Butterfly Roses by Audra Draper, MS You may click on any image in this exhibit to see a higher-resolution version. The high-res photos average about 450K. Each larger photo will open in a new window. You may need to disable any pop-up blocking software you have. Where were we? Oh, yes. My friend Audra Draper. It was in June of 2001. I had just boarded a Delta Airlines flight from Portland, Oregon to Atlanta, Georgia to attend the 2001 Bladeshow. I had heard, months earlier, that a woman had passed the ABS Master Smith's test... the first to do so. But I'd not heard of her. I was assigned an aisle seat in the very last row. There was already a man and a lady in the other two seats. As we settled it, I noticed that they were looking at pictures of knives and talking about making them. This, I assumed, must be a knifemaker and his wife going to Bladeshow. So, I introduced myself. I was surprised to learn that this couple was not a knifemaker and his wife on their way to Bladeshow. No. It was, in fact, a knifemaker and her husband on their way to Bladeshow. And that is how I met Audra Draper, the first woman ABS Mastersmith. It's a long flight from Portland to Atlanta, basically all the way across the country. And, in the back row of that aircraft, we forged not a knife but a friendship that endures to this day. I've come to know both her and her husband Mike -- who is now an up-and-coming knifemaker by his own rights -- as friendly, outgoing, and adventuresome. I've also come to know their three children. I've even taught a couple of them balisong manipulation. I'll let you in on a bit of a secret: A lot of ABS Master Smiths actually annoy me. They're talented people; you have to be to pass the ABS's demanding tests. But, once they've passed the test and earned the title, a lot of them seem to relax, to fall into making the same sorts of knives over and over again knowing that, because they're an ABS Master Smith, their knives will sell and they'll have a tidy income. I've talked to some about doing something different -- maybe even making a balisong- style knife -- and been told, "Why would I do that when, in the same amount of time, I can make two or three of these knives that I know I can sell for a good price?" It's hard to argue with that on economic terms. But maybe you'd do it for the challenge, to try something new. Others say, "I'm not sure I can do that and make a knife that'd be up to my usual quality standards. I know I can make my regular knives to my standards because I've done it a thousand times before." True. Maybe the first one wouldn't be perfect. Maybe you would have to try a few iterations to learn how to do it. But you would learn. Nobody is born knowing how to forge a wonderful knife. No. That has to be learned. And the first and necessary step toward learning is wanting to learn, wanting to try something new, accepting a challenge. And yet, once awarded Master Smith status, many seem to loose that thirst. As I got to know Audra, I learned that she's not like a lot of ABS Master Smiths. She is not defined by the MS letters that she'd earned to adorn the end of her name. No. She is defined by the Audra that adorns the first part of her name. She is Audra. When I asked her to make a balisong-style knife for me, I expected her to politely decline.... all the usual excuses. She, like most ABS Mastersmiths, was not know for folding knives. But, I was, at the same time, not surprised when Audra eagerly agreed to take this challenge on. She has since made several balisong-style knives for me and a growing number for other collectors too. Her latest is in this box. Would you like to see it?