Klaus Loose: For the Love of Metal

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HomeLearning CenterJewelry DesignKlaus Loose: For the Love of Metal
By Axel HenselderMore from this author

The hammer falls powerfully on to the red, glowing iron. Sparks fly. Sunny the mare nervously whips its tail. The hot horseshoe is pressed on to the hood using pliers, biting smoke bellows up from the burnt horn, cloaking the blacksmith, Klaus Loose. Once more on to the anvil and the final corrections are carried out with precise hammer blows. Hissing loudly, the iron sinks into a bucket filled with water. Then special nails are used to fix the shoe in place on the hoof. Fitting horseshoes is really hard grind.

Klaus Loose
Smith for horseshoes, gold and knives, Klaus W. Loose

This is one of the facets in Klaus Looses work. He is a smith for gold, knives and for horseshoes. The factor that unites his three passions is his love of metals and working them using centuries-old techniques - while drawing on a modern language of forms in his goldsmith work.

Fitting horseshoes is strenuous, physical work

Above all, he needs to be strong for his three vocations. He is a smith in a literal sense. Whether he takes a slab of metal and applies the Japanese "Mokumé Gane technique" in order to mold artistically wafer-thin sheets of different metals as the starting material for his fine jewelry creations, whether he uses the Damascene method of taking several steel sorts to make knife blades or whether he attaches horseshoes to hooves in the precise orthopedic position: it always starts with high temperatures, a powerfully but precisely swung smith's hammer and a lot of patience. After all, there is one thing of great importance for Klaus Loose: the results in each craft must be perfect. He is not interested in rapid success or superficial effects. Everything he makes is built to last, and it must stand up to his own critical gaze even later on.

Work on filigree jewelry is an enticing, recreational balance

Based in Hofheim, he shares the fate of many jewelry artists: "lf I want to stay true to my perception of jewelry and design, it is not easy to make an adequate living. But seeing as I was not willing to bend the rules and to loose the fun I have in this craft, I also learned how to shod horses. This means that I can pursue my artistic ambitions without compromises", explains the all-round talent. But he can even make art out of his bread and butter job. He takes a lot of time over his horseshoes, and the horse and rider are grateful. Horseshoes must always fit perfectly so that the animal is comfortable and not restricted in its freedom of movement.

A necklace with matching earrings in Mokumé Gane

Klaus Loose completed his apprenticeship as goldsmith in Düsseldorf in 1982 and initially worked as a journeyman in Dusseldorf, Bremen and Hamburg. He opened his own studio in Hamburg in 1990 and successfully took part in crafts trade fairs and exhibitions. In 1996, he studied one semester at the Drawing Academy in Hanau; during that time he worked as silversmith and galvanizer. Since 2000, he has lived and worked with his family in Hofheim in the Taunus region. He turned his profession into a hobby and mainly earns his living by fitting horseshoes.

Various objects, created using traditional Japanese goldsmith techniques

Mokumé Gane - precious metals celebrate their wedding

Mokumé Gane is a technique with origins in medieval Japan. The natural reproduction of wood grain was the founding idea of this extremely elaborate art of metalworking. Between 25 and 97 metal made of gold, silver, copper, palladium or its alloys are exposed to heat pressure and worked into a block. Twisting and turning the metal layers as they are forged produces the artistic patterns. In view of the fact that the heat is significantly lower than the welding temperature, a welding diffusion of the metals takes place on the surface. Klaus Loose became enthusiastic about this metalworking art very early on, when it was still entirely unknown in Germany. He taught himself this Far Eastern art. The plates are the basis for Mokumé, with which Klaus Loose then manufactures jewelry and equipment in the standard manner. "It takes a long time to make Mokumé sheets like this; depending on the number of layers and size of the sheets, you need a lot of hours for hammering. Naturally, I could make my life easier and use prefab Mokumé sheets, which are now available. But that is not my philosophy. After all, the smith work is part of the artwork. You can control the patterns up to a certain degree, but every piece is unique, as there are always deviations", says Klaus Loose enthusiastically.

Wild beauty of a knife made of damascene steel with Mokumé Gane rings on the grip

Damascene steel - artworks from fire and steel

The knives Loose makes using Damascene steel are also made for posterity, timelessly beautiful and precious. Damascene steel is welded composite steel, made up of different forms of steel. The starting materials are ten and more layers of different kinds of steel. They are welded in the fire and folded, similar to the way that puff pastry is made. The Vikings knew this technique as early as the 8th to 9th centuries, as did the Japanese warriors, the Samurai. The different characteristics of the steels used unite to form unique properties of the blade. Different kinds of steel are used, depending whether the blade will be used for hunting or in the kitchen.

Eternal, timeless and immeasurably beautiful: a knife made of damascene steel with an elaborate grip as a touchstone

You can tell that the blade was processed elaborately: the metal layers join together to form beautiful, ornamental patterns. The Damascene blades are considered to be unbreakable, and they can be so sharp that they split human hair falling on to the blade without any additional force. Ever the perfectionist, Loose manufacturers his own handles and sheaths. The knives are not mass produced; Loose designs them specifically to suit the needs of his clientele. He makes a special wax print of the closed hand in order to make sure the handle fits perfectly. These beautiful knives are truly built to last. Klaus Loose confronts the consumer world, spinning ever faster, with his personal deceleration. And he wishes to preserve old crafts, fill them with life and develop them. "After all, what people laboriously learned from generation to generation for thousands of years should not simply be forgotten in a few decades and only be on show in museums. Crafts techniques are a piece of cultural history". This, at least, is Klaus Loose's conviction.

by Axel Henselder

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Axel Henselder

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