Sometimes when you dig a hole for yourself, it’s just better to push someone else in. In this case, it was my good friend and colleague Karl Millard – a local Brunswick goldsmith and all round metal working genius who took the fall.
This post is my attempt to communicate the depth of regard I have for folk like Karl who just haven’t lost touch with history and whose hands and eyes are the living repositories of embodied knowledge. I have some small degree of wood working knowledge and skill, and that gets me some way to where I want, but now and then I am bound to call on the wider network of crafts-people that populate our fertile Brunswick neighbourhood.
Most people I think would admit that magic has left our lives, ushered out by science and skepticism and TV – but there are a few extraordinary people left who by their very nature retain a link to the realm of the infinite, whose minds work unfettered by our homogenised secular existence, in whose minds dark ideas and hidden forms still abound.
I tell you, If I saw an Elf, or a marsh spirit or a scrap of dark matter lying around Karls workshop, It wouldn’t surprise me for a second. And it is amid this maze of tools, treasures and possibilities that Karl works his magic.
Spinning copper, bending iron or soldering silver to bronze whilst fashioning new animals from precious metals is a days work for Karl, and when I came up with my bright idea of a rolled perforated copper skin for a lightbox as part of our latest client commissioned piece, I knew that if I got into deep water, there would be someone there with the knowledge to guide us through and a stubborn refusal to say “it can’t be done!”.
So my wooden forma and this skin of perforated copper slowly became one thing today under the firm but gentle hand of someone who knows metal in the way that I ‘know’ wood. We had one shot to file, saw, hammer and bend into shape the edges of the skin so as to leave the face a seamless surface of perforation. Avoiding distortion all the while is the key, and Karl went into his world of Thor and Odin while I played apprentice, holding tools and stabilising the forma while he worked.
So at the end of the day, all metal work done and dusted, I departed a tired but satisfied customer, with a belly full of wine and pasta, and an armful of stewed apricots, kumquat marmalade and apricot chutney all grown in Karl and Margaret’s garden and lovingly home cooked.
So if you’re about the Brunswick back streets keep an eye out for an open roller door, a glimpse of crazy old world tools, and a twinkling roguish glint in the eye of one of Brunswick’s most precious commodities.