Left: Using specially designed homemade tools

Left: Using specially designed homemade tools

Discovering Ancient Ways at Kootenay Studio Arts

Kootenay Studio Arts (KSA) student Josh Koss is piecing together history in an effort to explore his passion for medieval armour.

Kootenay Studio Arts (KSA) student Josh Koss is piecing together history in an effort to explore his passion for medieval armour.

Using ancient techniques mostly lost in time, Koss is using his training in the four-month Blacksmithing Program at KSA to forge replica helmets employed on the battlefields of Europe during the 15th Century. With hammer strokes and heat, the 25-year-old is using his formal arts education to fuel his fascination with the past.

“I’ve always been into knights and Vikings and medieval stuff,” says Koss, who is originally from Ottawa. “Ever since I was a kid, I would always get my mom to buy the plastic armour at Walmart. When I was 16, randomly browsing the internet looking up stuff about ninjas, I stumbled upon an article on how to make your own chainmail. Something just clicked in my brain: people actually make armour. I dove into it after that.”

Koss is not the first KSA student to shape metal into replica armour, but his technique is something that hasn’t been tried at the Victoria Street Campus in Nelson.

Throughout history, armour production has been a vital tool of warfare. A labour intensive process, prior to sheet metal the sweat equity that went into outfitting soldiers was extensive. The exact methods used by medieval armourers are in question, but modern scholars have put together clues using a detailed examination of extant historical armour.

As part of his classwork, Koss researched a technique from the bucket makers of Bienno, Italy who have been forging deep steel vessels with water powered tools for hundreds of years. Using individual heavy plates of steel, Koss is using heat and the specially designed tools he created to hammer out his helmets.

“He’s taking it back a step because it’s hundreds of years old,” says KSA Blacksmithing Instructor Kevin Kratz. “It really gives everybody an idea how little things in metalworking have changed. It’s been exciting for everyone and we have all participated in it. It’s been educational.”

A Fascination with the Past

After graduating high school, Koss enrolled in engineering at the University of Ottawa. After his first year he decided to take a different direction and registered in arts school where he spent three years focussing on drawing and painting.

While in art school, his love for armour continued and Koss started experimenting with metal work. Setting up a little shop in his basement, he used resources on the internet and contacts with other armour enthusiasts to guide him. He discovered a healthy culture of armour creators and collectors online.

“It’s super specific and nerdy,” Koss says with a chuckle.

This past summer Koss hit the road and headed west. His destination was the Shambhala Music Festival near Salmo, but planned to explore employment options in British Columbia afterwards. While enjoying the festival, Koss came upon the booth set up by KSA faculty and staff which was providing demonstrations in blacksmithing and bronze casting.

“I had never actually heard of Nelson before coming out to Shambhala,” Koss says. “All of sudden I come across this school where they were doing the bronze casting and blacksmithing. I had been doing metal work for six years, so I figured I might as well move to Nelson for the program. I enrolled two weeks before the program started.”

With the enthusiastic guidance of Kratz and the well-equipped KSA blacksmithing studio serving as fuel, Koss pounced on his opportunity to take his armour making to the next level during the four month program.

“I have dove into the craft part of it, I don’t really think about the use part of it as much anymore,” he says. “The actual act of making it is fascinating. Looking at real medieval pieces, which are beautiful and high works of art. It’s turned into a weird obsession.”

Though Koss is using techniques previously not practiced at the KSA studio, Kratz is more than happy to help foster the experimentation.

“It’s a big component on how I like to run the program,” says Kratz. “Dictating what they do is great, but they need to have the freedom to experiment. What Josh is doing is still within the course outcomes. He has to do a production run and he is doing a production run of helmets, which I never really expected him to do.”

Outfitting a World of Collectors

With the blacksmithing component of his Sculptural Metal Diploma now complete, Koss is moving into the four-month Bronze Casting Program portion of his studies where he will continue to build his armour making skills.

“It certainly doesn’t feel very much like school and I’ve learned a lot more than I ever have in more conventional types of school,” Koss says of his KSA experience to this point.

