This year Donetsk is to enter the Ring of European cities with Metal Works. Chairman of Donbass blacksmiths Guild Victor Burduk has told us more about it.
I got to know about the Ring from Sergey Polubotko, the chairman of the Union of masters of blacksmiths art in Ukraine. Being a representative of our Union, he often goes abroad. He also gave me the address of the Ring headquarters. Having consulted with the Donetsk City Council and enlisted the support of the city mayor Aleksandr Lukianchenko, we sent a letter to the Ring expressing our intention to enter this organization. In reply we received its charter and a detailed list of the documents needed for the entering. It turned out that the Ring unites not blacksmiths or blacksmiths groups but cities where art forging traditions are actively developed.
We referred to the Donetsk history and got to know that in 1869 John Hughes built a forge which was the first department of a future metallurgical plant. So, it was the forge that gave birth to our city. We told about Donetsk blacksmithing festivals – the oldest in Ukraine – and about the Forged Figures Park which is unique not only in Ukraine but in the whole Europe. And it proved that we really develop blacksmiths traditions. After that we got the invitation to the general meeting of the Ring of European cities with Metal Works members. According to the charter it is hold once a year. It always takes place in different city. In 2007 the meeting was hold in Ybbsitz (Austria) where the Ring headquarters is. Our delegation, which included Nikolai Yurenko, the head of the Donetsk City Council culture department and me, as a representative of the blacksmiths Guild, went to Ybbsitz.
Ybbsitz is a small resort town situated in the alpine meadows. Its population is about 3,800 people. Its first record is dated to 1186. In 15th century it became a blacksmiths art center and its works were exported to Germany, Hungary and even Russia. Age-old traditions are supported at the famous Blacksmiths’ Christmas Fair, annually taking place at the third weekend of December, and at the Ferraculum festival. It is a biannual festival where the best blacksmiths from Europe and all over the world meet in the middle of June. At this time there are thousands of tourists, eager to witness wonderful work of \’the hammer and the anvil\’ masters in Ybbsitz. Moreover, Ybbsitz has become a new home for Alfred Habermann, the acknowledged guru of the modern art blacksmithing. He was present at the grand opening ceremony and designed the symbolical torch, lit in the evening of the first day of the general meeting. We were introduced as a delegation from Donetsk, the city deserving to become a Ring member, according to the preliminary data. Our presentation was planned on the last day of the meeting. On the second day the work of each committee started. The municipal and blacksmiths communities held their own meetings. We also participated in them, but had only a deliberative vote.
There were the following issues discussed: changes to the charter, president election (by the way, the Ybbsitz burgomaster Josef Hofmarcher reserved his position for two more years), creation of the general web-cite in the Internet, some joint projects. The plan of the exhibitions under the aegis of the Ring was settled. Their subjects, participants, budget, income distribution and promotion were defined. Blacksmiths from Poland asked for help in restoration of the huge object. The joint work on the bridge in Germany was suggested. It was also decided to publish new issues of The Ring Newspaper reporting about the work of the organization. So, there were three days of concerned work.
We held our speech on Saturday. We prepared the 3D presentation based on the information devoted to the Donetsk region 75th anniversary. At first Mr Yurenko told about the history and development of Donbass and Donetsk, gave the characteristics of its industrial and cultural potential, showed its attractions. The representatives from Europe were pleased with the fact that such a huge industrial city with more than one million of inhabitants was entering their organization. The second part of the presentation was about the blacksmithing. I began with Hughes’ forge, told about The Mertsalov’s Palm and started talking about the present. I told in details about our festivals and the Forged Figures Park, showed slides of the finished works and introduced the Arch Alley project. I also mentioned that for 7 years of its existence the Park had become one of the most attractive places of interest in Donetsk. According to the city authorities there are more than one hundred wedding processions to the Park every weekend. In the conclusion I invited everybody to participate in our festival. I was listened to very attentively and with a great interest. There were many questions asked. The presentation in the whole was welcomed cordially. The fact that many blacksmiths had known my works was also of importance there. The Tree of Life Pavilion, we made for the Hannover Exhibition, was displayed at many other exhibitions and registered in many art blacksmithing catalogues.
