For the City Times
Father and son metal artist duo, Boleslaw and August Kochanowski, guided an open-house tour of the Kochanowski blacksmith shop and studio for an attentive general public on Saturday, May 21.
Attendees who toured the Junction City facility previewed the Kochanowski’s collaborative design, ‘Cranberry Bog’, a steel and glass rail balustrading incorporating magnified images of cranberry vines forged in iron for the historic Tribune Building’s renovation in Wisconsin Rapids.
The third and fourth generation artist blacksmiths have been commissioned by Incourage, with funding from an ArtPlace America grant, to design and create this artistic rail for the Tribune’s new third-story rooftop lounge.
“We are so glad to have this caliber of work for the Tribune building,” said Mary Olson of Wisconsin Rapids. She and her husband, Ted, have ownership in one of the region’s cranberry companies, and were particularly interested in the rail’s cranberry motifs. And, Boleslaw was interested in their expertise on the subtleties of the cranberry vine. Ted invited Boleslaw and August to come to the bogs of DuBay Cranberry Company.
“The vibrancy and beauty of the leaves show the best with new growth,” said Ted. “I look forward to going to these cranberry bogs with my son,” said Boleslaw. “Even though our design concepts are accepted, now is the time to tweak any aspects, and musing on the new growth might stir us.”
The public examined a display of photos and drawings of the Kochanowskis’ work, as well as various examples of ironwork and sculptures, along with the vast assortment of tools and equipment used to create them.
An ongoing forging demonstration, conducted by August and his brother Vincent Kochanowski, the technical wizard in the shop, revealed the basics of working the iron in the hot, malleable state. They heated a three-foot-long, one-inch square bar of iron, or more specifically — mild steel, to a yellow heat of approximately 2000 degrees which allowed them to forge shapes and textures into an otherwise ordinary stock piece of metal. The yellow, malleable working state lasts less than a minute, so multiple reheats are required.
“Most of the working is done by force of hammering,” said August. In this case, much of it is done with power hammers. Various sectional transitions were coaxed with each heat. Rhythmic striations were added, then further forged by hand tools on the anvil. Some of the tools used were hot chisels and drifts for piercing the iron. August explained each step throughout the demonstration, as well as giving comedic insight to what can go wrong.
“I enjoyed the show and the education,” said Barney Kedrowski of Wisconsin Rapids.
“The whole family is so talented – the work they do is amazing.” said Nancy Canalas of Stevens Point.
“Beautiful craftsmanship,” said Tom Genisot of Stevens Point. “It was a privilege to be able to see such work created right before my eyes.”
It was more than a privilege. After the forging demonstration, Genisot became the owner of the impromptu one-of-a-kind sculpture created by August.