1 July 2011 No Comments by The Northern Standard

The opening stanza of the famous Henry Wadsworth Longfellow poem ‘The Village Blacksmith’ – recited in its entirety with some feeling by the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Jimmy Deenihan in Monaghan Town last Thursday), and imbedded in the memory of a certain generation of Irish schoolchildren – embodies the traditional romantic image of a craft that in its modern form was memorably celebrated in the International Forge In event hosted by Monaghan Town last weekend.
The worldwide assembly of artist blacksmiths who converged on the crucible of the county capital’s Diamond and Church Square might eschew lineage with Longfellow’s quaint, idealised forebear, but their perpetuation of a long and esteemed tradition of creative ironwork was vividly evident to the thousands of visitors and locals who gathered around their forges to watch the sparks fly.
The cumulative fruits of their labours, the Hive of Knowledge sculpture that will be placed at Peter’s Lake in Monaghan as a legacy of the town’s hosting of one of the most prestigious international festivals ever to have been staged in the county, was the most visible demonstration of the weekend’s labours.
But for the participating blacksmiths themselves, the event offered an opportunity to share and learn, through a series of lectures and workshops presided over by some of the world’s master smiths in Monaghan Town’s Market House, which also hosted an exhibition on contemporary forged ironwork and offered a display space for some of the work produced in the course of the event.
Designed by Mark Keeling, who produced the housing structure at his forge in West Cork, the Hive of Knowledge incorporates panels from the participating blacksmiths illustrating their own interpretations of the themes of knowledge and learning.
The lectures and workshops ranged over the themes of architectural ironwork, design and artistic expression, authentic restoration techniques, tooling, craft and interior design.
Engagement with local schools also formed part of the festival activities.
Although participants emphasised the need for central exchequer investment and local community support to preserve the blacksmith craft tradition in Ireland, the cumulative impact of the event was to reinforce the proud assertion by many of the assembled artists that there is an effective “Iron Renaissance” underway worldwide, with design tastes returning to an appreciation of the venerable and vital creativity which the blacksmith tradition encapsulates.
Perhaps Minister Deenihan was being prescient as well as nostalgic in his evocation at Thurday’s official opening ceremony of the classical Longfellow image of the blacksmith, on whose “flaming forge of life…Our fortunes must be wrought.”
Full report in The Northern Standard

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