Jeb Wallace-Brodeur / Staff Photo
Blacksmith Steve Bronstein, owner of Blackthorne Forge in Marshfield, holds a forged iron menorah he created that is being featured on a U.S. Postal Service Hanukkah stamp.
MARSHFIELD — A local blacksmith’s work has been selected to appear on this year’s official Hanukkah stamp.
Steve Bronstein, of Marshfield, said he was thrilled when he was told in August his iron menorah was selected for the stamp, although he didn’t even know he was in the running for it. He said someone from the U.S. Postal Service stamp design team went into a craft shop in Washington, D.C., and bought a bunch of menorahs, of which his was one.
“I made the cut and got the call. It was pretty cool,” he said. “When they called and said they wanted to make a stamp out of the menorah, I thought they meant a rubber stamp. I didn’t know I was talking to the postal service. I’ve been doing this for a long time and it’s nice to get some acknowledgement every once in a while.”
Blacksmithing does not run in Bronstein’s family. He said his mother was a school teacher and his father was a vaccum salesman. Bronstein graduated from SUNY New Paltz back in the 1970s with a degree in biology and had moved to Vermont from New York thinking he could find a medical school to put his degree to good use. He found a job as a lab tech in the physiology department at the University of Vermont. That’s where Bronstein thought his career path would lead, until he needed a “weird shaped chisel.”
Bronstein said one of his hobbies was woodworking and he needed a chisel for a piece he was working on. Since he couldn’t find the right one in any hardware stores, he decided to make one himself. He bought a book on toolmaking and created the chisel on his gas stove at home. He said that got him pretty excited about working with metal and he then attended a blacksmith workshop to learn more.
At the workshop, Bronstein said he made a “fire poker” which he was quite proud of. He then heard the Shelburne Museum was looking for a blacksmith so he took his poker, applied and got the job, leaving his white coat behind for a leather apron.
Bronstein worked at the museum from 1980 until 1985, which he described as his apprenticeship period, and then decided to go into blacksmithing for himself. But he needed to find his own style and not just recreate colonial pieces like the average blacksmith.
“The problem was all blacksmiths were doing the same thing,” he said. “I realized if I was going to make a living, I had to start doing things differently. I started making lighting, vases and clocks. I started thinking what might someone in the 20th, now the 21st, century need my 3,000-year-old craft for?”
“Typcially when people come to my shop in Marshfield, they’re expecting this real old-timey sensability. And it exists there, but there’s also a very contemporary sense to my design, I think. I’m very much part of the 21st century and want my designs to reflect that. I like using this ancient technique in a contemporary setting.”
While he was finding his own design sense, Bronstein started making menorahs. Bronstein, a man of Jewish faith, said when he made his first menorah in 1985, people thought he was nuts.
“At the time, Hanukkah menorahs were brass and shiny and had more of a 1960s design aesthetic,” he said. “I was doing something very different and it worked really well. I’ve sold a ton.”
Bronstein said he now sells around 100 menorahs a year and his works can be found in collections such as the Jewish Museum in New York.
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