Book Review - Alfred Habermann, Blacksmith and Designer

By Peter Elgass

Reviewed by Brian Gilbert, Reviewers Consortium

Published in the Jan - Feb 2002 Issue of Anvil Magazine

Hephaistos verlag HEPHAISTOS,
Werdenstein 22 D-87509 Immenstadt, Germany
Cloth. 175 Pp. No price given

Another great blacksmithing book has been published by Peter Elgass of Hephaistos magazine. Alfred Habermann remains one of the great European artists of our time, stretching the definitions between blacksmithing, sculpture, and function. Originally from Czechoslovakia, Habermann studied under Berlin blacksmith Fritz Kuhn and Italian blacksmith Toni Benetton in the early `60s. He was made an honorary member of ABANA in 1980 and demonstrated at the `82 conference in San Luis Obispo. This book represents a chance for some of our newer smiths who did not make it to the 1982 conference to get to know the work of this remarkable artist-blacksmith. One of my favorite quotes comes from this book, as Alfred relates the story: "As a young boy I ambled into the workshop of my grandfather...took a hammer and wanted to get going.

However, my grandfather took the hammer from my hands and said: `If you want to forge, start off by doing your own hammer. A proper blacksmith always produces his own tools.'"

You might be familiar with Alfred's hammer in a roundabout way. Uri Hofi studied under Habermann. It is rumored that Habermann (or perhaps his grandfather) originally developed the stubby, square-faced hammer that Hofi further refined and uses to great effect. Unfortunately, this book gives no details about Habermann's tooling or toolmaking processes, instead examining his work from an artistic retrospective point of view. And there's a significant body of work to examine. There are chapters on fences/railings, art works/sculptures, works for the church, embossed works, lamps/chandeliers, and restoration work. In typical Hephaistos style, all the photographs are excellent, clear and sharp black and white. Some of Habermann's design drawings are included, and helps to see how he presents his designs to clients. Thankfully it is written in both German AND English, with readable, understandable commentary. It would be a great book to have in your library.

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