Bruce Pringle…HAMMER AND HAND
I am beholden to Metal, it is my music and my sustenance. I describe the world with it and in return it has offered me an identity..
I am a Metal-smith for this short and incandescent life and then I will leave it and this wrought self, happily transforming to subtler muse. I work with a strange clay, wet by fire, of terrible purpose yet malleable to the instincts of art. This is a part history of my life as an artisan and artist.
My romance with the “handmade” began with misfortune…
En-route to the northern Transvaal while looking for a job as a Lumber-Jack in about 1973. I damaged a Mercedes car in a parking garage (accidentally)! Just prior to this, I had come across a fellow selling hand-made leather belts from a card table in an arcade in Pretoria.
Being stuck with an R80.00 repair bill and no means or job, I borrowed R30.00 from my little sister, bought a side of cow-hide, lino-carving chisels a Stanley knife, spirit dyes and some buckles. Within a day or so I had carved some highly decorative and colored belts, sold them on the street, repaid the damage bill on the Merc, my sister’s loan and purchased another side of leather. I hitch-hiked to the “Wild-coast” of the Transkei where I made and sold belts and purses from a flat rock on the beach and since then have been self employed .
These were the “hippy days” in the Republic of South Africa and I was actively avoiding returning to National Service and having an alternative means of employment, other than the main stream, I was able to survive below the radar of the military police and developed a philosophy of self efficiency compatible with the times and in tune with the ideals of the “Hippy” movement.
My Love of Metal began then, in Cape Town Station, around 1974, on discovering a display of jeweller’s tools in an advertising cube. I augmented my leather making with copper and brass decoration and proceeded from there to teach myself the Art of jewellery fabrication.
Those intense years that followed, in the edgy political climate of South Africa lead me to Melbourne, Australia (via a year in Amsterdam) and to applying for Refugee status, (with my then partner, Irena, mother to be of our boys Mischa and Joshua), selling Silver Jewellery at the St Kilda and Lygon St markets.
After a couple of years and the de-regulation of the gold standard, I turned my hand to Knife-making and we headed North in an EH Holden to find ourselves on a “Tenants in Common Community” on the Mid-North Coast of NSW, where we built a mud brick house, plowed the earth, and brought the two boys into the world via home births, 4 years apart.
During this time I had built a Smithy and began to forge, rather than fabricate the knives, traveling to the Northern Markets of Bellingen and the Channon near Nimbin to sell them. I very quickly became fascinated with the malleability, versatility and practicality of Iron and the skills of the Blacksmith and taught myself the Traditional Blacksmithing skills to better attain that Self Efficient philosophical goal.
Some 9 years of this fairly isolated, frugal and simple lifestyle found us moving to Tasmania and the Bright lights of Richmond where I managed to establish myself as an Artist Blacksmith and set up the “Hammer and Hand Metal and Jewellery Collective “ in the Salamanca Arts Centre on the waterfront in Hobart in 1994.
After nine years in Richmond near Hobart, working from my Forge in an old stable building , we moved to South Hobart where I established “The Crucible”, a shared workshop space on the rivulet with a succession of sculptors, metal Artists and blacksmiths. There I set up a small scale Bronze foundry for sand-cast and lost wax casting along with my Forge and metal workshop.
Some years later, in around 2008, I moved to Byron Bay to be with my lover, Rosie and established the Northern branch of the Hammer and Hand Metal Collective.
So !…Why metal ?
This strange clay, capable of spanning great rivers and sewing the finest silk… This clay that underpins our civilization, promotes and undermines our nobility. Makes possible our Cyber-transcendence and wreaks destruction on our natural world. This crucible of greed and benefactor of science !?
What is it ?
Beautiful and noble! Silver and Gold! So hard wrest and punishingly earned! Cunningly transformative of moral and ethic! Queen and King of metals, soft and pure, radiant and worshiped….
And Copper! Princess royal! Alloyed to art. Electric spirit of communication!
Generator of energy!
This Prince of Metals. Fierce and vastly powerful, the means “by which all modern civilization stands. This long age of iron….this as yet unfinished business… and the Blacksmith? That Alchemist! ?
“ By whose HAMMER AND HAND all arts do stand”
Who makes tools for all Arts to flourish and all Wars to propagate.
Tool-maker ! Signal to the human cause.
So, is this all the legacy that brings Me to Art?
Where I gently attempt to describe myself to me,
tongue in cheek, rather than clenched of jaw?
Where I make sense of the senseless and selfless the self ?
Where meaning is wrought from elemental clay to make feet for The flood.
A Buddhist view, the plight of the Thylacine, the art of the ancients, the human condition, conceptual identity, Facebook, Google, connectivity, the transience of everything and Tea! These are what inform my work. I am beholden to Metal, it is my music and my sustenance. I describe the world with it and in return it has offered me an identity……I am a Metal-smith for this short and incandescent life and then I will leave it and this wrought self, happily transforming to subtler muse.
Written by Bruce Pringle
Photography by Bec Findlay
Check out the Hammer And Hand website
Unit 1 / 4 Ti-Tree Place
Arts & Industry Park
Byron Bay, NSW 2481
Ph. 0409 960 614 (Bruce Pringle)
Salamanca Arts Centre
77 Salamanca Place
Ph. 03 6224 4441
Bec Findlay is Content Manager for How We Create. A successful and well known Australian artist, Bec has travelled extensively and exhibited her works across Australia. She is passionate about all genres of creativity and has been involved in the arts in many different ways for more than 25 years.View contributor profile