Episode #70 – Heiner Zimmermann “The Blacksmith Craft – Contained Knowledge Over Generations”

Heiner Zimmermann is a second generation German blacksmith. His father, Paul Zimmermann, had his works published and thus influenced American and European blacksmiths throughout the 70’s
and 80’s. It was through working with his father and uncle that Heiner had the unique opportunity to meet and work with leading smiths around the world including Herman Gradinger of Germany, Olaf Punt of Norway, Alfred Habermann of the Czech Republic, Allen Evans of England, and Jeffrey Funk of the USA.

He completed his academic studies with a Master’€™s Degree in art and did additional studies in welding and restoration. His knowledge and skill led to a professorship at University Gothenburg Sweden which, like Southern Illinois University Carbondale, is one of only a few colleges in the world to offer advanced art degrees with a focus on blacksmithing.

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What We Talked About

  • Heiner shares that his childhood was always filled with a supportive artistic environment. He spent a lot of time in his father’s forge and had the opportunity to forge his own first piece
    at the age of 12, it was a sword.
  • By the age of 16 Heiner was already working in the forge assisting with forging, striking and installations. Around that age you needed to choose your career path and blacksmithing was, at
    first, not Heiner’€™s first choice.  Though, after thinking about it some more, he chose to become a blacksmith and was educated by his father for 3 ½ years.
  • Heiner learned his first business lesson at a blacksmith conference when Dick Quinnell offered to buy Heiner’€™s candle holder from the gallery. Heiner sold it to him for a paltry price, then
    Dick Quinnell said “€œOK, I will now take it home and sell it for twice the price, so now I have taught you a business lesson€.”
  • Through the 1990’€™s Heiner received a few grants to be able to further his education by apprenticing with other blacksmiths around the world. The most important lesson he learned through his travels was that the world became smaller to him which made him focus on the similarities that the blacksmiths share, things that unite them, not the things that divide them.  This revelation works
    it way into Heiner’s artwork.
  • Heiner has a lot of thoughts on the blacksmith craft and where it’€™s going in the 21st He will address his thoughts and ideas at the ABANA 2016 conference during his lecture.  He will talk about what a blacksmith’s role is in today’s world, what they represent and how does society view blacksmiths
    today.
  • The blacksmith craft started centuries ago from people taking risks with innovation such as  punching holes in hot iron and forge welding. These techniques have been handed down over generations and Heiner feels a great responsibility to preserve the craft and keep it alive.  His contributions to preserving the craft are being open minded to trying new things, taking risks, creating new contemporary techniques, pushing the boundaries.
  • When ABANA approached Heiner to give a lecture at this year’s €œEducation€ themed conference, Heiner had an idea to include leaders from the three most prominent higher education institutions
    that offer a blacksmith program, Southern Illinois University, Hereford College of the Arts and University of Gothenburg. ABANA agreed to include Rick Smith from SIU and Delyth Done from Hereford to join Heiner in lecturing on higher education and intentions and practice in the craft.  They will also hold a critique talk panel discussion where they will critique pieces made from
    attendees.
  • Heiner talks about how to be a successful blacksmith today in business terms. Competing with manufacturing will not work in today’s world, so selling the process and the story behind the
    piece will work.  He discusses the difference between functional design and sculptural design, the intention, the process and how we communicate as artists.
  • The metal art program where Heiner teaches (Craft and Design at Steneby, University of Gothenburg) their first-year students to take risks, experiment and develop an artistic language for
    themselves. Then they move onto the business part of things, marketing, curating and exhibiting.

 Guest Links

A Big Thank You to today’s sponsor  ABANA 2016 Conference ABANA Conf Poster

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