Knife Show: Hefaiston 2022

The Moravian castle of Helfstein has a yearly meeting of blacksmith artists. Martin Helebrant visited the 40th edition, which had an exhibition of  hundreds of forged artefacts, made by both skilled masters and fresh alumni from the artistic schools. In addition, there were live forging presentations.
Text and pictures: Martin Helebrant
The main fortification wall of Helfstein castle with flags of the participants. On the left side is the sculpture
“For Prometheus” by Pavel Krpálek and Pavel Tasovský, 2002.

Knives, swords, and any edged weapon and tool rest significantly on the existence of steel – a merger of carbon and iron. Steel is made by melting and mixing the two elements with a temperature of more than 1300 °Celsius. Then comes the man, a blacksmith, master of the heat and steel, who turns the steel into a product used by people. The product as such is innocent, but it can support and strengthen the acts of men, both the good and bad ones. As time passed by, the capability of processing steel became not only a craft, but also an art. The separation between these two is fuzzy and individual.
The Czech Republic consists of the Czech Lands and Moravia. The eastern part, Moravia, consists of the northern, rather mountainous part (Silesia) and rich southern lowlands. Through the hills of northern Moravia runs one long depression – a passage running approximately from Ostrava to Olomouc. This is called the Moravian gate. It provides a road from the southern Polish flats to southern Moravia. As such Moravian gate and its control presented an important strategic point.
In the narrowest point of the Moravian gate, near Přerov, on a steep cliff over the Bečva river, a marauding knight Fridus (or Helfrid) of Linava build around 1310 a fortress named Helfenstein, later Helfstein, today in Czech language Helfštýn. As the time passed, Fridus of Linava was beaten out from Helfstein and Helfstein passed into the hands of the prime nobility of the time. First it became part of the house of Kravař, then of Pernštejn and then Rožmberk. Step by step, Helfstein became one of the largest castles in Europe, being second only to Polish Malbork. During the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648) Helfstein still maintained its fortification role, but then it quickly deteriorated and in 19th century it was nothing but a very extensive ruin.
Alfred Habermann, one of the most influential blacksmith artists of 20th century was born in a German blacksmith family in Jihlava (Iglau) in that time Czechoslovakia. In 1982, Habermann, already a respected artist and blacksmith, organized the first meeting of blacksmith artists on the Helfstein castle. Since then, this meeting was repeated every year. It continued even when Alfred Habermann himself moved to Germany in 1985. The Helfstein meeting, known as Hefaiston, became one of the most famous and respected symposiums in Central Europe and it continued untill the present day, regardless of the fact that Alfred Habermann started another similar meeting named Ferraculum in Ybbsitz (Austria), where he has moved in his final years.
Organizers assembled before the start of a day.
This year was the 40th Hefaiston on Helfstein. The castle had an exhibition of  hundreds of forged artefacts, made by both skilled masters and fresh alumni from the artistic schools. In addition, there were live forging presentations. Most were pure artwork, but there were some that had a relation to knife and swordsmithing. Among the awarded exhibitors were three Czech knifemakers – Jiří Čurda, Aleš Karban and Pavel Ševeček – who were awarded for their damask steel works.
The pictures are meant to show something attractive and beautiful, though not exactly knife making (the high-grade knives were presented there, but the light conditions were not adequate to make a photograph worth of publishing). You may also take it as an invitation. Hefaiston itself takes place every year in the last weekend of August, but the Helfstein castle is full of blacksmith activity and artefacts through the entire year, including lessons and lectures on different aspects of blacksmithing.
On the right a primitive blast furnace melting the iron ore, further inside the castle a field smithy with
multiple furnaces.
Don’t you forget!, Prošek & Prošek, 1992
Left: A butterfly grid by Filip Tomášek, Secondary school of Applied Arts, Světlá and Sázavou, 2022.
Right: Knocker by Miloš Stárek, High school of crafts Jaroměř, 2022.

Left: Basket of Fire, Stawaritch Smithy, 2003.
Right: Suffering, copy of the work of Alfred Habermann, original in Kaunitz college in Brno, 2003.

Laying Amos, Kitzbergers, 2008.
Liberazionne, Alessandro Ervas, Massimo Pozzebon, 1995.
Working in the old castle smithy.
You can never start forging young enough.
Left: Heads. Graduation work of Anton Krajčovič, Secondary School of Applied Arts, Turnov, 2022.
Right: Carnivorous Flower. Graduation work of Jan Hejlek, Secondary School of Applied Arts, Turnov, 2022.

Left: Horse. Graduation work of Tereza Pánková, Secondary School of Applied Arts, Turnov, 2022.
Right: Sword. Graduation work of Milan Švarc, Secondary School of Applied Arts, Turnov, 2022.
Grids are plentiful on Helfstein, but there are no two the same. Below are the grid and entry to the old
castle smithy.
Grids are plentiful on Helfstein, but there are no two the same.
Making a concave shape. Note the hammer from damask steel.
Left: Pavel Ševeček. Right: Aleš Karban. Both were awarded 2022 for their Damask work, and are
respected Moravian blacksmiths and knifemakers.