Thursday, 13 June 2013

Good news, bad news and no news...

So it's been a while since the last update and a lot's happened. I finished a log basket which was commissioned by one of the owners of The Line Gallery in Linlithgow. I think it turned out pretty well and I'll hopefully get some pictures of it with some logs in it at some point!

The bad news is that I've damaged my arm quite a bit so I won't be forging for a while. Basically I have a cyst in my hand as well as soft tissue damage from a dislocated finger a few weeks back and because I was working hard without the use of a power hammer, I started getting severe pain through my elbow and arm. I was told it was tennis elbow, but have since had a second opinion and it's not tennis elbow, just muscle and nerve damage. I've had a few physio sessions which helped and have had ultrasound on my arm and had electric pulses sent through my feels a bit strange, but takes some of the pain away.

Anyhoo, while all this was happening I applied for a blacksmithing job at Warwickshire College and got an interview, which was very exciting. The interview itself was good although I think I could have done a lot better in the practical forging exercise...I'm going to blame my arm for that...
The staff were friendly, the workshops were great as was the rest of the campus and it's in a beautiful area of the country so I'm glad I got to visit. I also got to meet Michelle Parker (who was one of the members of staff interviewing me) who is a world famous smith, so I was a little more nervous than I thought I would be.
Here's her web link -
Overall it was a good day for me, and I made it back to the airport in time for my flight back to Scotland.

Since then I have had no maybe I didn't get the job, but at least I got through to the interview stage. I've been keeping busy at the college cleaning and tempering tools, setting up a new fly press and finishing the gardening work at the back of the workshop. It looked a bit overgrown so myself and my work colleague decided to do some tidying and planted some flowers to make the place look a bit more colourful.

Now I'm packing for my journey to the Isle of Lewis to start my job at Loch Croistean Cafe and move into my awesome caravan!

I'll leave you with a picture of the log basket and will update soon with pictures of the work in progress if I can get an Internet connection in the middle of nowhere...

Take care!

Friday, 17 May 2013

Forging a Forest...

So after a wee wait for some final measurements, I was able to forge out the rest of the curtain rail brackets I was working on around Easter time. I really enjoyed this project and it was exciting to work on something that I've never done before. I don't usually work with flat bar because I've never needed to, so it was great to experiment a bit and see what I could do.
I went with a range of designs which are sort of stylised tree forms which I think worked quite well and it's brought on some ideas for other products which I hope to make sometime in the near future. I will add some photographs at the end of this post, so check them out and if you have time, let me know what you think!

I'm really enjoying my work at the moment and the group of students which are in at the moment are a great laugh and I like being able to spend a wee bit of time each day giving them a hand with their work.

I have also nearly finished a log basket that I was commissioned to make a while ago, and all it needs is a few support bars and then it's ready for cleaning and finishing.

For now though I am taking a wee break as I've injured my right arm...I hope it's nothing serious but I think it's better to wait and see what the doctor says on Tuesday rather than risk damaging it further.
I went to see Kim Richey play in Cafe Borsa in Dundee and she was amazing! I really love her music and she's one of the artists who inspired me to start playing guitar and sing, so it was great to see her again. I saw her about four or five years ago in Edinburgh and I bought all of the albums she had on sale. I got her to sign them, but she kept getting my name wrong on all but one, so this time when I got her new album I got her to write it down first then sign the album...she was like 'Are you sure that's how you spell it?'. I really wanted to say to her that that was exactly what she had said a few years back, but I was too nervous!

Anyhoo, it was great to have a break from work, but next week I will be back on track and get stuck into making!!

Have a great day and if you have time, check out this link to Kim Richey's website!

 Music of the day is from the album 'Thorn in my Heart' by Kim Richey, so give this song a listen if you have the chance!

Saturday, 30 March 2013

Quick update...

So it's now officially the Easter holidays and as of today I will be away from the forge for two weeks!! I'm happy to have a holiday, but also can't wait to get back to the forge and continue the projects I've been working on. It does give me time to work on some other things I've been meaning to do for a while now, like sort out my workshop and finish some work on my violin which has been waiting for a year to be finished!

The curtain rail brackets I mentioned in the last post have been coming along nicely and all I really need to do is figure out which designs work best together and then have a final check with the clients. I made up a few different versions of the ends of the brackets which will be fixed to the roof.
As you can see I've just been experimenting with splitting the flat bar, forging out tendrils and then working them into scrolls. I'm not sure how many tendrils work best or how thick they need to be...I think the biggest one in this picture needs to have thicker tendrils, but I might leave it for now and carry on with some design sketches for the rest of the brackets and see where that leads.
I have six brackets to make but may have to make another two for extra support at the walls where the curtain will gather. The two on the right are made out of smaller section, but I decided that they didn't quite look right. I think I might make them into hooks or hinges at some point so the material doesn't go to waste.

