Gifts to the Dartmouth College Fund help make great things happen for our students. Here is one of their stories.
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.