Mick Maxen is one of the finest craftsmen in the UK, and we stock a wide range of his work. The following article appeared in LIFE magazine recently.
A Fascination with Pattern
In an era of modern technology, British craftspeople with advanced specialist metalworking skills are increasingly rare. Mick Maxen is one such craftsman, widely regarded as the country’s finest maker of Damascus, or ‘pattern welded’, steel.
There can be few skills more specialised than the ancient and beautiful art of pattern welding. Pattern welding involves the joining of metals of different composition to create a single new piece of metal.
Originally developed to create blades that were both hard and tough, the patterns caused by the forge-welding of different metals inevitably appealed to human creativity. For millennia, people have manipulated the metals during the process to create astonishingly sophisticated patterns, enhancing both utilitarian and decorative objects.
As British blacksmithing went into steep decline after World War II, the knowledge and practice of such specialist techniques risked being lost forever. As blacksmithing was revived as a creative medium in the late 1970s, interest in its more unusual aspects was slowly rekindled, and a handful of metalworkers like Mick Maxen sought - with passion and commitment - to learn and perfect specific skills.
Lucy Quinnell, who curates and sells Mick’s work at Fire and Iron Gallery in Surrey, comments:
“Mick is unusual. He is absolutely driven by an endless fascination with pattern, and he is unreservedly committed to excellence. He has honed his exceptional skills over decades, and I can think of no-one else so happy to devote weeks or even months of time to the creation of pieces that are entirely speculative. It is so good to see him getting the huge international recognition and success he so richly deserves.”
Mick is now feted in the USA, and he has won numerous awards in the UK. Each piece he makes is exquisite, and finished to absolute perfection. Lucy says:
“I love craft objects that are so flawless that I cannot imagine that they were made by a fellow human being. I am the proud owner of a Maxen lidded pot, and its gorgeous pattern makes it an incredibly beautiful and unique thing; Mick gave it to us as a wedding present. My work colleague is getting married this summer, and Mick worked with her and her fiancé to create the Damascus billet from which their wedding rings have been made. The pattern runs right through the metal – it is a mesmerising process, and the patterns never cease to amaze.”
Lucy also describes Mick as being “thirsty for knowledge and experience” when it comes to metalworking. He is always the first to offer to assist with special events at Fire and Iron, if it means exposure to a new process. Mick was one of six foundrymen who ran Fire and Iron’s first ever iron pour, where recycled iron was heated and poured into sand moulds, and he will be demonstrating iron smelting this summer at an international festival.
A wide selection of Mick’s work is always on display and available to buy at Fire and Iron in Leatherhead.
Fire and Iron Gallery
Surrey KT22 0EN
Open Tuesday to Saturday 10am-5pm
Facebook: Fire and Iron Gallery
Telephone: 01372 386453