Australia’s new iron age - 2023 National Blacksmith Survey Exhibition
It’s more of a THUMP than a bang as 250kg of falling weight with the timing
of a snare drum greets the awaiting glowing hot 3” solid steel bar. The steel,
manipulated by years of dedication, to form part of a completed work for
Australia's inaugural National Blacksmithing Survey Exhibition.
John Wood – Exhibiting Artist
Blacksmiths around the country are lighting furnaces, forges, and electric induction heaters to
put the final touches on a huge diversity of work to be shown at Australia’s first National
Blacksmith Survey Exhibition in December this year.
The final selection of work will be arriving from a 2000km radius throughout New South Wales,
North Queensland, South Australia, Victoria and Tasmania to be exhibited at the Port
Macquarie’s Glasshouse Regional Gallery NSW.
The exhibition is called a survey because it is an overview of the most interesting work our
countries contemporary blacksmiths are producing at this moment.
With iron being such a heavy material and many works extending well over a metre long this
logistical challenge will result in a never before seen collection of work from outstanding
Australian contemporary blacksmiths.
Image 2: Detail image of Tasmanian Artist Ben Beams work for the exhibition.
The show has been organised under the auspices of the Artist Blacksmiths Association of NSW
by a passionate group of volunteers keen to have their amazing craft seen by a wider audience.
‘For so long, blacksmithing has been seen as a dead trade ripe for burial’ said blacksmith and
one of the exhibition organisers, Will Maguire. ‘But the craft is so much richer than that. The last
few decades have seen a creative rebirth of smithing globally where ancient techniques are
melded with contemporary design and technology to produce really mind-blowing results.’
‘This will be a very diverse show. The contributors hailing from rural and urban areas, male and
female, making objects that span the practical to sculptural, traditional to wonderfully
expressive. What’s common among the makers of these works is a deep connection and
understanding of their material, an ability to mould steel in the manner of plasticine’.
Exhibiting artist, Ben Beams, a Tasmanian and one of the few Australian professional
blacksmiths said ‘I really want to contribute, to show blacksmithing goes so far beyond
agricultural uses. Australia does not have an extensive history of ironworking like many other
countries. This means Australian smiths are largely shaped by movements and practices
overseas such as European ironwork, Japanese contemporary pottery and woodwork, and
influential artists and craftspeople overseas. This means so many of us end up making in really
Image 3: Detail image of the collaborative work where hundreds of parts were made by smiths
all over Australia. The work will be assembled for the first time just before opening night.
A key part of the show will also be a major collaborative work by smiths from throughout
‘So many smiths work in isolation across this huge country but on the rare occasions we get
together it inevitably becomes a very open and welcoming affair’. Maguire said.
‘In recognition of this, a centre piece of the show will be a large collaborative work comprised of
parts forged from all corners of the country, with the final work taking shape only during the
installation in December.’
The idea for the work has been drawn from the familiar idea of finding a needle in a haystack.
‘We will create an actual haystack of large metal needles, thus our lost trade will come together
as a complex and powerful artform through the joint efforts of many strong, sharing hands’,
The collaborative stack project has been keenly taken up by many dozens of smiths even over
on our far west coast, from those with the latest equipment to those with a simple charcoal forge
‘So many smiths simply saw the call out, made a needle and posted it in for inclusion in the final
work, it has been really nice seeing their wiliness to get involved and have their forged voice
included in the Australian smithing fraternity. I think it will be a really strong work’.
The exhibition will be opened by Grace Cochrane AM. former senior curator at Sydney’s
Powerhouse Museum, at Port Macquarie’s Glasshouse Regional Gallery on Friday,
December 15 at 6pm. All Welcome.
For more information please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Will Maguire – 0423 289 648
Ben Beams (Tasmania and Victoria) – 0424 852 487
Image 4: Action shot of blacksmiths dishing hot steel in a timber log.