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Peter Johnsson
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PostPosted: Tue 08 May, 2007 6:36 am    Post subject: A Contemporary Ancient Jian         Reply with quote

The second sword that I managed to complete for the Solingen Knife Maker Show 2007 was a project with the chinese Jian as theme.
This was to me an especially interesting project as I got opportunity to approach the sword as a contemporary object of craft and design.
The idea was that the sword should have some specific handling characteristics and dimensions that was important for the customer. The actual design of the sword was completely free and opend for interpretation.
As I can never be a chinese sword smith, I had to find another approach in the making.
The basis for the functional aspects of the design was a combination of the customers requests for weight and balance, but also influenced by features found in early Jians, as published by Donald B. Wagner in his "HdO, Iron & Steel in Ancient China" (a layered/laminated steel sword from Pankuang, AD 77).
There is a stark simplicity in these the very earliest steel and iron swords ffrom China that I find really attractive and inspiring.

As the project developed another theme emerged: that the materials in the sword said something about their own character and perhaps bore witness to the process of their making. Perhaps even let the materials express something of change and transformation. Because of this patternwelded steel was used in all steel components as a witness to their shaping by forging. The dragon is a common motif in chinese swords, but both the customer and I felt it would be wrong to carve a dragon in any of the parts. Instead the pattern in the pommel was made to look something like a still flame in the dark like an essence of the dragon.
I also wanted the sword to express two clearly different characters when sheathed and when drawn.

The notion of making a contemporary sword is inspiring to me. Until now I have mainly explored aspects the historical sword. This leaves things unsaid about the sword: there are other ways to do things that can be equally rewarding (or perhaps even more rewarding?).
Buy "contemporary" I mean a sword that is meant to explore the possibilities of the craft today. Not as a fantasy piece that relates to realms of make belief or legend (that can also be fun). If a sword is defined today as a historical reconstruction, a tactical weapon or something practical to have at hand when the zoobies attack, it is easy to be led to judge the result by how well it relates to the popular ideas of these themes. In the worst case this can be very limiting for the potential of the craft and our understanding and appreciation of swords.
A contemporary sword could perhaps best be defined by the aspirations of the maker and that it trancend styles, eras and themes in on or several ways. By choosing not to relate to popular definitions of what a sword is, other than itself, a contemporary swordman or swordmaker can take ownership of the craft and art in the search for something personal.
I think we can never disregard the lessons that historical swords can teach us, but it is interesting for me as a craftsman to explore the sword as a contemporary object of craft, from the perspective of function and design.
This Jian project was an opportunity to follow this line of thought and I hope to do it again in th future.

I would be interested to hear what other think about the possibilities of the contemporary sword for modern makers and sword enthusiasts.



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J. Erb




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PostPosted: Tue 08 May, 2007 7:09 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Interesting ideas, and an even more impressive sword. It's elegantly simple, and looks like it would be great to handle. I envy your customer! Big Grin
"What greater weapon is there than to turn an enemy to your cause, to use their own knowledge against them?"
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Brian D. A.





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PostPosted: Tue 08 May, 2007 8:01 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Is the pommel and guard just finished in a way to appear with that texture, or does the steel actually give it that pattern (specifically the pommel)?
I wish I were one of Peter Johnsson's customers too!
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Herbert Schmidt




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PostPosted: Tue 08 May, 2007 8:07 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I saw and of course handled this sword in Solingen and I must say it is a dream! Peter really did an outstanding job again. The sword has an austere beauty that is just riveting. Needless to say that his customer was more than just happy. He shined, he really sparkled for the rest of the day. The constant smile told more than he could say himself. Peter made another person happy for some time. To be exact he did it twice this weekend! Big Grin

Congratulations!

Herbert

PS: Fotos of Solingen are online on our homepage now

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Sean Flynt
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PostPosted: Tue 08 May, 2007 8:15 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

It's a lovely piece and I'm especially intrigued by the term "contemporary". It implies much more deliberation and research than the catch-all term "fantasy". I like it.
-Sean

"Everywhere I have searched for peace and nowhere found it, except in a corner with a book"- Thomas a Kempis (d. 1471)
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Greg Griggs




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PostPosted: Tue 08 May, 2007 9:04 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Peter,
What a wonderful blending of the old and the new. The clean, simple, straight lines of the patterned blade mating with the lovely grip and patterned pommel, make for a sword that is definitely not fantasy, but instead a live, workable, piece of deadly art which is timeless. I too like your thoughts of the difference between "fantasy" and "contemporary". To me, fantasy denotes something that may look "cool", but will be totally useless in the sense of being a usable blade, whereas contemporary merely means that we are using the means available that were not in times past to create an object which is pleasing to the eye as well as having balance, life, and ability to be used as swords were intended (not that we would, of course, Wink ). Congrats on another great piece!

