« L’artiste qui coupe son bois, bat son métal, pétrit son argile, taille son bloc de pierre maintient jusqu’à nous un passé de l’homme, un homme ancien, sans lequel nous ne serions pas. N’est-il pas admirable de voir debout parmi nous, dans l’âge mécanique, ce survivant acharné des âges de la main ? »
Translation : « The artist who carves his wood, hammers his metal, moulds his clay, hews his lump of stone, perpetuates man’s ancient past. Without him we should not exist. Is it not admirable to see standing amongst us, in the mechanic age, this stubborn survivor of the age of manual skills ? »
The little known craft of engraving on firearms has very old origins. The first evidence of human artistic ability is engraving decorating ancient bone weapons. Scribing his thoughts with a carved line seemed to be spontaneous to man. Who has never carved his name on a tree trunk, a school desk or, worse, on an historical building ? This peculiar disposition, cultivated for thousands of years and refined by generations of craftsmen is perpetuated by the modern Engraver.
The exacting art of engraving requires the mastery of both material and form together with a natural disposition for line drawing. It may take ten years to become fully proficient, needing the rare combination of determination, patience and industriousness to develop the gift. Very few acquire the ability to work at the highest level. Notwithstanding, these heirs of ancestral and time-honoured methods must also be able to evolve new tools and embrace new techniques.
In Liège, gun-smithing has been practised since the 16th century and the little town has produced numerous engravers, masters like Varin, de Bry, Demarteau and Duvivier, whose talents have been appreciated far outside its borders. The Liège technique of gun engraving was exported to France ( St-Etienne ) and Italy ( Brescia ) by master engravers at the end of the 19 th century. The later establishment of the Liège Engraving and Gun Smithing School enabled pupils from all over the world to learn and adopt the Liège techniques of engraving.
I was born in 1950, in a small Belgian Ardennes village of Durbuy, at the gates of Liege, and it seemed quite natural that I too, should become an engraver. I have practised my craft in the same village since 1972.