Mareko Maumasi: Forged in Folded Steel
He found his calling in the fiery flames of blade smithing and became a master of stunning hand-forged blades.
Many years ago, there stood a child on the banks of the Puget Sound, the salty sea breeze fanning his creative embers. Born with the innate desire to craft and build, he made many things from a very young age. As he looked out across the Sound, he didn’t know the kind of Kill Bill ancient blade master and epic artisan he would become. If he did, he would’ve smiled like a knowing Beatrix Kiddo.
How Awesome Began
Mareko Maumasi grew up in Washington State and, like many other kids, liked to build stuff. He was a budding artist who loved crafting things with his bare hands. It just came naturally to him. By his teen years the creative embers led him to cooking and he opted for a career in the restaurant industry. Some years later, while concentrating on his food craft, he met a man named Bob Kramer who would fan Maumasi’s creative embers into an inferno of metal artistry. (For the sake of emphasizing the importance of this man’s influence on Mareko, let’s refer to Kramer as Obi-wan.)
Obi-wan showed Maumasi the ancient art of bladesmithing and pattern-welded Damascus steel; a Celtic and Viking weapon-making tradition dating back to 200-300 AD. But much like an apprentice, Maumasi began at the bottom, sweeping floors and performing other Padawan-type duties.
Obi-wan Kramer saw Maumasi’s dedication and taught him how to resin-cast the mosaic knife pins for the blade handles. Then, he taught the now-rekindled-artist how to grind blades, sculpt handles and finally, how to fold metals into a Damascus knife; layering different types of steel into one gorgeously patterned blade. Over the next three years Maumasi mastered the ancient art of folding, twisting and layering the steel. He learned how each blow of the hammer adds to the intricate pattern of the blade. His creative embers now had the glow of a new career.
The Startup Forge
In 2012, he made a short side move back into the restaurant industry, following the seductive food sirens to Denver. He quickly realized this was no longer his gig. Bladesmithing had cut his ties to all but this ancient art. Maumasi then returned to his beloved Washington State to start Maumasi Fire Arts. He partnered with fellow bladesmith and ABS Master Smith, David Lisch, trading skills and running an IndieGoGo campaign to raise funds for his new forge.
Once established, Mareko wasted no time blowing the world’s mind with his talent. Using designs that had long been languishing in his notebook, he won many competitive awards including the coveted People’s Choice Award at the 2015 Seattle International Knife Show. He was featured on the History Channel’s Forged in Fire and won episode 1 of season 4.
The Dream Team
In 2017, having solidified his name as a bladesmithing master, Maumasi was invited to join Dragon’s Breath Forge in Wolcott, Connecticut. The visionary in him couldn’t pass up the opportunity to join forces with the other smiths, all masters in specific metal arts.
He packed up his wife and son, and traveled 3,000 miles to the East Coast. There he found fellow Forged in Fire alumni Jamie Lundell, maker of Scandinavian war weapons he likes to call “Viking bling,” Matt Parkinson, who also recreates stuff Thor would love, and finally Peter Swarz-Burt, expert in wootz or crucible steel. Basically, a bunch of guys you want to buy a beer for and try not to agitate.
Now a force to be reckoned with in the bladesmithing world, this crew offers both public and private classes to any blade maker wannabeneeding an Obi-wan. They also sell wares any warrior would be proud to carry, ironically through an Etsy shop.
Goals and Dreams
Maumasi is currently settled into his new role, operating Maumasi Fire Arts. He and his family moved back to Washington State this year so are no longer a part of Dragon’s Breath Forge. His dream for the future is a non-profit cooperative workspace to teach anyone “willing to work in a safe, respectful manner.” Seems like a reasonable request for a setting with a bunch of guys folding hunks of sharp, blazing steel into enormous blades.
He is also a bit of a philosopher, giving thoughtful appreciation to the overarching legacy his work will have on not just his life but the art form as a whole. Maumasi values the experiences and inspiration others can bring to the table to create new ideas using ancient metal artistry. His personal mission is to create meaningful objects full of history and nostalgia.
After his apprenticeship and very solid beginning with Obi-wan Kramer , followed by developing ideas with others, Maumasi has been able to design his own unique contributions to the history of bladesmithing. There’s no limit to what we can expect to see from him in the future, and it’s exciting to think about.
Each of his creations is of exceptional high-quality costing in the multi-thousands, the kind you pass down for generations. Be sure to check out his magnificent blades at https://www.maumasifirearts.com/.
May the glowing embers always be with you, Mr. Maumasi.