Friday, March 16, 2018
Latin American El Oso Navaja
El Oso Navaja - This is my favorite kind of project! A life story concept piece; where I am told the story of the recipients life, his likes, his hobbies, his passions - and through my understanding of techniques and materials and my love of studying culture I design a functional piece of art that tells this story at a glance.
In this case "El Oso" (Spanish for the Bear) is a sage of a man that has been a father figure and mentor for many of those around him. He has spent the majority of his life and career working against Latin American Gangs and Cartels in the South West United States. He loves Latin American Culture and participates in his community. He is heavily involved in his local motorcycle/ hot rod club.
Based on this story, I initially remembered my trip to Mexico City a few years ago - I had loved the the extremes of gritty utilitarian and old world finery: things like ornately hand forged window bars, silver filigree handled butcher knives, and grand stone castles pock marked with century old bullet holes. My first thoughts of El Oso were of Ursus (Latin for large Bear) and liked the idea of a heavier blade like a machete or bolo, but with further thinking and research I thought this was the wrong direction. Unlike Kodiaks and other large bears we have further north, Mexican and Latin American bears are small. The folk motifs of these southern bears are their claws and their conning - thus I followed the more claw like Spanish Scorpiono blade.
I also did some looking into Vaquero's (Mexican riders, yes of horses not motorcycles, but anyways) and ended up in the same place
The Spanish Navaja knife - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Navaja
Once I had found the Navaja and the direction I was going, I discovered a historical reference that tied the style to Gangs in Mexico during the American occupation after the Mexican-American War in 1846. Navaja knives have a ratcheting blade with an external spring that makes a archetypal sound on opening and closing the blade - know as the "carraca" it is likened to a rattle snake shaking its tail. An American Officer with the US Dragoons stationed in Mexico City in 1847 said "In the darkness of the street we could hear the rattle snakes of the their knives opening before the fight broke out"
For Materials I choose; Red Brass, Filigree, Cow Horn, Phosphor Bronze, and polished Steel. Though keeping the lines traditional to Navaja's I beefed up the handle for a more American feel. The blade I had Copperrein etch with the quintessential flame motif often seen in the Hot Rod community, then I aged the entire knife for an "old world" feel. The knife totals 9 inches when open and just over 5 inches when closed.
This has been a great project for a great man! Thanks for looking!
~ Iron John Logan