The Neo-Tribal Metalsmith Art Movement

Tim Lively

Well-Known Member
Just saying. Open hearts, open minds. A lot is possible. I want to be a part of something exciting and on the edge. It would take a very talented group effort to go to the next level with this Art Movement but I think it's possible in a big way. Am I blowing smoke? Anyone hear me?
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Used to play in a rock 'n roll band,
But they broke up
We were young and we were wild
It ate us up
Now I'm not saying who was right or wrong

Looking out on a big green lawn,
Girls and boys
Playing in the afternoon sun,
And life's a joy
I heard an old song playing on a radio

Buffalo springfield again

Like to see those guys again
And give it a shot
Maybe now we can show the world
What we got
But I'd just like to play for the fun we had
What are the hang ups that have kept this movement idle? I think it needs an esthetics manifest. I think it needs something defined. The Arts and Crafts movement was very similar to the Neo-Tribal esthetics. Copied from wiki - It was largely a reaction against the perceived impoverished state of the decorative arts at the time and the conditions in which they were produced.[5] It stood for traditional craftsmanship using simple forms and often applied medieval, romantic or folk styles of decoration. It advocated economic and social reform and has been said to be essentially anti-industrial.
That does seem a lot like the Neo movement. I identify with this movement, though I have moved away from a lot of the hammer-finished stuff, and into smelting, hearth melting, and pattern welding to get subtle grain structures and heat treatment patterns. Instead of trying to use forged-finish to show that what I am making is not cut out with a mill, and not simply ground from barstock, I have moved into trying to make steel that LOOKS like the steel and iron found in original artifacts from the 1500's - 1700's in Europe and Asia (especially China, actually).

There is definitely a groundswell of bloomery, melting hearths/refining hearths, and crucible steels.

But, in the end, I am making knives and swords as a way to learn more about myself, and to feel a sense of connection to our collective ancestors. To be involved in something that seems more real and meaningful than things made from extruded plastics and such.

Tim - I did not see your ideas about aesthetics when I was typing my previous comment. Here is how I look at what we try are trying to do.

Using materials we understand and sometimes even made for ourselves, with tools we understand and often made for ourselves, to make art that lets us understand and make ourselves into people we want to become. This is art because it makes us feel connected to each-other, to ourselves, to the processes and tools, and to the ecosystem due to the recycling/upcycling and reduced energy consumption.

Hope no one minds my rambling comments. I got into bladesmithing largely because of Tai and Tim and I used a lot of their methods for the first several years.

take care, all
Defining the group has been a major set back from the beginning. Most of us are of the type that doesn't like labels. Neo-Tribal to me always was about hand craftsmanship. I don't care about blade finish or style or even if it's unplugged. I just want to see the group dedicated to sole authorship and pride in what you can do with your hands and a basic shop.
Hey Tim, here a reply to you from the other topic we started before and now;)
I just think that a lot of great Artists/ Neo Tribal Metalsmiths are also pretty introvert, indeed don't like labels and just want to make beautiful things in a sort of zen modus, maybe that's the part why there's not a "real leader or a movement. But don't forget what you guys have done and still do, spreading the word on internet and dvd, this inspired many people out there all over the world to make something without setting up a expensive workshop to create and be happy with what they are doing, which is a great contribution to the Neo Tribal (unknown) Blacksmiths who are following and passing on the art of this style of knife forging.
Doing it this way is a different mindset, it takes passion, commitment, time and love, this is a lifestyle and pure knife making art with minimal tools and just hands, for me and i think there are so many people out there using that way that this movement is bigger than we all think it is.
Also the world is changed a lot, more people are falling back on being more creative and learning old skills and forgotten skills, they see that how we live we can do more damage than good to nature and ourself, trying to be more self sustainable and living of the land, spending less money on crap or just don't have it etc etc.
All of this plays a role why this movement is growing and why it feels so good to do it,…anyway i stop talking before i say to much,….keep on forging, Cheers Igor
Tim and Igor,
So are you guys saying that it is a definition of Process and Intention rather than a definition based on outcome? Simple tools, single craftsman or woman (wish there were more women doing this), trying to make functional art. (forgive me, I am a therapist, and I often have this overwhelming need to restate what people have already said to make sure I understand).

I think that sort of definition can get around a lot of the limiting functions that a definition based upon style or outcome would have.

Igor is right, this approach (as both Tim and Tai have said before on video) is well-suited for beginners as well as experienced craftsmen. After all, it is easier to start with fewer tools and best to start by learning how to work the materials by hand. I think most bladesmiths would advocate starting in this way (I know that several well-known sources that do).

You guys have started a lot of people, including me. Don't minimize your contribution. I think that one thing that has held the movement back is that many assumed the NT movement to be limited to hammer-finished blades, and knives rather than swords. At least in my opinion (because it is true for me), if we emphasize the definition of the movement and the requirements to belong by process and intention (hand-crafted, sole-authored, with the intention to produce functional art) then we can be pretty darned inclusive. Nothing at all against people who take a machinist's approach to knifemaking, they often make really good knives. They are just a different bunch of people.

Again, I hope no one minds my rambling. if I am way off base or annoying, I apologize.

Tim and Igor,
So are you guys saying that it is a definition of Process and Intention rather than a definition based on outcome?

That's the way I look at it. I don't want to define it as an aesthetic genre, but rather a process or mind set. However, since the final product is directly connected to the process, similar undefinable intangible aspects to the work show through. In essence, more about the aesthetics of the process, which in turn effect the aesthetics of the final outcome.

Aesthetically and design wise, the final product could be just about anything, but there would be a certain type of quality, authenticity and "sincerity" found in it that would be much different than something made primarily by machines. A more human touch. More in keeping with "traditions of quality" that can only be achieved through the hands and eyes of a craftsman.
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Hand craftsmanship with an attitude.., I guess that's why I'm here. I wish I could express it better.
Maybe we should each design our best example of what Neo-Tribal Metalsmithing is all about and make a showcase somewhere?. Wiki or something.
Or what if we had a Brut de Forge challenge? I think we all have made a few of those. Each of us design and forge the best Neo-Tribal Brut de Forge knife you can and get good photos and put them in a showcase online somewhere. ??? Or if we could get really pro looking efforts and photos we could submit an article. I'm just thinking out loud and want feedback or better ideas. New work with fresh ideas.
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Great idea Tim,
I am in for that Neo Tribal 'Brut de Forge' challenge, we just need a group of more people to connect, the more the better i say!
Tim - I like the idea of professional photos and group of examples. I don't know if we should limit it to one style of knife, but if everyone (or most everyone) else thinks we should then I am ok with that, too.

I would like to submit, once I finish it, a 25" dao I have that needs polish and fittings. I am going to fit it out in a combination of Chinese and Tibetan themes, so it won't be an actual reproduction but an attempt at simple tools and sole authorship to honor those that came before.

Another idea - we need a NeoTribal Web Ring. I am getting my website finished in the next couple of weeks. We need to all make sure that we have a collection of links to our brethren. Maybe a local site with examples from all and links to everyone's individual pages, maybe just have everyone put a gallery of Neo stuff and links to everyone else on their page. Not sure what would be best (I remember abana had something similar, didn't they?)

just my two cents. I am open...
We had a neo-tribal KITH a year or two back, some beautiful work was presented... I really like the brut de forge challenge idea.