When I Grow Up, I Want To Be A Flintknapper!
I was interviewed on a live radio show not too long ago about the upcoming (now past) Cedar City Summer Arts Festival. One of the questions asked by the DJ was ,”What kind of art can we see at the show?”
“We have all the traditional fine arts represented,”I began. “Painters, sculptors, potters… and there are a myriad of craftsmen exhibiting everything from edible or wearable art, to functional pieces like totes and linens. We even have a flintknapper!” All the people in the room just stared blankly at me, and there was radio silence for a few seconds. So I added, “I can see your entire audience now running to their computers to Google ‘flintknapper!'” It became the running joke of the show … any time there was a lag, the correct response was, “Excuse me – I was flintknapping.”
To be honest, when we first received Don Sutton’s application, I was stumped when I read the contents of the “Artist’s Medium” box, which contained just this word – flintknapper. The included pictures did define the work for me, but I was curious about the creation and use of these wonderful pieces. So I did some research on my own.
Flintknapping is the ancient art of using stone, antler, bone or wood to shape other hard substances into primitive tools. The process involves removing flakes of stone to create the desired shape. It dates back to prehistoric times. Indian arrowheads are a prime example of this.
Modern flintknappers use virtually the same techniques as their early-man ancestors did. The major difference is that the finished product is a work of art rather than a mainstay of existence. Flintknappers today produce some incredible, visually stunning works. Although they are certainly usable, today’s flintknapped pieces are designed to be a form of sculpture.
All of the pieces shown here are the work of Don Sutton, a well-known knapper who belongs to several kanpping organizations. They can be seen (and purchased) at http://flintknappers.com/. This site is host to the work of many different flintknappers, including Mr. Sutton. It’s worth a visit just to see what amazing things are being done today.
At our recent festival, it was delightful to see Don’s work in person. My favorite piece was this knife. The blade is knapped obsidian; the handle is antler. And I love the stained tree branch attached to the wooden base to support the knife on the display stand. Remember – all of these can be used as knives. I found out quickly that they are very sharp. But they were all so amazing, just staring at them from every possible angle was all I needed to do.
So there you have it – more than you ever needed to know about flintknapping!