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B. Stark
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PostPosted: Tue 08 May, 2007 9:48 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

This is an example of the distillation of what we have all learned about swords and how they are made and what they should feel like in the hand. Taking this knowledge along with appropriate forms and volumes, this is a stellar result. It's as though the austere quality of the design actually enhances the form itself, the simplicty lending itself to a functional and alluring beauty. This a fantastic work of art. Excellent as always Peter. I hope to someday own something quite as breathtaking. Thank you for making swords. Wink
"Wyrd bi∂ ful aręd"

Are we at last brought to such humiliating and debasing degradation, that we cannot be trusted with arms for our defense?

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Angus Trim




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PostPosted: Tue 08 May, 2007 11:02 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I like this Peter, very nice.........
swords are fun
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Malcolm A




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PostPosted: Tue 08 May, 2007 12:25 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

As I have said before I don't own any swords for particular reasons that I shan't go on about.
Neither do I know much about swords or their making except what I have read here in this forum.
I do however know what I like to see from an aesthetic point of view and this sword encapsulates all that I like to see in virtually anything, be it swords, golf clubs, cars etc.

There is a simplicity about the whole look of it; clean lines, no austentatious showy" bits or decoration.
I think there is a Japanese word or concept [which I can't exactly remember] but it means basically "an economy of elegance". Just enough of what it needs and no more!

And when I use the word "simplicity" this relates to the look of the piece and is no way adversely reflecting on the functionality of the sword or the thought process / skills that went into its creation.

I shan't go on otherwise I'll end up writing a book about it, and I am sure others could do that better than I can.

Superb!!!!

It is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honours that we are fighting, but for freedom -- for that alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself
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Thomas Watt




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PostPosted: Tue 15 May, 2007 2:22 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Peter, I have to add my own admiration for what this piece is...
And since I am a practitioner of Chinese martial arts, to include Chinese sword forms (have just undertaken the weapons training to enlarge my repertoire), I have to say this piece is a breath of fresh air!
Absolutely gorgeous!
It makes me want to play with it for a half hour or so, just so see how it feels.
Big Grin

Have 11 swords, 2 dirks, half a dozen tomahawks and 2 Jeeps - seem to be a magnet for more of all.
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Matthew G.M. Korenkiewicz




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PostPosted: Tue 15 May, 2007 7:12 pm    Post subject: Hmmm ...         Reply with quote

I like the thought process behind defining this project as " Contemporary " ... and while others
appreciate this Jian, I would like to raise a different thought and ask Mr. Johnsson if he has ever
considered attempting the design of a " Contemporary Saber " ...

Perhaps using a traditional or historical design as a template ?

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Olivier D.





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PostPosted: Sat 26 May, 2007 3:18 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi there,

I'm happy that Peter himself raise the question: what about contemporary sword art?

I deeply believe that art is almost always a reflection of the artist's time. Sure, we could try to restore ancient crafts, but are we so sure to do the same? Of course, some of our most skilled swordsmithes are really close of historic accuracy, but I can say, as a sportive and artistic fencer, that the use of my swords now are not the same than some centuries ago.

So, here is a good question to get onto the contemporary sword art debate: are we considering swords made by modern swordsmithes as art? If so, then, we could surely say that swordsmithes are not uninfluenced by our time: choice of materials, modern vision of what sword art was, modern use needs (even display is a new use), etc.

Then here we are, in a contemporary re-creation of the past. You have the choice between two, maybe three options.
First, to make a sword the more similar to historic pieces, for the pleasure of seeing what edged weapons were, to own a "new" piece of history.
Second, to re-interpret an ancient design with a modern vision and with the real choice of using some new materials and techniques.
Third, to forge a complete new sword. Not so easy, since it seems to me that it's very difficult to be completely free of our historical patrimony, as our ancestors explored so many ways in swordsmithing...

I will end this contribution by saying that, too often, contemporary art is misunderstood until it's vanished. Seems like the curse of Art through the ages. The fascination for what we can dream of our past should be sometimes given to modern things, because the beauty could be also around us, here and now.

The more I advance in my interest for edged weapons, the more I pay interest in contemporary sword art.
This Jian is quite a fanstastic example of what could be done. I find it really beautiful, not only because it reminds me the China's history, but also as a true work of art. I hope that we could see more and more of this kind of contemporary artistic works in the future.

Thank you, Mr Jonhsson Razz
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Jim Puccio





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PostPosted: Fri 27 Jul, 2007 7:03 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Beautiful sword!

The taiji practitioners of the world do not have enough high quality, economical choices. This is the kind of thing that just might sell out there Happy
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B. Stark
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PostPosted: Fri 27 Jul, 2007 8:41 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jim Puccio wrote:
Beautiful sword!

The taiji practitioners of the world do not have enough high quality, economical choices. This is the kind of thing that just might sell out there Happy


I personally wouldn't call Peter's swords "economical" Wink, but you are right. Jian or Gim let alone other types are few and far between when it comes to quality "functional" swords of Chinese origin it has been overlooked.

"Wyrd bi∂ ful aręd"

Are we at last brought to such humiliating and debasing degradation, that we cannot be trusted with arms for our defense?

