850 Business Magazine- Spring 2018

Page 67

Gulf, Franklin + Wakulla Counties


You Should’ve Seen It

DAMSEL IN DISTRESS This buckle depicts a trout rising to devour a damselfly.

Apalachicola resident Mark Goodwin discusses art and fish By Kim Harris Thacker



all, with his ginger hair pulled back in a long ponytail, metal artist Mark Goodwin looks every bit the Scots-Irishman. It doesn’t come as a surprise, then, to learn about the events that led him to the forge in the first place. “About 10 years ago, I bought a kilt,” he says. “And when you get a kilt, you have to have a belt, a buckle, a sporran, special socks, flashes and the bonnet or hat. One thing that I looked for and couldn’t find was an artisan-made belt buckle. All I found was factory made: cheap metal, chrome plated. So I decided to make a buckle for myself.” Before that time, Goodwin’s experience with molten metal had been minimal: just light repairs and some brazing. “Certainly nothing artistic,” he said. “But I made a kilt buckle, and then I made two or three and then people started to ask me where I got them. One thing led to another, and now I’m selling them around the world.” Goodwin first cuts out the shape of the animal that will be featured on the buckle. Usually the animal is made from nickel, but sometimes it’s red brass or copper. “Then I solder the animal to the brass — it’s not glued on,” Goodwin says. “It should never come off, as long as it’s never exposed to more than 400 degrees. If you’re wearing your belt at 400 degrees, you’ve got other troubles.”

The other product Goodwin crafts is a more artistic buckle, made from five different metals: bronze, copper, pewter, brass and nickel. The front of each buckle features a bronze animal in a field of pewter, the back is brass and the attachments are nickel. Any gemstones on the front are set into copper bezels. “I made a trout rising to eat a piece of turquoise — you know how a damselfly is a turquoise color — and I call it, ‘Having a Damsel for Dinner,’” Goodwin said. Goodwin likes to work with a specific alloy of pewter that looks like sterling silver. Because alloys are combinations of metals, the pewter Goodwin uses doesn’t have a single melting point; rather, it has a melting range. “In the process of assembling all these different metals, the pewter has to be soldered to the brass, and the nickel or bronze has to be soldered into the pewter,” Goodwin says. “You use two different solders for that. So you’ve got three or four metals, two solders and about 30 seconds to make it all come together.” If it sounds dangerous, that’s because it is. “You have to keep things dry. Anything wet will make steam, and that will create a bubble that will pop and spew molten metal, like a volcano,” Goodwin said. Most of his customers come to him via the web. He has a website with an online store, and a couple of well-known fish blogs, including MidCurrent, also mention his work from time to time. In addition, the Bonefish and Tarpon Trust carries his buckles in their online store.

Goodwin has buckles featuring bonefish, pompano, permit, redfish, tarpon, salmon, bass, trout, flying ducks, pheasants, swimming geese, quail and deer antlers. He pauses to consider one with a brass turkey track — “or it could be a quail or pheasant track,” he allowed, “because they’re all in the same family. The only difference is size, not shape.” That’s the veterinarian coming out in Goodwin. “I was in a small-animal practice for two years, and then I went back to graduate school and got a masters degree in population medicine and a PhD in veterinary pathology,” he says. “I did some teaching, but my primary responsibilities were diagnostics and applied research.” Goodwin especially knows his fish. He and his wife, Carol, have fished all around the world: for pike in Ireland, salmon in Alaska and peacock bass in South America. In 1992, they were featured in TIME magazine, in a piece about frontier fishing. Recently, they traveled to Antarctica, and this summer, they will fish on the west coast of Norway and in Iceland and the Arctic. Perhaps, when the winter months have come once again and Goodwin is back in his workshop, he’ll craft a belt buckle that pays tribute to the fish he caught on his trip to the Norwegian Sea. After all, every kilt-wearer ought to have a “codpiece.”

To learn more about Mark Goodwin’s artisan belt buckles and his and Carol’s adventures in fishing, visit Mark’s website, tygerforge.com.

850 Business Magazine


SPRING­­­ 2018



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