Damascus Steel

A few years ago I first learned of early Damascus steel production in a lecture I attended by archaeo-metallurgist, Dr. Gill Juleff, at the University of Exeter. Dr. Juleff, her team of students, and her Sri Lankan partners, have demonstrated the existence of a thriving steel industry from the first millennium AD, with archeological digs and experiments with monsoon-driven smelting furnaces in Samanalawewa, Sri Lanka. This steel was much sought after during the Iron Age and beyond, and continues to be highly prized not only for its strength, but its beauty.

Illustrated in the photograph above, is a detail of a beautiful knife I purchased for a dear one from the Santa Fe Stoneworks, a few years back. He uses it every day as a rigger in the film industry. The wallpaper to this website’s home page is actually a close-up of the knife’s texture, a five-layer Japanese Damascus steel. If you are wondering how such a beautiful material is made, here’s a fascinating video by a young metallurgist named, well, Alec Steele! Not related I must add, I find it amusing that he would be drawn to metallurgy. I’ve always liked my last name, despite nicknames such as ‘Stainless Steele’, or ‘Woman of Steele’. Since attaining my doctorate I am Dr. Steele, a name that sounds as if it is from a James Bond movie, or so I’m told! Alas.

When I decided to amalgamate my websites into one I wanted to find an image that would best describe a style of collegiality, discipline, and professionalism that I aspire to. I also wanted to have something that would be a play on my name. Somehow the idea of Damascene steel with its flexibility, strength, beauty, and purposefulness, spoke to me. Highly practical, born of experimentation and discipline, this gorgeous material forged with care, perhaps best articulates how I approach each and every project I do, whether it be editing, writing, designing, researching, analyzing, teaching, or collaborating.

Like Damascene steel, my practice is the product of many years of trial and error, including 25 years as a professional editor, researcher (with a Master of Library and Information Science), writer and analyst. In this time I have advised executives and engineers, students and colleagues. I thus see the art of crafting words and images not solely as a search for perfection, but one of process, experimentation, and, ultimately, one of lasting beauty.