The Artisan

Gifts to the Dartmouth College Fund help make great things happen for our students. Here is one of their stories.
connor pollock '17
CONNOR POLLOCK ’17, from Dunkerton, Iowa, is a physics major who came to Dartmouth with a passion for metalwork and medieval culture. He recently was awarded a grant through the Donald Claflin Jewelry Studio at Dartmouth to rebuild a forge at his home and begin a Damascus steel (pattern welding) project.
 
I remember going to renaissance fairs with my parents as a kid. I loved watching people use longbows and soon began to carve them myself. Then all I wanted to do was make arrowheads for my bows. That got me playing in the forge and learning how to do it. My first attempts were incredibly crude, but I loved the process.
 
When I first came to the jewelry studio at Dartmouth, I was blown away. Artists from around the world would come in and say it is the best setup they have ever seen. If there is a tool that you need, they have it, without question. Jeff Georgantes, the studio’s director and a phenomenal artist, advised me on pattern welding—where you weld numerous pieces of steel together to create intricate patterns. He also introduced me to mokume-gane, the ancient Japanese art of fusing precious metals to form spiral patterns.
 
A favorite piece of mine is a Celtic dagger I made with 20 layers of steel. The handle turned out to be more difficult than I’d planned. It’s made of rosewood burl and has a mokume-gane end cap of copper and silver intertwined. Making it was a chore, but I’m really pleased with the outcome. Jeff was an enormous help since he has connections with the country’s top artists in mokume-gane. Through him I have also learned how this art form developed from forge welding of the Middle Ages.
 
Lately, I’ve started to do more complex work. I recently bought a chunk of petrified wood that has little stubs on it. I’m finding a way to affix leafed branches on it to make a stone and metal mokume-gane tree.
 
After spending a day working on physics problems, the Dartmouth studio is a perfect place to clear my mind and immerse myself. I come from a family of people who make things with their hands—tables, benches, cabinets, and wood carvings—so you could say it’s in my blood. My latest project is to build a smelter where you bake metal—like iron ore—in charcoal, like ancient Indian cultures would do.
 
Dartmouth’s jewelry studio is a fantastic creative community. When the place is buzzing there’s this great sense of adventure and innovation. I’m also a student assistant, so I teach new students about the hand tools and work with them on their jewelry projects. It’s a joy to help a fellow student turn out a piece of art the way they envision it. I love what I do and where I am.