At the end of year 2012 John Neeman’s bladesmith workshop is proceeding to next phase. Founding new and creative team of professionals, John Neeman establishes company AUTINE.
Our trip to Autine workshop…
We were out of mulled wine. So we filled the mobile car kettle with Christmas drink Gutta. (note: Alcohol is bad for you! Only passengers were drinking it during this trip).
Calling the phone number from Autine Facebook page. Some woman picked up the phone. The conversation went wrong from the very beggining. I heard Riga public transport announcements in the background, though Autine workshop is located near a small Latvian town called Cēsis which is about 100km away from the capital. The lady said she is John Neeman’s (Jānis Nīmanis) sister and she suggested we call John directly. Without any hesitation she gave us his personal mobile phone number. This phone call was even more nerve racking, but not for long as John appeared to be very friendly and offered us to meet him at his place in an hour.
In the next hour we had to decide what gift could we present John, buy it, and be at Autine workshop in time. The options were – a bottle of bourbon (we thought it’s too unhealthy), selection of different cheeses (too gaay), a giant piece of cheese (didn’t look good) and we stopped on a bottle of wine and a piece of cheese shaped like the recently built Latvia National Library ‘Gaismas pils’.
We arrived a bit early and were unsure if it’s the right place as it didn’t have any signs of the world famous axe workshop. Having looked around we saw an axe in a stump. It didn’t have Autine logo on it or anything that would indicate that we are in the right place. In a couple of minutes we saw a man coming out from one of the buildings, we asked him if John lives here and the answer was ‘yes’.
We were equipped with the following photo-video devices – GoPro Hero 3 and a good Cannon camera. The GoPro was fixed on my chest, but as it appeared later it was broken and didn’t film anything. This made us very disappointed as the visit to the workshop and John’s stories were extremely interesting.
It was obvious that such visits are uncommon for John (maybe because most of his customers are foreigners). We entered the workshop. The place is small. Great atmosphere. A feeling that all the equipment is being treated with love and passion and the importance of every single piece of it for the craftsman.
The space is divided into two areas. It also has stairs that are leading to the second floor. The first room of the workshop houses equipment and tools for melting alloys and rough processing of the goods, whereas the second room is for fine tuning, sharpening. Leather components like blade protectors and handles are also produced there. Finished products are hanging on a ceiling support ready to begin their journeys worldwide. John also has a map with pins, which point to destinations of their products around the globe.
One of the axes didn’t meet end specs and was therefore not shipped anywhere, which gave us a chance to test one of Autine’s precious tools out in the wild. Armed with this mighty forged tool we went to a glade nearby which had some young birches growing there. A couple of blows was enough to bring one of them down, which was around 10 cm in diameter. After having enjoyed ourselves for a while we headed back. We were then shown the second floor of the forge, which was a work-in-progress office/coordination center. The forge itself was also being reconstructed, some adjustments were made both outside and inside.
After that John offered us to make ourselves leather key rings. It was a reasonably simple process – cutting the right shape from a big piece of leather, pressing the Autine logo, adding some traditional Latvian symbols (some crosses or lines), treating it with a special liquid that gave it a brighter colour and also helps to protect it from water, and finally making a hole in it and putting a ring or a chain through it.
Having spent more than one hour at Autine workshop we thanked John for his hospitality and promised him to come back when all the refurbishing works are done. After leaving the premises, we drove 500 meters, stopped, looked at each other, smiled. It was hard to believe in what we got to experience, it was so wonderful, unexpected and simply cool.
Big thanks to John and his team!
Article by: Pete Innovo (Radošā biedrība KESTLOH)