksmith is one who shapes and forges iron with hammer and anvil. ABANA encourages and facilitates the training of blacksmiths; disseminates information about sources of material and equipment; exposes the art of blacksmithing to the public; serves as a center of information about blacksmithing for the general public, architects, interior designers, and other interested parties.

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Video Review

Forged elegance: The life work of Master Blacksmith Cyril Colnik

      For several years Dan Naumann has immersed himself in the task of producing a video on the work of master blacksmith Cyril Colnik, researching, begging, pleading and generally doing whatever it took to make the project happen. Finally his efforts have paid off and the video is a reality.

     This work is not strictly intended for an audience of blacksmiths but rather it is a celebration of a man whose history is uniquely intertwined with that of Milwaukee. It is part of a celebration of Wisconsin's 150th anniversary and fittingly puts Colnik's work in perspective with the rise of the most German city in America.

     But the video begins with Colnik's early education as an apprentice in Germany where he was part of a team that forged beautiful work to be displayed at the Chicago World's Fair. It was this event that brought Colnik to America and his scant knowledge of English took him north to Milwaukee.

     We learn of his path to fame through the words of those who knew him, including his daughter Gretchen. Others who add insight include Naumann, whose hands we must assume do the occasional hammering against a backdrop of flame, Francis Whitaker, Nana Showalter and a host of experts in art and architecture.

     You see a good deal of Colnik's work and an occasional still shot of him or of his workmen. What makes this all the more interesting is the very appropriate music, composed for this video.

     The entire tape is professionaly done thanks to some assistance from Wisconsin Public Televison, where the video first aired.

     I must admit I would have been disappointed in the quantity of Colnik's work shown in the video if it weren't for the 10 minute trailer added to the television piece. This more than makes things right, especially with the narration of Francis Whitaker, Naumann and Judy Clowes of the Milwaukee Art Museum.

     Of the 50 additional pieces shown the most intriguing is Colnik's "Masterpiece," a term used for a piece made for a smith's Master Blacksmith Certification. Forging a masterpiece was required before the smith could open a shop of his own.

     Colnik's involved all aspects of metalworking, including repouseé, filing, chasing, chiseling, hot cutting, carving and general forgework. There are many views of this splendid work.

     It's clear the video was intended for many audiences, but the last 10 minutes are for the blacksmith community. Considering the video's high quality and low price ($26.95) and the worthwhile cause (support of Villa Terrace, where the Colnik collection is housed), this is a must-have tape for your collection.

     Copies can be ordered from Bighorn Forge, 4190 Badger Road, Kewaskum, WI 53040. Make checks payable to "Friends of Villa Terrace." For more information call (414) 626-2208.

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