Essay

The Single Object At Home Edition: Forged Gingko Leaf

The object I have chosen to write about during my lockdown is one which holds sentimental value to me. It rests on a bookcase in my lounge and reminds me of the five years I spent in Europe as a young journeyman blacksmith.

During this time, I was privileged to be invited into numerous forges, homes and families in Western Europe. One of these very generous and inspirational blacksmith workshops was that of Atelier Zimmermann in Baden Wurttemberg, in southern Germany.

Paul opened this shop in 1963 and has specialised in producing grave markers, gates and fountains to his own unique and extremely distinctive designs. In his approach to contemporary forged ironwork, Paul takes a very holistic path when dealing with clients. He examines the different aspects of the commission as a whole and works his way forward with information provided to him and through his observations. He then arrives at a design in metal which seems to depict his emotional response to the problem presented before him. Nothing appears to be taken lightly within this process.

The results are a lifetime of finished works of astounding beauty which deliver a delicacy and warmth trapped within a rigid, and often perceived as cold, material.

In my mind, he is a true master of his chosen profession, and I consider myself extremely lucky to have spent time with them. 

I distinctly remember walking down the stairs which lead from their main house to the workshop below, at a time when I was preparing to leave Europe and return home to New Zealand. Paul was working on a grave marker, the design of which consisted of falling Gingko leaves, each forged by hand from steel. I picked one up and admired it, at which point he said “Chose one. You can have it.”

I did, and now it sits on my bookcase, reminding me of a beautiful time shared with generous people.


--

Jon Hall is a traditionally trained Blacksmith. After completing an apprenticeship with an industrial toolsmith in Wellington, he spent nine years as a journeyman blacksmith, travelling across Australia, England and Europe and working in some of the world’s most renowned artistic forges. Upon returning to New Zealand he opened his own forging studio and artist workshop in Auckland where he produces sculptural works for exhibitions and contemporary architectural ironwork manufactured using traditional techniques. 

Paul Zimmermann, forged gingko leaf

Paul Zimmermann, forged gingko leaf

Paul Zimmermann, forged gingko leaf detail