It would not be exaggerating to call Eric Johnson a blacksmith/philosopher. Underlying all he does is an enduring love and respect for his material that began early in his 60 years. He explains “As a boy I grew up on my grandfather’s farm. He had a forge and we fixed things and replaced tools. I learned the mystery of lighting a fire, and how things are shaped and the bonds made. As you pound the iron and the molecules realign it takes on a new form.”
Jumping many years forward, Eric is still enamored of his material and what it can do in experienced hands. “Part of me is deeply involved in history and museum curation – especially researching old tools and how they were made. How many steps did it take to make this piece? I just love the way some pieces and parts were heated and forged just with hand hammers. Iron is unforgiving There is much more exertion to make it go the way you want - to make the shape you want. “
As I interviewed Eric, he told wonderful stories of his favorite work – unique commissions. It might be an organic garden rail or researching an historic chain once used to corral logs in a lake. A commission is a puzzle…a challenge. “I look at the layout. I think about the person and how they are going to hold the rail, or display the finished work. I look at the place where the piece is going. I think about harmony of style, what clues I can gather from the site. Next I draw it out on paper. Once I have the idea then I focus on the texture. Will the finish be clear, painted, fire bronzed, or oiled?.” So many steps even before he begins to forge the finished piece.
Eric's many years of experience has led him to teaching. Check his website for classes for young and old. And part of that teaching is how to protect your body from the wear and tear of blacksmithing as well as passing on that love and respect for the material and its relationship with the blacksmith. Johnson is proud that his students have benefited from the classes, and that some have chosen careers working with metal and other related fields. Many continue working with iron for personal projects and fun.