The development of new shapes or variations of older ones is an act of shape appropriation and its subsequent synthesis, in which elements that represent mystical or other symbolic references are also changed into a simplified version, naturally void of the autochthonous spirit.

This Pira is a joint project with Paolo Abrera, whom I had the pleasure to meet personally in Manila along with my good friend Anton.
The idea behind this Pira is based on a contemporary exogenous approach carrying the hybridation from the kris marks on the spine instead of the elephant trunk. The rendition aims to show a remote approach of what can be done the san mai way.
These are the initial thoughts exchanged.

This is a mere rendition of wrought iron where the bands shown below cannot be rendered more than in just a simple way. It is however the simplified shape and marks that interest me.

This clean picture is what attracted me as I saw it this way. I found that to my taste, the flat edge contradicted the curve of the horn piece, so the design was made in the sense of accentuating the overall flow of the curve.
Here is how the pira would be displayed, hence the curved edge on the design. It continues the curve as well as being a a slashing and stabbing piece. The silver tube before the carabao (buffalo horn) could be entirely simplified.


Paolo emailed me this picture of the Pira on the last days of 2006. I immediately noticed my own mistake in the aesthetical geometry and sent my correction suggestion with my apologies.

Thanks to the earlier photograph I was able to convey the need to change one line so that it all made more sense. Paolo did agree.

After the correction the lines flow more naturally. The amazing openness of Paolo humbles me.

W1 and wrought iron

basic shape

Preparing to sandwich W1 with wrought iron

taking shape

The forging is finished


I think that the different planes (the center decorated section needs to be plain for full expression of the bare steel) require different approaches.

The center point should be fully polished. The clip point could have a 600 grit polish, while the sanmai of wrought iron should be differentially heat treated for a hamon as shown in the illustration above. This gives enormous variety, if possible, to the pira while all three planes vocabulary interact among themselves.

A close up of the heat treated pira. I love the texture in the spine that Paolo patiently hammered on.

Tempered and rough ground. I'm deeply attracted by the charcoal forge.

A quick preliminary etch on the blade.

Close up of the sanmai layer with the hamon and habuchi not visible yet.

Beautiful set of fittings. Note the seppa's small grainy texture achieved by hand.

Paolo did a lot of sourcing to find a horn piece that would have the right curve.

Due to the size of the pira, horns are short if compared with the piece at the beginning. So I suggest to Paolo that instead of horn we use wood. It can turn out as nice as the original piece given the woodworking capacities of Paolo. Then the black dye will generate the correct contrast.

Here Paolo decides on going to wood after our correspondence, and is using a wood called yakal. The curve is beautiful and to me proportions look absolutely right at a 1:2 ratio.

Detail of the work and the handle. Now it is going to be the blackening of the wood.

The completed pira in sanmai, a fantastic piece full of character

Paolo did a fantastic selective texturing adding richness and variety to the piece.
A close up of the blade with the wrought iron sanmai as well as the hamon.

The Pira arrived today, Saturday May 26, 2007 with a superb packing and a greeting card from Paolo. Extremely nice packing by a meticulous artist.

Paolo's admirable sanmai work on the pira
Coupling texturing and sanmai as well as hamon. Surfaces can now be seen all differentiated.
The sanmai design in wrought iron reminds me of waves about to break in the shore.
The spine was carefully pitted by Paolo with a tiny punch
Couldn't help but ask Lily, our domestic helper, to take a picture of me and the pira.

This has been a very unique journey of a very rare contemporary made pira from the Philippines.

Read my interview with Paolo Abrera
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