Eric Dennis "Pioneer"
bloomery smelting, blacksmithing
10" x 10" x 12"
"This sculpture represents a step in the larger process of creating and working with bloom iron. Bloomery smelting is the process of refining iron from the earth that humans have been using since the iron age. The process involves mining iron ore from ground and heating it with charcoal in a small furnace made of clay and sand. The process is intensive, but worthwhile, resulting in a spongy mass of wrought iron that can be refined and worked with hammers. The resulting material is different from the steel normally associated with the blacksmith of today. It is pure, soft, and a pleasure to work with. Although this end product is certainly one goal, the process of exploring the forest, bog, or river bank for ore and then building and helping the furnace run its course is the most enjoyable for me. It is during these moments that I feel especially connected to the history of humanity and the earth."
I first learned how to smelt iron from Lee Sauder in a class taught at Peters Valley in 2017. The experience is not one I would trade for anything. Likewise my year as an assistant in the blacksmith shop, working with Jake Brown, was invaluable in pushing me headfirst into the world of blacksmithing. The fundamentals that I learned during those six months are skills I use every day in my own shop and business. The program prepared me not only for running my own shop technically, but also for working with clients, teaching students, fixing equipment, pricing and photographing work. It was really a comprehensive learning experience that played a key step in my own continuing evolution as a blacksmith trying to make it work.Eric Dennis, Greenfield, MA
Eric Dennis grew up in the woods of rural Vermont. He first learned to blacksmith in 2007 and has been smithing full time for five years. He is currently working out of his own shop in Greenfield, MA where he splits his time between commission and production work. Eric finds inspiration in examples of historic ironwork and traditional technique, striving to balance calculation with intuition. In his free time Eric pursues the ancient craft of bloomery smelting: exploring old mine sites in search of iron ore and then building clay furnaces in which to smelt it into ‘blooms’ of wrought iron.
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