3 September 2019
by Lucy Swan
BLACKSMITH, LESZEK SIKON USES HIS CRAFT TO EXPLORE CYCICAL PROCESSES OF DESTRUCTION AND CREATION, SPECIALISING IN CRAFTING TOOLS EACH WITH A SPECIFIC PURPOSE AND FUNCTION.
Tell us about yourself or your practice.
Toolmaking is what I enjoy the most as a blacksmith, this is what was one of the first things I made and I like the idea I had that, having a well-made tool will help you create a superior work. Tools have also helped me to explore the idea of cyclical processes of destruction and creation that happen throughout history. You can see it in my Shell Tools set in which I had forged from old munitions from the first and second world war into a set of tools. The idea of forging old ammunition came to me after I heard a story about church bells being confiscated by the army and then smelted into weapons. When I further investigated the subject, I found out that it was common practice to confiscate any available steel to use for weapon production. In this piece, I wanted to reverse the process and create tools needed after the conflict to rebuild from the destruction
Another part of my practice is kitchen knife making since this is the most common tool that every household has. Upon my research, I have found that all around the world there is a long tradition of craftsmen that specialize in it. The multitude of shapes lengths, methods of sharpening is mind-boggling also chefs that specialize in different cuisine chose different knives. All of those designs were developed to perform a particular task and this gave me access to the whole new world of tools I can make. This is when I decided to make a set that would bring together both of my knowledge of materials, toolmaking and the traditional forms to create the knives that will excel in the kitchen.
What are you working on at the moment?
Right now I'm working on improving my pattern making skills and new cutlery sets and with each tool, I make I'm trying to make it a little bit better than the last one, in hope that one day I'll start to make pieces in which I won't find anything I would like to improve. I know though that it won't happen anytime soon if it will happen at all, but I like the challenge. Besides that, I'm running workshops at my forge so people can come and try their own strength in blacksmithing.
What impact do you hope to see through your work? Why is design important?
I think there are to sides to my practice, in pieces like shell tools I want to challenge people to have a closer look at our history to see the events that had lead to biggest tragedies of our time. Those are invaluable lessons, lessons that I personally think we are starting to forget, as people who lived in those times pass away and the events are watered down by popular culture and various countries propaganda that would like to benefit from them. If we forget what had happened and what caused those tragedies we are bound to repeat them.
The other side is simply toolmaking, I often find myself making new tongs, hammers, etc. for myself even though the one I already have been working just fine. I want to make better and better tools for me and others to use since I do think the tools, from hammer and tongs to kitchen knives, that are well designed and made will help you to create the best work you can make.
Tell us about something you’ve seen that’s inspired you recently?
Recently I had gone back to the basics of pattern welding (damascus steel) techniques as I had been browsing work of master blacksmiths like Mick Maxen and Mareko Maumasi and I'm simply in awe of how well they can control the steel to create various patterns. This is my aim, for now, to try to reach that level of control and apply what I learn into my future projects.
What are the challenges you face in communicating your work to a global audience?
The biggest challenge is finding the right places to show my work. There are so many shows and publications I would like to be in but I'm a single guy and I have to be very careful not to stretch myself to thin between shows commissions and workshops I have been running. Social Media helps but what I found that the direct contact with the audience is still the best for me, Craft Council directory is a great help in finding the right opportunities but in the end, you will know if the event works for you after you had attended it.