by Sally Adam, forward by H. Russell Zimmermann, Review by Amy Mook
Stunning and comprehensive, this book is an invaluable resource and a treasure trove of inspiration for students and aficionados not only of ironwork, but of all arts, crafts, and design. Wilson is a master artisan in the old world European sense of the term, through decades of study and apprenticeship with some of the most accomplished in the fields of drawing, ironworking, and sculpture. With tireless dedication to inquiry and practice, he has traveled widely to observe, draw and feel the masterpieces of many great artists, from the ironwork of Cyril Colnik close to home in Milwaukee, to ancient and modern European masters of ironwork and architecture. Wilson has synthesized his broad-ranging experience and phenomenal skills, earning his place as a world- renowned and distinguished blacksmith, architectural designer, and an astounding drawer. In addition, he is an important historian and archivist, preserving a vast panoply of historical ironwork with his prolific drawings.
The book is well designed, dividing the drawings into sections: seating, tables, grilles, doors, etc. This is helpful for easy reference, and many cross applications of design and technique become apparent (e.g. elements of a chair that could easily be adapted to a window grille or brackets that might become parts of a table). His drawings range from realistic to fanciful, practical to impossible, but every one shows his command of the pencil and pen and unfailing eye for detail. For those interested in how the drawings translate to forged metal, there are several photos of finished work.
The progression of drawings on each page, and in each section, reads as an instruction manual for design development. We are invited to an intimate view of Wilson’s imaginative process when we follow his torrent of ideas spilling out onto the page, leading to unforeseen solutions, unconstrained by preconceptions. Students of design and architecture, who commonly are assigned a Chair Design Challenge, will take special interest in the extensive seating section. Every possible configuration is represented, hundreds selected from thousands of his original drawings. The dreamers who imagine that innate skill and creative vision will carry them to success will be hit over the head with a reality check; work this good takes innumerable hours of unflinching dedication to repetition, experimentation, trial and error, which Wilson has pursued with a rare passion.
When you hold this book in your hands, when you turn the pages, you will know youare in the presence of the work of a great artist, an unusual mind, and an exalted passion. You will be inspired, and hopefully not paralyzed by the enormity of Thomas Wilson’s example. I highly recommend you add this one to your library!