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Blacksmith craft

Blacksmithing is one of the most ancient crafts consisting of complex technological processes. It required specially equipped premises – blacksmith shops equipped with a forge and bellows, as well as many forging tools (an anvil, mites, hammers, files, etc.). Due to the increased fire hazard blacksmith shops were located on the outskirts of settlements. Therefore, blacksmiths living on the outskirts seemed to their neighbors mysterious, associated with evil spirits and their skillful handling of metal that could take any form under the blow of their hammer was considered akin to witchcraft. At the same time, in Russian villages a blacksmith was believed to be able not only to forge a plow or sword, but also to heal diseases, arrange weddings and tell fortunes. Being afraid of blacksmiths people, however, used to respect them, paying tribute to the qualities necessary for their profession – strength, dexterity and courage.   

Blacksmithing was widespread in Vladimir land. In the middle of the 19th century, there were up to 1700 forges and about 5,000 blacksmiths in the Vladimir province. Blacksmithing was of the greatest commercial importance in the Aleksandrov, Suzdal, Murom and Gorokhovets districts. Local blacksmiths possessed all the basic techniques for processing iron, copper and its alloys, as well as precious metals. The blacksmith shops produced everything that was required in routine life: axes, knives, hoops for barrels, nails, sickles, shovels, pans, massive sheet-riveted boilers, window grates, various locks and many other things. Blacksmiths could do fine work creating decorative things and jewelry. Often blacksmiths carried out orders on making metal parts for the design of churches (forged doors, crosses, window grates, etc.). Over the centuries, the technology of manual forging of metal has not changed. It means that blacksmithing is traditional by its nature.

Today, blacksmith craftsmen are rare. But nevertheless, there still exist blacksmith shops which manufacture piece metal products and engage in manual art forging. In the very center of Vladimir, in the pedestrian Georgievskaya street, there is a working smithy of the Borodins, hereditary blacksmiths, which is a center for preserving the traditions of blacksmithing today. The masters use ancient forging technologies, creatively working with red-hot metal and turning it into artworks.

Yury Nikolayevich Borodin, a blacksmith, the Honored Worker of Culture of Russia, supplied many museums of Vladimir land with his forged works, participated in the restoration of historical and cultural monuments in Suzdal, Vladimir, Murom, Gus-Khrustalny, Gorokhovets.

In the forge of the Borodins works of decorative art are presented which are made both on the basis of the Russian traditional technique and jewelry forging. Unique fireplace grates, chandeliers and candlesticks, decorative wrought iron panels amaze everyone with their complex plots, lightness and grace.

Nowadays the blacksmiths Yury Borodin and his son Alexey (who is a national craftsman of Russia now) participate in national and international art exhibitions. Master classes are held at the Borodins’ forge, where one can learn a lot about the features of ancient blacksmithing technologies, feel the heat of hot metal, hold a real blacksmith tool in the hands and even forge a nail or a horseshoe for good luck.

Author: V. Korolkova