Monday, 16 October 2017

And I would drive five hundred miles...

And then I drove five hundred more!

It's been over a year since the last post and a lot happened...
I moved from the beautiful bothy to a beautiful cottage just outside Cardrona in the Scottish Borders; I had the chance to work on one of the best and most challenging pieces yet at The Blazing Blacksmith;
I helped design and make a piece of sculpture with a great group of Scottish blacksmiths;
I played at Belladrum for the second year running and met my cousins for the first time in my life; And finally, the big news...
I'm writing to you from my room in Steneby, Sweden, where I'll be studying a masters in applied art and design specialising in metal work!!!

I applied very late in the year and didn't think I'd get in, but because of Brexit it means this was the last chance for me to apply to the course and be exempt from paying tuition fees as I'm still (for now...) a resident of an EU country. I had a lot of help with my application from a few wonderful people who put up with my panic so thank you!!
I received an acceptance email about a month later and started to plan my move to Sweden which all happened very fast. I went to Hebcelt in Stornoway for a lovely ten days and spent a lot of time with friends and family and had a few long chats with the wonderfully down to Earth Dougie MacLean!!
From Hebcelt I went to the mainland and got a flight to Oslo, then travelled down to check out Steneby, travelled back, had a full day as a tourist in Oslo then flew back to Edinburgh late on Sunday to start work again on Monday.
I then had a weekend at Belladrum which was the best and muddiest year yet (thank you to everyone who came to hear me play and special thanks to my wonderful cousin and her team from National Trust. You guys are the best!!!) and ended up working the Monday before leaving for Sweden so had four days to sort everything and pack and make sure I had the correct documents etc.
It was a stressful week and difficult to say goodbye to Jim and his family. I'm really going to miss my job there, but I think it's the right time to do this and gain more confidence in my craft and myself.

I set off on Saturday 19th and drove from Scotland to Newcastle, got an overnight ferry to Amsterdam, drove through Holland and Germany, then got a short ferry to Denmark and stayed with friends in Køge for a night. In the morning it was an early start to get to the Øresund bridge to Malmö in Sweden. From there it was straight up through Gothenburg and all the way to Dals Långed which is where my course is taught. It was a very long but exciting journey and it's so beautiful here I think I'm going to love it.
I miss the mountains in Scotland (here there are Christmas trees as far as the eye can see!) and I'll miss my job, friends and family, but this place feels good for my soul.

Anyway, back to filling you in on the projects I was working on last year and the beginning of this year. First of all I want to share some images of the banister that Jim designed and I helped make and install. It was for a private house in Stirling and incorporates Oak trees and ivy vines which intertwine and create a truly stunning banister for the main staircase.

Forged ivy leaves

Starting to form oak leaves
The oak and ivy leaves were marked under the flypress to make the veins and then heated in the forge and shaped with some anvil tools and lot of hammering. While making the leaves I found myself counting the number of hits from the flypress tool and each oak leaf had between 120-200 hits for the veins. So there's quite a lot of work in each element of this piece!

Cleaning and polishing

More cleaning and polishing...
The next stage after forging the leaves, acorns and stems/branches (Jim made the tree trunks while I was away) was tig welding sections together. This had to be done in a way that each section could be cleaned and waxed and then welded together into bigger sections which could still be 'easily' brushed and waxed...
Luckily that was Jims job and all I had to worry about was not getting too many metal wires in my arms from the cut brushes. It was a long process but it worked well so I kept track of which sections needed which coat of wax (four coats in total on everything) and Jim worked through welding everything together.

Setting up in the 'spare' workshop...
On one Monday morning I got to work to find an extension on the workshop...
We made a jig of the staircase in the extension and Jim built up the banister around it to see how it would sit and work out any issues with spacings and trip hazards from the lower leaves. It was really nice to come in each morning and see the tree growing!
So eventually we got everything cleaned, polished and welded into manageable sections then packed up and set off to install the piece in a beautiful private estate in Stirling.

So that was the spectacular Oak and Ivy banister which I had the privilege of working on!! It was challenging and frustrating at points but it turned out beautifully in the end and I'm very proud to have been on Jims team!
Thank you and well done Jim!!!
Okay, I'll update you with more on my Swedish adventures soon!
Take care and bye for now x

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