Tuesday, 7 July 2015


So this morning at physio I was allowed to hop and, wait for it...JOG ON A TINY TRAMPOLINE!!! This is a pretty big step (no pun intended) for me considering I haven't been allowed to do any high impact exercise since breaking my ankle in February...

Anyhoo, I feel I have a lot to say to update you on what's been happening since my last post.
I'm still working away at the forge three days a week and attending a special ankle group twice a week with a fantastic physiotherapist who is unfortunately leaving next week because she got a lovely new job at another hospital...
I'm very happy for her but can't help feeling a little sad that she's leaving.

I'll tell you all about what I've been up to at work, but for now I want to share some other news.

I have had an amazing weekend up in Inverness where I saw Karine Polwart (a fantastic and highly praised Scottish singer/songwriter) performing a solo set which was absolutely beautiful. She usually performs in a trio but it was really interesting to hear her singing and playing on her own. After the performance I had the chance to chat with her and then found out there was a short songwriting course the next morning. Of course I thought it was full, but ended up checking anyway and found there were still tickets available, so after a long, long, long time of consideration (I'm very nervous about things like this) I bought a ticket and then didn't get much sleep because I was too excited...
On the Saturday morning I went along and it was amazing. I came away with a lot of tips on how to be a bit more confident and how to collect ideas and information to create songs. I think the best quote which has stuck with me is 'Pursue the ideas that make you care'. I really liked that and since the weekend I feel re-inspired to start (and more importantly for me, finish) writing my own songs.
I think my problem is that I begin an idea and then get disheartened and feel it isn't good enough and I give up. I store it away unfinished and somewhere at the back of my mind it's just waiting there...another unfinished project amongst hundreds. So my goal is to start sorting through all of my notes and finish at least two songs by the end of the month.
I feel this is pretty reasonable although since Saturday I've already written down three new ideas which consist of about three lines and moved on to a fourth...but I'm hopeful I now have the right motivation to finish them!
If you have the time, check out Karine's website here.

So...on to what's been happening at the forge.
I did a couple of pretty small projects recently which were nice and simple. This is a tool for stretching canvases which basically involved a little bit of welding and I got some practice at using the tig welder (which I don't use very often).

The next project was a little wall mounted bracket for a chandelier. It involved tiny forging and for the wrap I used a length of tig wire which turned out very nicely.

I also made a hand rail which was pretty hard to do with a sore ankle. I didn't realise how much pressure goes through your ankle when using your arms to create a simple square twist...
For now I only have some pictures of the scroll ends.

Next are a few pictures of a butterfly and feathers for one of the bigger projects I helped with. This is now finished and will hopefully be installed in Motherwell tomorrow (so fingers crossed for some sunshine please!!). I will add some photographs of the finished pieces in the next post.

The butterfly was pretty difficult to photograph after it was in place, but hopefully the last two photographs give you an idea of where it's sitting. Here are a few photographs of the work in progress...

This is the lecturn which will hold a book of memories for a dimentia garden in Motherwell. It was all designed by Jim and I made the leaves, feather and forged the wings for the butterfly. I'll add more photographs of the finished piece in the next post so you can see it after it's been galvanised, painted and installed. We were also commissioned to make a bird bath so I'll get photographs of that as well.

We're currently working together on some pieces for the Boarders Council and Jim's been finishing off some gates which will be installed after we both get back from a wee Summer holiday. (I'm away to the Isle of Lewis to work at the Hebridean Celtic Festival which will be a first for me! I've been many times but never been behind the stage!!)

So...I have a lot more to say but I'll leave that for the next post. For now, I'm feeling more positive than I have done in months and actually feel like I'm making progress!
Thank you and take care of yourself!

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Back to Work!!!

So as the title of this post would suggest, I am finally back to work! This week I'm in every other day so I'm not on my feet to much and it's been fine. Today was one of my 'rest' days, and I actually went for a walk even though it was raining. It wasn't a very long walk, and I'm still on crutches, but it made me happy to be outside and hopeful that I will heal faster.

So anyway, back onto the exciting blacksmith stuff...
I finally have a photograph of the finished 'Cornalee' project that I had been working on alongside Jim until I hurt my ankle!!!! This piece is a sculptural welcome sign to a new housing estate which Jim designed using inspiration from patterns found in textiles.

I'll start with some photographs of  the individual components.
Here's what we started with...