So that's what I've been working on this week!

I hope that you all remember that the clocks spring forward tonight...

Have a great Easter Sunday, take care and I hope you have a lovely day wherever you are :)

P.S.The music of the morning for me was a cover of 'Walk through the World' which is a great acoustic track to get this sunny day started, so give it a listen here if you have time!

Monday, 25 March 2013


Apparently it's Spring, but as far as I'm concerned the snow outside suggests Winter hasn't realised it's nearly April...

I've been really busy for about a month now with little time to think about writing anything. I said goodbye to the last group of students which was quite sad, but hopefully they all go on to do well. I ended up covering the class for several days and got to know them quite well by the end of the course. I also went to Ireland for the first time in my life, and it was absolutely lovely. I did a bit of teaching with the engineering/agricultural students who I've never met before and they were all great. They needed to make a pry bar and a chisel and learn how to temper the metal.

I admit I was a little nervous at the thought of teaching ten students I had never seen on my own for the day, but I got in a little earlier than usual, set up all the fires, got materials and tools ready and then had a wee practice of making the tools myself.

I actually find it quite fun doing demonstrations because once I get into the swing of things (excuse the pun...) I like being able to talk about what I'm doing.
It teaches the students what they need to know and gives me a bit of confidence in what I'm doing because I realise that, yes, I do know what I'm doing after all.

I had three different groups over two weeks and had no problems at all apart from the odd fire exploding over me. Luckily I'm pretty quick on my feet so no burns to report!

I've been working on some designs in the evenings after work so I'll be able to make a few samples then get started on the final design after the go ahead from the clients.

Today I was working on my own projects and has been the best day in a long time thanks to my wonderful colleague. After spending the day doing some samples for a set of curtain rail brackets, we headed out to the site to check some dimensions and figure out where the best fixings were. The visit went well as the clients have a better idea of what's possible and I have a clear idea of what the final design is going to be. (I will post some pictures of the work in progress when I have a spare moment which should be soon because I am off for two weeks on Friday! I will also finally post some pictures of one of my favourite commissions to date.)
After heading back towards Linlithgow, I was invited in for a meal en route, and how could I refuse after a hard days work? The food was excellent, the company delightful and the home was charming, cosy and every bit as lovely and quirky as its inhabitants.

Tomorrow I'll start work on one of the brackets and try and make some more small pieces of work to sell over the Easter break. The next lot of students are now in their second week so the workshop is a lot warmer during the day which is just as well because I think this cold spell is going to last for a while.

Take care and thanks for reading!

Thursday, 14 February 2013

A day for the heart...

So it's Valentines day and I thought I should share some of the pictures I took a couple of weeks ago of the hearts I've been making. I started making them as tree decorations before Christmas time and sold quite a number at a few markets, so I thought I would make some more! I've made well over a hundred of these little beauties and they are all slightly different sizes and designs because I used scraped material from the students to make them.
Happy Valentines day everyone and I hope you had a lovely day!

Monday, 11 February 2013

A very good blacksmith birthday!

So normally I wouldn't say anything about today being my birthday, but it was a very good day! I went to work feeling a little lonely, but was greatly cheered by my lovely boss who always manages to make me smile. I got some of my own work done in the morning which consisted of straightening twenty bow shackles, cutting off the ends and re-forging them into useful, 8mm lengths of material! I live by the saying 'waste not, want not' so I like to re-use as much of the 'scrap' material as I can.

After that I made some tools and then went for a lovely walk around lunch time. Then I was looking after the students for the afternoon which was great because they are all really nice and are working very hard at the moment to finish off folio pieces and practice for their exam! I really enjoy being able to help people with their forging and it gives me a great sense of pride when I can see the students making such excellent progress!

After a long and eventful day I finally got back to the house to find a few birthday cards at the door and then a multitude of texts and messages from friends who I miss very much!

Thanks to everyone who made this day so lovely!

Friday, 8 February 2013

Summer, Autumn and Winter 2012

So after New Designers I packed up my things and headed out of Hereford to work at my summer job on the Isle of Lewis. It was very hard to say goodbye to all the wonderful friends I made (and all my houseplants) as well as the great tutors, but I will keep in touch with everyone as we all try to move on and use what we've learned to set up our workshops or start our own businesses!
I feel very privilaged to have been able to complete the blacksmithing course at Hereford and work alongside such great characters who have taught me so much and really inspired me to work harder and learn as much as I can about the art of blacksmithing. I think it was a fantastic experience and I feel that my confidence has grown so much in a relatively short amount of time, so thank you to all who helped me along the way, you know who you are!!

