Tethering the Torso

12 June, 2017

"Sometimes when I need to bend a piece of metal, I hold it in each hand and position the material across my stomach, which helps me bend it into the shape I need.  My body knows when the material reaches it's limit."

Martin the Workshop metalworker

Throughout his autobiography, Benvenuto Cellini refers to the size of human body parts to explain the scale of his work.  He was the master goldsmith and sculptor of the 16th century working in Rome, Florence and Paris for Kings, Cardinals and Popes.  He uses body references, such as, the size of a young boys fist to explain the weight of gold or silver or the length of a forearm for scale.  He regularly refers to the historic and ancient measuring term mentioned in the Bible - the cubit.  The word comes from the Latin cubit meaning elbow.  The unit represents the distance of a man's forearm, from the tip of the elbow to the outstretched middle finger.  Today it is generally accepted to be 44.4 centimeters in length and the cubit length has increased in tandem with mankind growing bigger, for ancient man it was smaller.  Hapticity reigned in Benvenuto Cellini's world and the body also reigns in the Workshop's craftspeople.  We recently visited our metalworker in South London to talk through projects in detail.  Martin regularly uses parts of his body to bend mild steel, aluminium, brass or copper for our projects.  He has been working with iron ore for over three decades, since he was eight.  He is at his happiest when working with metal and cannot be without it for a long period of time.  It is what his body knows.  I wonder if there is a recorded dimensional analysis we could undertake with Martin about the bending strength of certain metals and radius against his stomach?