I’m still capturing my thoughts and experiences from the Colorado Metalsmithing Conference last weekend. Thankfully, as I have journaled about these here, I have found some of the clarity I wanted to achieve. From some of the feedback on these posts, I think the rest of you are enjoying this journey too?
Hoss Haley was another one of our speakers and he is a blacksmith, an extremely talented metalworker artist. There were so many things that impressed me about Hoss. As he talked about his background, growing up on a farm in Kansas and how over the span of 20 some years he has grown as an artist, I was struct by his innovation, creativity and resourcefulness.
I know I related to him as well as I did because of my background. My mom grew up on a farm. Her father was a blacksmith. From my mother’s descriptions of life on a farm, you just had to be self-sufficient. If you needed something, you made it, grew it, did whatever was needed to get it or just did without. When my mom was a child, there wasn’t a Wal-Mart Superstore 5 minutes down the road to go to and get what you needed.
This philosophy of do what you need to accomplish the task at hand is clearly first and foremost in Hoss’s mind. He has built several hydraulic presses, his last one exerts 100,000 tons of pressure, and he uses it to form the larger components of his public art works. He’s looking to put together the components to build a new hydraulic press that exerts 200,000 tons of pressure! Wow, imagine what he will do with that one.
He showed a video of one of his smaller presses in action, it was automated and all Hoss had to do was move the metal around as the press moved up and down on the surface. Besides being awe struck by what the press did, seeing it in action I kept thinking, keep your fingers and hands out of the way!
He initially apprenticed with Tom Joyce and his work was greatly influenced by him. Yet he recognized that he needed to radically change up what he did as an artist in order to have his own individuality. He has definitely done this.
He said that he started looking at these huge sculptural works, public art works, and thought, I can do this. He just needed a way to build things on that scale. Here was one of the prime examples of his innovation, creativity and resourcefulness that he had learned growing up on a farm. He broke his design ideas down to their smallest components. That is why he would build these presses that could forge the metal in sections. He would take these sections and piece them together as you would a jig saw puzzle. It all came together, a little bit at a time.
If he can’t find what he needs he builds it. He created this one machine that calculates pi and uses this in some of his designs. It is an arm that pivots, with a pen attached that draws these circles based on the latest pi calculations. Each one is different and as random as the calculations. Every time he starts it, it starts in a different position base on where the calculation starts. Awesome stuff folks! Again, he was looking for a machine that did this and didn’t find one out there that would do what he needed….he built it! This guy is really super smart, innovative.
Hoss was one of the presenters who did a demo after his talk. In preparation for this demo, he worked up a couple of forming stakes to use and brought them to the conference. He was showing us how he would form a pear, even down to the detail of how he did the leaf. Imagine, creating a couple of rather large forming stakes just so we could benefit from watching him doing one aspect of his work. That was terrific!
And you can definitely tell that Hoss still wields a hammer on a regular basis. The man has ‘guns’ and he got them from hard work, NOT steroids!!!
He even does a bit of jewelry and small sculptural pieces (like that pear) that are available through galleries. However, I think he is best known for his large sculptural works of public art.
The point he drove home for me was we are an accumulation of all aspects of our learning experiences. Going back to the days on the farm and his progression of his artistic journey. Innovation, creativity, and resourcefulness….each of us possess those qualities. Be mindful of them and just think of the possibilities! How exciting is that?
On top of all of this, he has a great sense of humor. I truly believe he is humble about his work and all he has accomplished. It was really energizing to listen to Hoss.
Until next time, aspire to be more as an artist and a person.