Patrick Henry
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Jim Puccio





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PostPosted: Sat 28 Jul, 2007 9:39 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

B. Stark wrote:
Jim Puccio wrote:
Beautiful sword!

The taiji practitioners of the world do not have enough high quality, economical choices. This is the kind of thing that just might sell out there Happy


I personally wouldn't call Peter's swords "economical" Wink, but you are right. Jian or Gim let alone other types are few and far between when it comes to quality "functional" swords of Chinese origin it has been overlooked.


As I have no idea who Peter is or what he charges for his work, just consider my statement one of encouragement to any who might listen and make a good product at a reasonable price. That doesn't have to be $200...it just should be what the blade is worth. There's no need to upcharge a wallet 500% because it is made by Gucci, which is why I would never buy something like that. I would pay good money for a quality leather wallet, though.
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Jim Puccio





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PostPosted: Sat 28 Jul, 2007 11:34 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jim Puccio wrote:
B. Stark wrote:
Jim Puccio wrote:
Beautiful sword!

The taiji practitioners of the world do not have enough high quality, economical choices. This is the kind of thing that just might sell out there Happy


I personally wouldn't call Peter's swords "economical" Wink, but you are right. Jian or Gim let alone other types are few and far between when it comes to quality "functional" swords of Chinese origin it has been overlooked.


As I have no idea who Peter is or what he charges for his work, just consider my statement one of encouragement to any who might listen and make a good product at a reasonable price. That doesn't have to be $200...it just should be what the blade is worth. There's no need to upcharge a wallet 500% because it is made by Gucci, which is why I would never buy something like that. I would pay good money for a quality leather wallet, though.


I just figured out who Peter is Laughing Out Loud

JMO, I think the Albion swords are very reasonable for what is being offered...
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Chad Arnow
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PostPosted: Sat 28 Jul, 2007 11:41 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jim Puccio wrote:
I just figured out who Peter is Laughing Out Loud

JMO, I think the Albion swords are very reasonable for what is being offered...


This is one of Peter's custom pieces, which will be priced quite a bit higher than Albion's Peter Johnsson-designed production pieces.

Happy

ChadA

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Jim Puccio





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PostPosted: Sat 28 Jul, 2007 2:55 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Chad Arnow wrote:
Jim Puccio wrote:
I just figured out who Peter is Laughing Out Loud

JMO, I think the Albion swords are very reasonable for what is being offered...


This is one of Peter's custom pieces, which will be priced quite a bit higher than Albion's Peter Johnsson-designed production pieces.


Can you narrow down the "quite a bit higher"? That's a big range Wink

Perhaps Peter would be interested in considering adding to the available jian on the market in something of a production piece? Who knows...but I do know there is somewhat of a market for it.
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Chad Arnow
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PostPosted: Sat 28 Jul, 2007 8:47 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jim Puccio wrote:

Can you narrow down the "quite a bit higher"? That's a big range Wink

Perhaps Peter would be interested in considering adding to the available jian on the market in something of a production piece? Who knows...but I do know there is somewhat of a market for it.


Custom work prices always occupy a large range, depending on the materials and techniques used and many other factors. Not having ordered from Peter before, I'm only guessing. However, I'd suspect a piece as complicated as this jian would easily be several thousand dollars or more. Probably closer to $5000 or more with all that pattern welded steel. But, again, this is just guesswork.

Happy

ChadA

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Thom R.




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PostPosted: Sat 28 Jul, 2007 10:26 pm    Post subject: Re: A Contemporary Ancient Jian         Reply with quote

That's a beautiful sword. I think you have hit on the key aspect to modern interpretation of historical swords. I think we should always remember that as far as historical "authenticity" we are often working with a very small sample of survivors and/or documents. People experiment and innovate all the time, its just human nature. Provided the four main aspects of the sword: aesthetics, design, form, and function are all addressed and in balance, I don't see any issues with coloring outside of the perceived historical lines. Its when one or two particular aspects dominate all of the others, that I start to be concerned. But between those four aspects it seems to me there is a tremendous potential, almost infinite potential, for creativity on the swordmakers part while still maintaining an appropriate balance.

Having said that, I do think that labels are important and possess meaning and are not just a matter of linguistic convention or style. It is silly to call a four door sedan a pickup truck. That is, to use this particular example, in the case of a "Jian", I would expect certain aspects to be present: flattened diamond cross section, a certain profile with minimal profile taper, etc. - otherwise I do not think it appropriate to call it a Jian. To continue the example, a sword that has a length and profile of a Jian, has a hilt and pommel in a Jian style, but which has a completely flattened cross section and a fuller running down the middle should not be called a Jian. As another example Mr. Pearce and I discussed Oakeshott XV's this past week. One could do a lot to interpret that style of sword, yet there are certain aspects of that style that I would think would need to be present in order to call a sword a XV: a strong profile taper ending in a strong thrusting point, and certain aspects that would need to be excluded in order to call it a XV (no fuller). I think there is a lot of benefit to having these categories and labels, yet we shouldn't treat them as straightjackets either.

Very nice jian.

tr
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