Jože Plečnik, the grandfather of Slovenian architecture, once wrote the following in a letter to master artist blacksmith Joža Bertoncelj of Kropa:
I know that it is possible to create very beautiful, noble things from iron, but fashion is a less decisive factor than money.
For centuries, Kropa’s iron workers and blacksmiths made nails intended for foreign markets, while they saved their more artistic expressions for themselves. Wrought iron shutters and doors, window grills, lamps and door handles, all made under the hammers of unknown blacksmiths, adorned the houses of Kropa.
The demise of the classic ironworks in the second half of the 19th century brought about the first organised efforts to train and cultivate local master artist blacksmiths. In addition to training centres outside the country, an artist blacksmith school operated in Kropa until 1954. The department of artistic blacksmithing established within the Kropa Zadruga nail manufacturing co-operative was reformed in 1956 into the independent company UKO – Artistic Metal Craft of Kropa.
Today, artistic blacksmithing in Kropa aspires to keep up with stylistic trends in an effort to modernise the medium. Through collaborations between designers and blacksmiths uniting tradition with contemporary ideas, the art strives to move beyond its archaic stereotype towards newer possibilities, enabling it to stand alongside the other arts.