To many, the man they know in this photo is Bill Evans. A blacksmith and storyteller, a gentle heart and fiesty soul. Well, for me, personally I prefer to call him Grandpa. If there is any character I have the pleasure of knowing, it is truly him. Not many people my age can say that they remember sitting on top of an anvil, in an old blacksmith shop, everything covered in metal dust, with a forge dating back from the 1800s still in use, watching their grandfather working on a cast iron pot that a client brought in for repair. "What's wrong with it Grandpa? It looks fine." Carefully inspecting the antique kettle, never taking his eyes off of it, he answers, "There's a hairline fracture running down the side of it, and I'm trying to figure out how to seal it without having to apply too much heat to it." Of course, being the 9 year old that I was at the time, you tend to ask more questions. "Why?" Eyes still roaming over the pot, he patiently answers, "Because it's nearly 200 years old." Oh. It was at this moment that I truly realized just how unique my Grandfather was. If there is any man who could rattle off chemistry equations and tell you about his time in Kwajalein in the same coversation, it would be him.
In the late 1950s, equipped with an engineering degree and a background in welding, my grandfather took on a dredging job that required his family to move from Nashville, Tennessee to the South Pacific. It would be there, in the Hawaiian Islands that he, his artist wife Chris, and their three young children (the eldest being my father) would call home for over 30 years. Venturing away from the life as an engineer, my Grandfather later opened up his own blacksmith shop in Honolulu, Olde Harbour Forge. He worked primarily as an ornamental blacksmith, specializing in hammered bronze and copper. He had clients ranging anywhere from the Royal Hawaiian Hotel to the Doris Duke estate. When you stepped into his shop, as one journalist from the Honolulu Advertiser once noted, it was like stepping into Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem, The Village Blacksmith. Many years later, back in Nashville, in a much smaller shop, not quite as nostalgic as the original, I watch my Grandfather work on a new sculpture, this one consisting of several angels made of hammered copper. With my camera in tow, I lean against the same anvil I had once sat upon over 20 years earlier, watching him solder several pieces together. Later he walks over to a table where several almost-completed figures lay side by side, awaiting their final assembly. "And this one here," he says, picking one of them up, "I've styled her hair to look like your Tutu's." I lean forward and notice that sure enough, the gleaming angelic figure he cradled in his hands resembled my Grandmother. "I love it Grandpa." He looks upon it for a moment, smiles, and then gently lays it back on the table. All of a sudden a little voice pipes up, "I wanna see Grandpa! I wanna see Tutu!" My little three year old, who's accompanied me on our trip to see her Great-Grandpa, lifts her arms up to be carried. As I pick her up, she too leans forward and gives her approval, "Ooh, pretty." The following photos are some of the images I captured that day, last Spring.
*added on 3/5/11:
Hello friends. I wanted to share with you that the wonderful man in this post, my Grandfather Bill Evans, passed away two weeks ago today, on February 19th, 2011 around seven o'clock in the morning. He went peacefully, his final breath leaving his body as the song Better Than a Hallelujah finished playing on the CD player. During his final days, he was surrounded by loved ones who adored him. He was an amazing craftsman. A fantastic storyteller. A loving family man. A loyal friend. A kind stranger. He will forever be the perfect example of a true gentleman. And I will miss him terribly. . . ~Kathy