After the closed conference it was solemnly proclaimed that we are worth of entering the Ring of European cities with Metal Works. Now some necessary procedures have to be followed and our official entering is to take place in summer 2008 at the next general meeting in Germany.
It is very important for the city. First of all, it is the recognition of our blacksmiths in the world, as all the present 13 members of the Ring are leaders of blacksmith handicraft in Europe. All of them hold festivals with ancient traditions and the best masters from all over the world want to participate in them.
New tendencies of art blacksmithing development are defined there. There are also schools and workshops of the greatest authority. In Stia (Italy) the art forging championship takes place. It isn’t an exaggeration to say that the Ring is a trendsetter in the blacksmiths world. And the fact, that Donetsk is the first from the cities of the Post-Soviet countries to enter this organization, is the highest evaluation of our masters’ achievements. Secondly, the Ring membership gives us an opportunity to take part in all the European forging projects, for example, in restoration of ancient castles, palaces, and bridges, creation of new ductile sculptures and elements of city decoration, different expositions and exhibition, and also training courses. And the third advantage is an active information interchange. Now we will know about all the important events in the blacksmiths world and tell everyone about our own plans and actions. It will help us to increase the number of foreign participants and guests at our festivals and attract more tourists. We may consider Ybbsitz as an example. The number of tourists visiting this town is much bigger than the number of local people. There is a special route called The Mile of Forges. We also enjoyed it. It was amazing. There is a range of ancient forges along small picturesque river. They are 300-400 years old. Earlier (before the electricity phenomenon had been discovered) blacksmiths used hammers. That’s why the forges were situated near the running water. All the forges work nowadays and even make some products for industry. Of course, they work on the electric drives but water ones can be started up on the visitors’ request. In our presence two forges were solemnly presented with the plates, confirming their membership in the Ring, which were fixed on the gates. It is significant that the production process never stops there. One of the forges is engaged in production of axes, hooks and other fire-fighting equipment. Another master specializes in bridges. There are a lot of small footbridges in Ybbsitz which are customs of the mayor’s office. Separate enterprise forges different souvenirs. In general, our trip along the Mile of Forges was both fascinating and informative.
Next day we visited the Ferrum centre. There are offices, a museum of blacksmith handicraft, an exhibition hall where the best forged works, castings and engravings are displayed. It is also the place where works of local masters, artists, sculptors and confectioners are exhibited. Lots of iron souvenirs with the city name on them are presented in one of the shops. And thousands of tourists take these forged souvenirs with them in memory of Ybbsitz. I saw there the implementation of my old dream to open the similar centre with a museum, an exhibition hall and a forged souvenirs shop in Donetsk. It is just necessary for our city.
After the official part the burgomaster Josef Hofmarcher gave special attention to our delegation. He invited us to his office and showed a forged carpet. It is very skillfully done with different interweavings and rivets and no weld seams. Then he personally took us to the walk through the night town telling about its sights. There was so much love in his voice that I wanted to present some forged figure from Donetsk to Ybbsitz. The idea was approved and the place for the figure was found at once.
It appears that Donetsk blacksmiths will actively integrate in Europe this year. And it’s not only about the Donetsk masters. The fact is that we are officially entering the Ring of European cities with Metal Works. To mark this significant occasion the Ring will be the main subject of the 10th anniversary Forged Figures Park – 2008 blacksmiths art festival which will take place in September 19-21 in Donetsk. The alley of author’s rings by blacksmiths from all parts of Ukraine will be established in the Park. А grand symbolic ring will be also placed there. It will be decorated with the works by Ukrainian and foreign participants of the festival. It will prove once again that there are no limits for the blacksmiths brotherhood!