I made my way straight to the island and set up in my wee caravan for a month before travelling back to Hereford for graduation! It was a great day, although I only had enough time to graduate, say a few hello's and then a few more goodbyes so I could catch my flight back to Stornoway.
I think the highlight of that day was when John Makepeace (who was made a Fellow of the university earlier that day) shook my hand on stage and said that he loved my work and was excited to see what I would do next. I had been to a seminar he was running a few months before and I was awed by the quality of his work, so to get a compliment from him made my day that much more special!
If you don't know his work, you should have a look here

After travelling back to Stornoway I worked for another few months then headed back to mainland Scotland for a wee while. Then I was off again to Denmark to look at a couple of forges where I might have the chance to work for a while.
Let me just say that Denmark is very...flat! There are hardly any hills which is very strange after coming through the Highlands of Scotland!! It is a very beautiful landscape though, and I must say the architecture I found was absolutely amazing.
While I was there I went to quite a few different places and all of the wee towns were very quaint and had cobbled streets and very old buildings. I think that there is a lot more 'craft' work going on over there because if you walk through any town you will find a blacksmith or a woodcarvers workshop which just doesn't happen in Scotland.

Anyway, I saw quite a few places which were very interesting and I even got a quick tutorial on how to make a special punch which will be useful for hammer making! I only had a short amount of time there so it was a shame I didn't get enough time to do some real forging but it was great to see the places I had researched.

After coming back from Denmark I started to work at my old college and get on with some commissions and my own portfolio/gallery work. Since the end of the summer/early Autumn I have been working happily and will continue to work there until I feel I should move on.
I managed to make it to two Christmas markets after a horrible week battling illness and made quite a healthy profit selling little decorations and I also got a few commissions. In all they were very enjoyable and I will definitely try to get a stand next year at both of the markets.

So far 2013 has been great and I hope to update the blog a lot more frequently, so watch this space! I have recently been working with the freelance artist Michael Doig to give my blog a more professional look, so if you want to check out his work, here is the link

I will add photographs of the work I've been doing after graduating in the next post so take care for now and have a good day!

Thursday, 7 February 2013

London - New Designers!

Okay, so I'm going to apologise for not updating this blog in so long, but I have been here, there and everywhere since June!

Firstly there was the trip to New Designers in London which was absolutely incredible. Basically all of us made our own way to London to set up in one of the biggest design exhibitions for graduating students in the country. It was a great opportunity and I for one was very excited to travel to London, having never been before.

The day of the set up was pretty stressful and there was a lot to organise but everything turned out okay and we made rotas so that every day each person had a two hour shift. I have to admit I did not enjoy the heat in the building because there was no air conditioning in our area! Luckily the business design centre is in a pretty good location so during the week I went exploring every day using the underground.

Every morning started at 6am in a lovely wee hostel which I shared with three of my friends. I was out the door by half past and on the underground by 6.45am...
I made a plan at the start of the week to visit as many places as possible and used a map to figure out which line I had to go on and where to change. It turns out it's a lot easier to navigate than I first thought.

I went for a walk in Hyde park every morning and had breakfast before heading out to one of the locations on my list which included the Royal Albert Hall, Kew Gardens, The Tower of London, St. Paul's Cathedral and lots more! Every day I took a handful of my contact cards and handed them around places which I thought might be interested in my work, including the Royal Albert Hall where I managed to get a full tour. This was probably the best place I looked around while in London because I have always wanted to visit but have never had the time. The interior was incredible and I learnt a lot about the history of the building which was very interesting.
My second favourite place had to be St. Paul's Cathedral because I love the architecture of old cathedrals and churches as well as all of the ironwork. I also went on a tour there but this time the information was on an ipod! Basically you could walk around the whole building and select the area you wanted to know more about and then listen to the recording. It was a beautiful day when I visited, so the view from the top of the roof was incredible. I also counted the steps on the way to the cathedral and the way back, and in total I climbed over 3000 steps that day!!!

When I was on my shifts at the Business Design Centre, I had a lot of good feedback from everyone who took an interest in my work and made quite a few contacts at the exhibition. I also managed to get a few commissions from people and was accepted into the Society of Designer Craftsmen, so on the whole it was a very good experience.

Here are some pictures from London and thanks to everyone who was involved in the exhibition and made it happen!