“A rock pile ceases to be a rock pile the moment a single man contemplates it, bearing within him the image of a cathedral.”
– Antoine de Saint-Exupery
My house is in the heart of the village. Yet, two doors away is the village smithy. Armand, his wife Jeanette and son Jean live over the forge. The forge, hearth, is on the ground floor and the family lives in the two stories above. While Armand and Jean often put in a busy workweek, Armand and Jeanette have both celebrated their 90th birthdays in the past year. Yet father and son work side by side in this ancient occupation. Despite his age, this artisan cannot abide being idle and will create with remnants of wood or metal a new life.
Forging or the process of shaping metal by localized compressive forces. The coal/charcoal/coke method has been a process used over thousands of years. Armand has a large raised hearth that is used to heat metals for shaping. I often walk past to see a stair rail, gate or other piece come to life. Some days there will be large and intricate stair railings or gates across the road that are newly forged and waiting for a second coat of paint.
This is an agricultural area surrounded by vineyards. Armand and Jean are frequently asked upon to refurbish vehicles used for harvesting. They must stoke the fires in the heat of a Mediterranean summer to make sure the vintners are ready to harvest come September. In between jobs, this artisan has created many a beautiful piece. I was the fortunate recipient of a Cathar Cross and there are at least a dozen iron musicians with their instruments atop the mantel in Armand and Jeanette’s home. The iron sculptures are between 9 and 12 inches high and stunning. I look forward to taking a few photos of them and when that happens will definitely highlight them here on this blog.