Koss has received interest from armour makers around the world for the work he has done over the last few months. Though labour intensive—each helmet will take Koss at least 20 hours of work to complete from start to finish—there is a market for high end replicas. After graduation, Koss will continue to explore what his options for turning a passion into profit.

“I have been at armour for six years and I’m almost at the point where if I put in another solid year of dedicated study I will have enough of an understanding to be able to go into business as producing plausible, historical armour reproduction,” he says. “It’s really the merging of the world of blacksmithing and modern armour making… I’m super excited about it.”

Find out more about Kootenay Studio Arts online at selkirk.ca/school/arts.

 

Just Posted

Forty sled dogs were seized by the BC SPCA from a Salmo kennel in February. A recent ruling has decided the dogs won’t be returned. Photo: Gounsil/Flickr
BC Farm Industry Review Board rules against Salmo kennel after 40 sled dogs seized

Spirit of the North Kennels was also ordered to pay BC SPCA $64,000

Residents line up outside the Vernon Recreation Complex for their COVID-19 vaccine Saturday, June 5. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
No appointments necessary for first dose COVID-19 vaccine: Interior Health

People can just show up at clinics, register on the spot and get the shot

SD20 now has an electric bus. Photo: Submitted
Kootenay-Columbia School District 20 adds electric bus to fleet

Bus will be incorporated into Castlegar route for next school year

Painting by Dave Davies from Shaver’s Bench facing Teck Trail.
Happy 120th Birthday to the City of Trail!

The town of Trail Creek- or Trail Creek Landing - was incorporated as a city on June 14, 1901.

Cropped photo: Silver Screen Drive-in will be in the upper parking lot of Waneta Plaza.
Summer drive-in returns to Trail unveiling blockbuster movies

PHOTOS: Scroll to bottom for a trip down memory lane to the Auto Vue Drive-In

t
How to tell if a call from ‘CRA’ is legitimate or a scam

Expert says it’s important to verify you really are dealing with the CRA before you give out any info

Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of June 13 to 19

Flag Day, Garbage Man Day, International Panic Day all coming up this week

British Columbia-Yukon Community News Association’s 2021 Ma Murray Awards were handed out during a virtual ceremony on Friday, June 10. (Screen grab)
Black Press Media winners take gold at B.C. and Yukon journalism awards

Publications received nods in dozens of categories

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greets campers while visiting McDougall, Ont. on Thursday, July 19, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
71% of B.C. men say they’d prefer to go camping with Trudeau: survey

Most British Columbians with plans to go camping outdoors say they’d prefer to go with Trudeau or Shania Twain

Members of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ Marine Mammal Response Program rescued an adult humpback what that was entangled in commercial fishing gear in the waters off of Entrance Island on Thursday, June 10. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Response Program)
Rescuers free humpback ‘anchored’ down by prawn traps off Vancouver Island

Department of Fisheries and Oceans responders spend hours untangling whale

Chilliwack cocaine trafficker Clayton Eheler seen with a tiger somewhere in Asia in 2014. Eheler was sentenced to nine years jail in 2018, but was released on bail in October 2020 pending his appeal of conviction.(Facebook)
Director of civil forfeiture seeks $140,000 from Fraser Valley drug dealer’s father-in-law

Clayton Eheler’s father-in-law Ray Morrissey caught with money in Fort St. John by B.C.’s gang unit

A Comox Valley shellfish operator pleaded guilty and was fined $10,000 in provincial court in Courtenay earlier this year. Record file photo
B.C. clam harvester fined $10,000 for Fisheries Act violations

Charges against three others were stayed in Courtenay Provincial Court

Frank Phillips receives a visit from his wife Rena at Nanaimo Seniors Village on their 61st wedding anniversary, March 31, 2020. Social visits have been allowed since COVID-19 vaccination has been offered in all care homes. (Nanaimo News Bulletin)
B.C. prepares mandatory vaccination for senior care homes

180 more cases of COVID-19 in B.C. Friday, one more death

Lorraine Gibson, 90, received a COVID-19 immunization at the South Surrey Park and Ride vaccination clinic. (File photo: Aaron Hinks)
Surrey has had 25% of B.C.’s total COVID-19 cases

Surrey recorded 4,012 cases in May

Most Read