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A Metalsmithing Journey

smithwitch Aug 06, 2021

The Smithing Journey Begins …

I started to work with Metal 14 years ago after life changing events beginning with an accident that involved spinal damage. And this in turn has led to now living with Metal in my body. The blessings from this have been many... but a big one is for me to know when to stop and listen to my body and nourish myself.

I felt drawn to creating little metal boxes that in time became Trinket Boxes with little secret spaces. I am mostly exploring interesting shapes which has led me on a journey to finding out the tools needed and the metals I liked to use as well as the colours and properties. 


Ancestral Roots in Australia …

My Australian grandfather was a plumber, a repurposer, and a tinker. As a little girl we would bring things home from our outings in his old plumber’s truck and from trips to the tip, for him to reuse. He melted lead to make sinkers and created little items of a useful nature. I loved his simplicity. He did also have this unusual tiny little metal box... that had a trick to opening it...and on it was stamped, “how the devil do you open it” with a dancing devil - which I was mesmerised by.


The Gathering of Skills and Tools …

My friend Mark in this journey, who is an inspiring metal worker himself, was keen for me to seek out assistance and gain skills, so we travelled far to meet and work with artists ... one-on-one and in workshops. One of my most loved tutors in Melbourne was Viliama Grakalic, an older woman who instilled in me the value of all the metals along with many skills including … tricky little hinges. She also encouraged me to keep “feeding” this calling with visiting galleries and looking in magazines at art. A favourite at times for me is also Pinterest. (Antipodean Tynker)


Casting Spells in Metal …

Initially I was keen to do casting work, which lead me to a class with an older eccentric gent called Carl Merten. Although this class was for larger work in sand casting, it was a great introduction, and I was blessed to be in this artist's presence for a week... Amazingly enough Carl’s twin brother Rex was holding a fine silver jewellery class next door!! (which I was very excited about attending the following year.) I have recently attended classes with two more artists to gain skills in lost wax casting and delft clay casting. So that I could create the Black Unicorn wax seal for the Amazonian Arts. I also met a very talented Silversmith on several occasions and started to work with Copper and Silver with an Anvil like a Blacksmith.


Repurposing with Found Objects

Then I met a Keith LoBue, a “StuffSmith”, who was to change everything for Mark and I. He was Repurposing with Found Objects! This was to take us down a rabbit hole of collecting objects for reassembling into sculptures. I discovered that we were in a genre called Steampunk as Mark created the mammoth project of a V16 Motorbike using recycling victor lawn mower engines. I started to collect brass doorknobs with an idea to make sculptural Planetarium or Orrery. We don’t know a lot of the time why we pick things up for the stash/stock, at swap meets, flea markets, tip shops and council clean ups. We are just attracted to parts and pieces, brass and copper, mechanical bits disassembled from what they were. We enjoy figuring out what it used to be or do and now what is it going to do for us. You can rest assured it will be something completely different. Something inspired by something we have seen, maybe a post-apocalyptic movie... Mortal Engines for example or His Dark Materials, The Alienist, Time Machine maybe and many more. 


Ancestral Roots in Finland …

My ancestral lineage is in Finland, and I do feel very connected, especially since visiting with my father a couple of years ago. Here I had the opportunity for him to show me some of Finland, spend time with his life-long friends, and hear all the little stories that came back to him at times, like they happened just yesterday. We stayed with friends and spent time experiencing life in town as well as the Summer Cottage on the Lake. Finns absolutely love nature and solitude. With 187,000 lakes, most summer cottages are on a lake, which is also perfect for jumping in after having a sauna. In Finland, there are more saunas than cars!


A Midsummer’s Dream and the Witch of Lynx River …

We arrived at Midsummer, which is s time of holidays, and experienced so many festivities in those beautiful 7 weeks of summer where the sun never set. I was to meet Reindeer, my spirit animal, and also to make a Reindeer-skin drum in the North with the Witch of Lynx River, taking with me the dear woman I was living with in Finland.


The Devilish Little Box Reborn …

The Kalevala is a 19th century work of Epic Poetry compiled from Finnish folklore and mythology. In this Poem there is the Sampo, a Magical artefact created by Ilmarinen, the Smith, that brought riches and good fortune to its holder. In this part of its nature this little artefact is akin to the Alchemist’s Ally the Cornucopia. Years ago I created a small version in Brass and over the years of polishing it just felt more and more lovely.

Akhalita and I travelled to the inaugural Mermaid Conference of the School of Shamanic Womancraft SSW. We both had a little marketplace stall, and I took this Sampo as purely display. Kristian Lee, a Warrior Queen with the AMA, expressed interest in this piece and so after some adjustments this first Sampo has travelled to Tasmania. At that time AMA was a seed sprouting in Akhalita and I was unaware of the Sampo’s connection to the cornucopia, which would be my Ally being an Alchemist. This Winter I have started a second Sampo for myself… a little bit different... a little bit smaller, still I am sure a magical tool of abundance. 

These are my words.

Alchemist & Smith Witch: Erika Eve Syrjänen

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