These parts were laser cut from sheet metal using Jim's design drawings and sent out to us. I then dressed off any sharp edges and made sure the overall shape was smooth with no sharp angles.
Then I was tasked with bending different sizes of flat bar round these teardrop/flame shapes using the flypress.

This took a while, and the finished pieces took up quite a bit of space although not as much as the rest of the sculpture...

Then Jim designed and made a set of stamps to use in the flypress so we could punch them onto the teardrops. The one shown below is one of my favourites.

I think I've already shown a picture of the sheets that have been stamped so I'll move on to what the base of this piece looks like. It looks deceptively light. Let me assure you there is no one part of this piece which can be considered light!! (Except the bolts...)

So once all the teardrops were stamped, everything started to come together.

This was probably the most exciting point because until then all the components were separate so you couldn't really get a feel for what the finished piece was really going to look like. I also realised very quickly just how big and heavy it was going to be...

So after this stage all the other parts were welded together and put into position and finally we set the whole thing up...

One of the most challenging things to photograph while in the workshop!

Jim designed this piece so that it could be split into three main pieces for galvanizing, painting and of course moving. The base has two pieces of flat bar on the top which are bolted on. The flowers (that's what I'm going to call them from now on) are welded onto the flat bar. So two are on one side and three on the other, which can be taken off by taking the bolts off.

So they could be stored outside the workshop to save space...and then this happened...

Just a little bit of snow in the morning which turned to this...

I may have gotten a bit too excited about the snow, so I feel I should apologise to Jim again. I love Winter, I can't help it!!
Anyway, the next thing to be made was the final piece for the base. I got some more use of the plasma cutter and then it was back to bending flat bar.

These pieces were going to be fitted underneath the base like this...

However that changed slightly to this...

Which I think worked really well.
So the last thing to go on was the lettering which Jim welded on and then sent everything off to be galvanized. I didn't see it go off or come back because I was off work but Jim got it cleaned, painted and put together and it looks incredible.

So there it is.
I feel very privileged to have worked on it! Hopefully we will be installing it soon so there will be more photographs to follow.

That's about it for now but we've got a few new projects on the go so I will keep you posted of what's going on. 
Take care!

Saturday, 28 February 2015

Feeling blue...?

So it's now nearing the end of week two and I've still not been back to work which is rubbish and to be perfectly honest I'm getting bored and lonely and fed up.
I had a physio appointment the other day and got some sport tape on my ankle to help support it a bit as I ended up twisting it (which was quite sore and didn't help the healing process) because the muscles/tendons/ligaments are still weak. It's great because it means I feel a little bit steadier so can start to put a bit of weight on it and it covers up all the bruising which is still gathering at my heel!

So that's been making me feel a bit blue, however a couple of things have cheered me up. First off I've been doing a little bit of sketching for the next project I'll be helping with. Hopefully I'll get in to work next week and me and Jim can do a bit of designing together and come up with something that incorporates the clients ideas. I'm pretty excited for that because it's been a while since I've done any proper sketching and will be good to get feedback from another artist.

Secondly, I found something today which has pretty much made my day. I haven't been able to do much (in fact I haven't even been outside today...) so I was having a sort through my sketchbooks and paperwork and found a gift my Summer boss gave me last year. It's a lovely printed copy of 'The Great Book of Gaelic'. Now, when I got it I didn't want to crease the pages so stored it away in a plastic folder and haven't taken it out until now.
Inside I found this...

Which contained this...

Which may have brought a tear to my eye.
I can't put into words how guilty I feel for not finding this last year, or how thankful I am that I found it when I was feeling so low. It's lovely to read such kind words and to know that I worked hard enough to deserve this note of thanks (and a rather large bonus!).

Anyway, so that's my news so far. Not a lot about blacksmithing, but hopefully I will be back to the workshop soon with pictures of the piece I wanted to share with you. I was really sad not to have seen its return from the galvanisers, or help with cleaning it up before painting...but I hope to see it soon and do what I can to help get this piece installed!

Here's some photographs of a few parts of the piece...

As you can see, there's some stamps involved and they were made by Jim specifically for this project. I thought it was going to be pretty tricky getting them to stamp nice and clearly, but they turned out beautifully!
So that's all for now and I promise the next post will reveal the whole thing!

Take care, be careful and bye for now.