The inspiring story of a Croatian craftsman

     锻造车间  Ivan Dadic, a former sailor from Split, Croatia, discovered his passion for blacksmithing after he stumbled upon his grandfather’s shop and found a handmade rail anvil.
        Since then, he has learned traditional forging techniques as well as modern techniques. Ivan’s workshop reflects his belief that forging is a form of poetry that allows him to express his soul and thoughts in metal.
       We met with him to learn more and find out why the ultimate goal is to forge pattern-brazed Damascus swords.
        Well, to understand how I ended up in blacksmithing, you need to understand how it all began. During my teenage summer vacation, two things happened at the same time. I first discovered my late grandfather’s workshop and started cleaning and restoring it. In the process of removing layers of rust and dust built up over decades, I found many wonderful tools, but what fascinated me most was the fancy hammers and handmade iron anvil.
       This workshop looked like a crypt from a long forgotten bygone era, and I still don’t know why, but this original anvil was like a jewel in the crown of this treasure cave.
        The second incident occurred a few days later, when my family and I were cleaning the garden. All branches and dry grass are piled up and burned at night. The big fire continued all night, accidentally leaving a long iron rod in the coals. I took the steel rod out of the coal and was amazed to see the red glowing steel rod in stark contrast to the night. “Bring me an anvil!” said my father behind me.
        We forged this bar together until it cooled. We forge, the sound of our hammers echoes harmoniously in the night, and the sparks of withered fire fly to the stars. It was at this moment that I fell in love with forging.
        Over the years, the desire to forge and create with my own hands has been brewing in me. I collect tools and learn by reading and looking at everything there is to do about blacksmithing available online. So, years ago, the desire and will to forge and create with the help of a hammer and anvil fully matured. I left my life as a sailor behind and started doing what I thought I was born to do.
        Your workshop can be both traditional and modern. Which of your works is traditional and which is modern?
        It’s traditional in the sense that I use charcoal instead of a propane stove. Sometimes I blow into the fire with a fan, sometimes with a hand blower. I do not use a modern welding machine, but forge my own components. I prefer a friend with a sledgehammer to a hammer, and I cheer him up with a good beer. But I think that at the core of my traditional nature is the desire to preserve the knowledge of traditional methods and not let them disappear just because there are faster modern methods.
        A blacksmith needs to know how to maintain a charcoal fire before jumping to a propane fire that requires no maintenance while working. A traditional blacksmith must know how to move steel with their hammer before using powerful blows from a power hammer.
        You have to embrace innovation, but in most cases, forgetting the best old ways of blacksmithing is a real shame. For example, there is no modern method that can replace forge welding, and also no old method that can give me the exact temperature in degrees Celsius that modern electrothermal furnaces give. I try to maintain that balance and take the best of both worlds.
        In Latin, Poema Incudis means “Poetry of the Anvil”. I think that poetry is a reflection of the poet’s soul. Poetry can be expressed not only through writing, but also through composition, sculpture, architecture, design, and more.
        In my case, it is through forging that I imprint my soul and mind on metal. Moreover, poetry should elevate the human spirit and glorify the beauty of creation. I try to create beautiful things and inspire the people who see and use them.
        Most blacksmiths specialize in one category of items, such as knives or swords, but you have a wide range. What do you do? Is there a product you want to make like the holy grail of your work?
        Now that I think about it, you are absolutely right that I covered a wide range, too wide in fact! I think so because it’s hard for me to say no to a challenge. Thus, the range extends from bespoke rings and jewelry to Damascus kitchen knives, from blacksmith’s pliers to port wine tongs;
       I am currently focusing on kitchen and hunting knives and then camping and woodworking tools such as axes and chisels, but the ultimate goal is forging swords, and pattern-welded Damascus swords are the holy grail.
        Damascus steel is the popular name for laminated steel. It has historically been used throughout the world (in popular culture, primarily marked with katana swords and Viking swords) as a demonstration of material quality and craftsmanship. In short, two different types of steel are forged welded together, then repeatedly folded and forged welded again. The more layers stacked, the more complex the pattern. Or you can opt for a bolder design with underlayers, and in some cases, combine them. Imagination is the only limit there.
        After the blade is forged, heat treated and polished, it is placed in acid. The contrast is revealed due to the different chemical composition of the steel. Nickel-containing steel is resistant to acids and retains its luster, while nickel-free steel darkens, so the pattern will show through in contrast.
        Much of your work is inspired by Croatian and international folklore and mythology. How did Tolkien and Ivana Brlich-Mazuranich get into your studio?
        According to Tolkien, the language of myth expresses truths outside of us. When Lúthien renounces immortality for Beren and when Sam fights Shelob to save Frodo, we learn more about true love, courage, and friendship than any encyclopedia definition or any psychology textbook.
        When a mother in Stribor Forest could choose to be happy forever and forget her son, or remember her son and suffer forever, she chose the latter and finally got her son back and her pain was gone, which taught her love and self-sacrifice. . These and many other myths have been in my head since childhood. In my work, I try to create artifacts and symbols that remind me of these stories.
        Sometimes I create something completely new and realize some of my stories. For example, “Memories of Einhardt”, a knife in the old Kingdom of Croatia, or the upcoming Blades of Croatian History, which tells the story of Illyrian and Roman times. Inspired by history, but always with a mythological twist, they will be part of my Lost Artifacts of the Kingdom of Croatia series.
        I don’t make iron myself, but sometimes I make steel myself. As far as I know, I may be wrong here, only the Koprivnica Museum tried to produce its own iron, and maybe steel from ore. But I think I’m the only blacksmith in Croatia who dared to make homemade steel.
        There are not many scenes in Split. There are some knife makers who make knives using cutting techniques, but few actually forge their knives and objects. As far as I know, there are still people in Dalmatia whose anvils still ring, but they are few. I think just 50 years ago the numbers were very different.
        At least every town or big village has blacksmiths, 80 years ago almost every village had a blacksmith, that’s for sure. Dalmatia has a long history of blacksmithing, but unfortunately, due to mass production, most of the blacksmiths stopped working and the trade almost died out.
        But now the situation is changing, and people are beginning to appreciate crafts again. No mass-produced factory knife can match the quality of a hand-forged blade, and no factory can dedicate a product to the needs of one customer like a blacksmith.
        Yes. Most of my work is made to order. People usually find me through social media and tell me what they need. Then I do the design, and when an agreement is reached, I start manufacturing the product. I often showcase finished products on my Instagram @poema_inducs or Facebook.
        As I said, this craft is almost extinct, and if we do not pass the knowledge on to future generations, it may again be in danger of extinction. My passion is not only creativity but also learning, which is why I run blacksmithing and knife making workshops to keep the craft alive. The people who visit are varied, from enthusiastic people to groups of friends who hang out and train together.
        From the wife who gave her husband a knife making workshop as an anniversary gift, to a work colleague doing e-detox team building. I also do these workshops in nature to get away from the city completely.
        I’ve been thinking about this idea a lot over the past few years. This is sure to provide visitors with a unique experience as there aren’t many “make your own souvenir” products on the table these days. Fortunately, this year I will be collaborating with Intours DMC and we will work together to achieve this goal and enrich the tourist attractions of Split.

Post time: Jun-07-2023