However, there will be one exception to Martin's Austrian obligations. He will conduct a workshop at the fifth annual Grand Masters Program, held in Emporia, Kansas, at Glendo, Corp., the leading provider of engraving tools and supplies. Martin will lead a five-day course in engraving, which is limited to a fortunate 12 students. Teaching the Glendo Grand Master Program places Martin in the rarefied company of past Grand Masters such as Ken Hunt, Winston Churchill and Philippe Grifnée.
While Martin prepares for the Grand Masters Program, he sets aside time for his current 2009 engraving assignment. It is a bespoke, hand-built, sidelock built in the shop of Lechner & Jungl. The side-by-side will receive deep-relief engraving on the bolsters complemented by the lighter and more ornate Italian Bulino style game scenes.
Martin's rare talent in combining different engraving techniques has ratcheted up demand for his extraordinary art. And while he is quite passionate about engraving shotguns and rifles, he believes that his true calling remains as a teacher at the 134-year-old Higher Technical School in Steyr.
Martin strongly relates to the role of mentor to aspiring engravers. At 14, he felt a strong need to do something independent of his father, who was an artist and painter, although he was not drawn to anything in particular.
He did enjoy their weekend hunting trips and began to appreciate how a rifle or shotgun could combine functionality with engraving. Finally, the father took the boy to an engravers workshop and Martin was smitten by seeing bright red sealing wax cement and the shiny steel side plate on it.
Shortly afterwards, he left home to start his vocational education at the Fachschule für Gestaltendes Metallhandwerk in Steyr. After four years, he graduated with distinction.
After that, he attended Ferlach to refine his engraving skills. Martin considers himself fortunate to learn his trade at that school from the great Hans Singer, who Martin called "the finest engraver at that time in Austria"
In 1980, Martin obtained his Masters Degree as an engraver - passing the state exam test with distinction. When Martin returned from military service, Singer invited Martin to join him at his own engraving shop. Martin credits Singer as being "the engraver that had the most influence on me."
Working beside Singer, he gained the opportunity to see the Master at work. Martin adorned the magnificent shotguns, rifles and drilling long guns from now-defunct Franz Sodia of Ferlach.
As Ferlach's largest gun maker, Franz Sodia helped establish the deep-relief hunting scenes that have become associated with the Austrian Ferlach school of engraving. These scenes generally depict stags, boars and oak leafs in heavy and bold styles. While the Ferlach school of engraving has fallen out of fashion, it helped Martin distinguish himself as a torch bearer of the Austrian tradition.
Martin left Singer's shop after several years to set up his own establishment. From Ferlach, he broadened his abilities to more delicate types of engraving that appeared on British and Italian shotguns.
Whereas the Ferlach school involves the removal of metal, Martin's new inspirations required more delicate methods of line cutting. The finer detail that results from this approach allows engravers to depict people, dogs and birds with photographic details and portrait qualities using only hand tools and powerful magnification.
Depictions of living things can also be surrounded with ornate scrolls of infinite detail on the entire action, trigger guard, grip caps and even the barrels if the customer desires that would rival classical masterworks.
He accepted a one-year position, where he had the opportunity to teach engraving in the Ferlach school. He discovered that teaching - the interaction between teacher and student - was stimulating and engaging. The role of a teacher also presented him with a unique opportunity to pass along his knowledge to new generations of engravers.
By the mid-1980s, Martin wanted to travel to the U.S. and England to further develop his skills, but circumstances would not permit. That's when he applied for a job at the Higher Technical School. Most of his time is consumed with teaching, leaving precious few hours for his actual engraving.
Over the years, Martin's astonishing talent has led to select commissions and publication of his work in leading books and magazines worldwide.
A shotgun engraved by Martin Strolz is a work of art and an heirloom that only a few privileged few can ever own.
A-4400 Steyr, Austria