455 Anderson Rd
Nashville, AR. 71852
I like to use the shapes I see in nature, like a running deer, a flying bird or a fallen oak leaf as influence for me. I like to incorporate these images into my work, through the lines of the knife, the materials used in the construction and, the carving and engraving that embellish the piece.<>
Although I am a sole-source knife maker I really enjoy working with customers to design knives to meet their needs. This collaborative process is rewarding as it often results in new ideas that in turn inspire me and influence my work. <>
I am also influenced by past knife makers. I especially appreciate antique knives, as there is almost always something in an old knife that will inspire a new design or construction concept.
I started my forged blade education via a grant from the Arkansas Arts Council in 1986. This grant provided 400 hours of forged blade instruction with Jerry Fisk where I learned the basics of forging a knife blade.<>
In 1991, I attended a silversmithing class taught by Richard Mausby from Southern Illinois University. In 2001 I attended a Metallurgy class taught by Kevin Cashen. Both of these classes were held at the Moran School of Bladesmithing in Washington, Arkansas.
Throughout my career as an industrial millwright with Weyerhaeuser Company, I took several courses that have benefited my cutlery career including:
· Basic metallurgy
· Business management
· Meeting facilitation
· Maintenance and project planning
· Basic hydraulics
· Various mechanical and electrical courses.<>
Most recently, I have enrolled in “Basic Metal Engraving” taught by Steve Dunn at the GRS Training Center in Emporia, Kansas in May of 2012.
In 2007 the Arkansas Arts Council named me that year’s Arkansas Living Treasure. To date I am the only knife maker that has been awarded this designation. As a result of my being nominated, the Arkansas Arts Council now recognizes bladesmithing as an art form.<>
Since 2008 I have served as the liaison officer of the American Bladesmithing Society (ABS) for the Moran School of Bladesmithing at Texarkana College. In this role my duties include developing the class schedules each term, selecting the instructors, reviewing my selections with the ABS, and recruiting the instructors for each class. I report to the President of the American Bladesmith Society on the status of the Moran School of Bladesmithing and coordinate between the ABS and the Director of the Continuing Education Department at Texarkana College.
· I am an instructor for the Moran School of Bladesmithing whenever needed.
· I regularly attend and lecture at the Spring and Fall Hammer-in at Old Washington, Arkansas.
· I regularly attend, coordinate and lecture at Al’s Pals group meeting in De Queen, Arkansas. This is a monthly meeting of local knife makers who gather to learn and support one another.
· Twice a year I set aside a week to host an apprenticeship program where students who have asked to apprentice with me can train to become knife makers. In this program, students determine how far they wish to take their craft, but I can take them from entry-level apprentice through master level.<>
I am working with the Department of Humanities at Arkansas State University to develop a grant program to ensure the forged blade does not die as a folk art form in Arkansas. To date, I have had one student each year for the past three years in this program.
In addition to these items, I continue to serve as an official for the mastersmith judging committee with the American Bladesmithing Society. I helped create and facilitate the BLADE Show World Championship Cutting Competition and was in two episodes of “Southwest Arkansas Outdoors” television show demonstrating knife sharpening, maintenance and performance. I have made knives and donated them for charitable events.<>
I am a member in good standing with the American Bladesmithing Society, Arkansas Knifemakers Association, Custom Knife Collectors Association and TOMB (The Order of Mystic Brotherhood), an organization developed by a group of knife makers to raise money for scholarships for the Moran School of Bladesmithing. <>
I believe the future of custom knives is bright. Despite our economic downturn, the investment grade custom knife market has been fairly strong, as demand for my knives has grown allowing me to make elaborate, higher-end knives. When I look at the work of my fellow knife makers I continue to be impressed with advances quality and techniques that we are using. I believe that as long as we knife makers continue to create new and exciting knives and push the boundaries, our collectors will want to own our knives and its exciting advancements.
My blades are all forged to shape, as has been done for hundreds of years. For years I forged blades with the traditional green coal forge and hammer, but mostly use a propane forge and power hammer today. I like to use natural materials for my handles such as ivory, stag and wood. I enjoy creating new and different patterns with my pattern welded Damascus. I prefer making more traditional knives such as Bowies and fighters that would have been common in this area in the late 1800’s. I like to control all aspects of my knife making so I also build my own sheaths. I make traditional style leather covered wood sheaths as well as full metal sheaths or silver throat and tip sheath and leather slip sheaths that would have been typical to this era.
The Internet has greatly impacted how I exhibit my work as it has the world and I take advantage of that to expand the reach of my work. Rather than rely solely on galleries I mainly display my work online and at the knife shows I attend. My knives are displayed on my web site at www.jrcookknives.com year-round. When I have something new and exciting, I tend to have them professionally photographed and ask the photographer to post them on the knife forums such as the CKCA forum, BladeForums.com and The Knife Network.
I regularly attend the BLADE Show, the Arkansas Knifemakers Association show and the Jerry Fisk Invitational show. In 2012, I also exhibited my knives at the American Bladesmith Society Expo in San Antonio, Texas. Several years ago when the Spirit of Steel show was held in Dallas, Texas I exhibited my work there as well.<>
I also have several knives on year-round display at the Historic Arkansas Museum in Little Rock, Arkansas. On average, over 600,000 people visit the museum annually.
Awards from knife shows:
· 2011 Arkansas Knifemakers Association show: Best of Show, Best Damascus, Best Giraffe Bone Handle
· 2010 Arkansas Knifemakers Association show: Best Art Knife
· 2009 American Bladesmith’s Society: Chairman’s Award for Outstanding Service in Bladesmithing
· 2007 Arkansas Arts Council: Arkansas Living Treasure
· 2007 Arkansas Knifemakers Association show: Best of Show, Best Art Knife
· 2006 Arkansas Knifemakers Association show: Best Giraffe Bone Handle
· 2006 BLADE Show: Best Utility Hunter, Best Hand Made
· 2005 Spirit of Steel show: Best Bowie
· 2003 American Bladesmith’s Society: Chairman’s Award for Outstanding Service in Bladesmithing
· 2000 Spirit of Steel show: Best Fixed Blade
Grants awarded from the Arkansas Arts Council for individual study for:
2011 “The Art of Bladesmithing” to Larry Cox of Murfreesboro, Arkansas
2009 “The Art of Bladesmithing” to Mike Smith of Lockesburg, Arkansas
2004 “Handles and Guards” to Mike Smith of Lockesburg, Arkansas.
Personal grants awarded from the Arkansas Arts Council:
1986 A grant to preserve the art of the forged blade
1987 A grant to preserve the art of Damascus steel