ABANA Founding Members Outside Shop at Westville Village in Lumpkin Georgia: Not all founders were on hand when this picture was taken on 17 March 1973, but in the photo from left to right are: Wade Spooner, George Cobb, Terry Nelms, Brent Kington, Jonathan Kehrer, Daryl Meier (behind), Jerry Glaser, Mike Riegel, Peter Renzetti, Ed Trout, Alex Bealer, Warren Turlington, Ivan Bailey, Charles Ray Jr., Dimitri Gerakaris (with notebook in hand containing ABANA founding statement & member names), Emmert Studebaker and Charles Ray. Other founding members also present, but not on hand at that moment for the picture were G. A. Long, John Allgood, J.R. Nelson, Dr. Calvin Smith, Don Hadley, F.B. Daniel, Jimmy Johnson, James Stiso, Harry A. Sereno and E. W. Horn. That made a total of 27 founding members. Twenty three paid their five bucks to me that day in Lumpkin GA and three other founding members in attendance sent their money to me soon as they got back home. Dimitri’s book also shows that on March 28, he received dues from E.W. Horn, who was also at the Lumpkin gathering.
The Artist-Blacksmith’s Association of North America, Inc.
The Artist-Blacksmith’s Association of North America, Inc. began in 1973 with only twenty seven blacksmiths who had a vision. Their vision has unfolded with a membership that has grown and is now 4000 strong.
The resurgence of the “lost” art of blacksmithing is unmistakably evident.
ABANA is a non-profit organization directed by a board of 15 members who serve voluntarily as officers and on committees. The resolutions by the board determine the services to be provided within an annual budget. The operations and publications staff of ABANA deliver services as contractors or employees.
Alex Bealer (author of The Art of Blacksmithing ) and the Westville restoration village in Lumpkin, Georgia hosted a “Blacksmiths’ Convention” on March 16 & 17, 1973 at the Westville village. Approximately 47 participants from all over the country, although primarily from the Southeast, attended this event.
Late that first night, a small group sat around remarking how wonderful it was to share the knowledge of blacksmithing. Why reinvent the wheel? Here were about eight people. Each gave a tip or technique, and each got seven back. One of those people, Dimitri Gerakaris, returned to his room about 2:30 a.m. and had the bizarre notion of a loose-knit organization for those interested in blacksmithing to encourage an exchange of information via a publication and occasional get-togethers. It was tempting at that hour to forget the grand notion and get some sleep, but the idea of the potential benefit was too great to let go, and so in the pages of his conference notebook, Gerakaris scribbled a proposal for the founding of such an organization just before sleep won out. The next morning, as the demonstrations ended, just before breaking for lunch, Alex called for everyone’s attention and Dimitri read the proposal:
“We understand that a blacksmith is one who shapes and forges iron with hammer and anvil. The artist-blacksmith does this so as to unite the functional with the aesthetic, realizing that the two are inseparable. We the members of the Artist-Blacksmiths’ Association of North America do join in our resolve to perpetuate the noble art of blacksmithing. With hammer and anvil, we will forge for mankind a richer life. We will preserve a meaningful bond with the past. We will serve the needs of the present, and we will forge a bridge to the future. Function and creativity is our purpose. Our task is great and so is our joy.”
The first response came from a Mr. G.A. Long of Americus, Georgia. Well into his 70’s, he explained that he had been a “village smith”, shoeing mules, tiring wagon wheels, all that sort of thing. He was thrilled that there was a new generation of smiths who wanted to share and to carry on, and he reached into his pocket for some money which he held high above his head, adding, “I want to be the first to join.” A flood of others followed, handing their money to Gerakaris, who entered their names also into his conference notebook. Ivan Bailey nominated Alex Bealer as ABANA’s first president to unanimous acclaim, and Alex nominated Gerakaris as Secretary-Treasurer, since he already had the money and records.
The original [twenty] members listed in that notebook are:
John Algood (Williamsburg, VA), Ivan Bailey (Savannah, GA), Alex Bealer (Atlanta, GA), Floyd B. Daniel (Madison, GA), Dimitri Gerakaris (Enfield, NH), Jerry Glaser (Plaza del Rey, CA), Don Hadley (Stonewall, GA), Jimmy Johnson (Canton, GA), G.A. Long (Americus, GA), Judd R. Nelson (Sugar Valley, GA), Charles Ray (W. Terre Haute, IN), Charles Ray, Jr. (W. Terre Haute, IN), Peter Renzetti (Chadds Ford, PA), Harry Sereno (Newport Beach, CA), Calvin T. Smith (Greenville, SC), Wade Spooner (Savannah, GA), James Stiso (Atlanta, GA), Emmert Studebaker (Tipp City, OH), Eduard Trout (Savannah Beach, GA), Warren H. Turlington II (Atlanta, GA).
Within a few weeks, an additional 27 joined the fledgling ABANA, and by the end of the year, membership was over 100. Ten years later, membership reached 2,250 with members on 5 continents. It is not unreasonable to say that the founders foresaw this. The organization was called the Artist-Blacksmiths’ Association of North America.
Today, ABANA continues to grow steadily with about 300-400 additional members each year. Schools and workshops around the world that offer blacksmithing classes are increasing in number as well. The first blacksmith workshop ever held at an American university (organized by Professor L. Brent Kington at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale) was in 1970, only three years before ABANA’s beginning. ABANA Chapters are springing up all over the US with a list of over 50 groups currently chartered with ABANA. Thanks to those at Lumpkin, GA, the resurgence of blacksmithing is evident today.
Note: As of Jan 2021 ABANA has 3240 members and there are 90 Affiliate Organizations (formerly Chapters) across North America and around the world.