The structure of the guild
The North Hälsingland Blacksmiths Guild is an ekonomisk förening (a membership association within Sweden) which serves to benefit members in proportion to their commitment. The greater one’s engagement, the more possibilities are open. For members who are not active in the field of blacksmithing, but wish to support the Guild or take advantage of its services, the quarterly Blacksmith Days and annual Guild Festival are opportunities to get a glimpse into the world of ironwork, meet the craftsmen of the Guild, and be a part of the continuing guild tradition. They also receive Guild publications and enjoy a discount on orders through the Guild.
Blacksmiths of all levels may further take advantage of the Guild’s resources through sharing excess work, completing commissions through the Guild, seeking advice or working with fellow members, and participating in all Guild events. In keeping with tradition, working members of the Guild have the titles of Apprentice, Journeyman, and Master to reflect the skill and experience of each smith and their time within the North Hälsingland Blacksmiths Guild. Apprentices are beginning blacksmiths under the tutelage of more experienced smiths. Journeymen are skilled smiths, competent enough to have their own workshop and take on Apprentices, but still continuing their own development as craftsmen. Masters are those members who have worked as Journeymen for at least a decade, have shown a commitment to education or development within the field of blacksmithing, and have a high level of skill in forging.
The North Hälsingland Blacksmiths Guild also acknowledges smiths and community members who have contributed to the field of blacksmithing. Individuals who have supported or created significant opportunities for the craft of blacksmithing may be invited as Honorary Members of the Guild. Retired members who are no longer actively working as blacksmiths are welcomed as Aldermen, honored within the Guild for their knowledge and advice.
A board of representatives is elected every two years to oversee the operations of the Guild, approve promotions of members to Journeyman or Master, and decide the direction the Guild will take within the community. The board is composed of working blacksmiths, ensuring that the North Hälsingland Blacksmiths Guild is continually grounded in the traditions and community of blacksmithing.
Education is a crucial pillar of the North Hälsingland Blacksmiths Guild. We believe the time tested system of hands-on learning is the most effective way to learn the craft, passing knowledge from one generation of working blacksmiths to the next. Beginning blacksmiths - or those wishing to step into the world of blacksmithing - may apply to become an Apprentice with one the of Guild’s Journeymen or Masters. An apprenticeship may last from three to five years in general, until the Apprentice has internalized the fundamentals of the craft and is confident to start on their own. At this stage they may take the Journeyman test and move to the next tier of the Guild.
Journeymen of the Guild are encouraged continue their education through travel, working with other blacksmiths, visiting blacksmith festivals, and creating their own workshop. Traveling journeymen from other countries and guilds are welcomed in the North Hälsingland Blacksmiths Guild, to work, learn, and exchange knowledge. Journeymen may take on Apprentices, teach courses, and collaborate on Guild commissions.
Once the Journeyman has achieved an intimate knowledge of blacksmithing, an advanced level of skill, and has shown dedication to education or otherwise furthering the craft of blacksmithing, they may be eligible to take the Master test. Getting to this point is an individual journey, and perhaps can take between five and ten years, depending on the individual. It is not necessary to become a Master, but this title within the Guild acknowledges the highest level of craftsmanship and skill, and Masters are compensated for their work accordingly.
While an Apprentice has just one mentor, the community of the Guild encourages all working members to contribute. It is together, sharing our experience, time, and interests, that we build the North Hälsingland Blacksmiths Guild.