I started doing metal work over 50 years ago. In my teens, I was cutting and welding with an old hand-me-down torch. I was building motorized bicycles and mini bikes. A torch was just a tool that I used. I was unaware that blacksmithing was even a job anymore, aside from the poetic references.
What I can share about myself is that I have always enjoyed making things. I made my first axe at 8. Cut out of cardboard, it was for my older sister’s boyfriend, he was outdoorsy, I thought he would like it and I have always aimed to please. Drawing came later and again, it was a tool. I have been a working commercial artist/designer for 48 years.
In 2008 I retired from the commercial world of producing art and lithography. I never stopped being an artist. I kicked around a bit, then I started learning about artistic blacksmithing as a second career. Not seriously, but for something to do. After all… I have large and sinewy hands, and my feet are long fellows; I thought I could do this.
The Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park is just a 1/4 mile away and they had a Historic Blacksmith Shop and a training program of sorts. I became engaged. I have been working and teaching blacksmithing in the very same Coloma Shop for the great State of California for the past 12 years.
In 2015 I joined the Board of Directors of the California Blacksmith Association (CBA). I started as a member when I started smithing. I put in a few years On the CBA Board as Chairman of the Education Committee and with friends built a bunch of forges and some tools that were sorely needed for the organization. They are still in regular use today. Then, I spent a few years as President. When my term as President was nearly up I offered to join the ABANA Board of Directors. I felt I was able to visualize a higher potential for the future of ABANA, better communication was needed.
A recent turn of events set me on a new course as Editor of The Anvils Ring. It was never a conscious plan to go there, but I must say, it has been an easy transition for me as an Illustrator, designer, and metal artist. It is a marriage of all the crafts I love. I like to get things done and stay ahead of deadlines. I believe I can make a difference as Editor, and I will certainly do my best for the ABANA members.
Mark Paul Kochan
Artist Blacksmith, AR Editor