SEPTEMBER 2016 International Blacksmithing Event and 'Transition' Exhibition, Ypres, Belgium

I am very proud to have been part of this exceptional project organised by ASG (Belgian Blacksmithing Guild) and BABA (British Artist Blacksmithing Association). The aim of the project was to draw together international blacksmiths to make the first international war memorial, commemorating the soldiers of all nations who took part in the Great War. It also commemorates the pacifists who objected to the conflict and greatly suffered for their beliefs. The memorial consists of 24 forged metal panels surrounding a large core 10 cenotaph and a field of metal poppies.

I submitted a proposal design for one of the 12  forged panels that were selected by the organising committee, I was delighted to be chosen. 

Ypres is a place of remembrance for people from many nations, so I aimed to design a panel that didn’t allude to the British, but addressed all those involved in this devastating conflict; irrespective of ‘side’.  I began by looking at the Western Front, the main arena of the conflict. It surprised me how little movement there was along this line during the 4 years of war, this seemed to succinctly illustrate the futility of this particular conflict and war in general. 

I also considered the role of the blacksmith in this situation, the producer of tools that enabled the digging of the trenches that created the physical landscape particular to this war. I chose forged picks that would have been standard issue to troops on both sides of the conflict that would have been used as trenching and tunnelling tools.

In my design I chose to represent the Western Front through a line made by threading the forged pick-heads on to round bar so that it also alluded to barbed wire, each pick-head denoting a major offensive on the front. Barbed wire was developed in the 19th century for enclosing livestock, but was soon adopted as a military barricade; the deployment of barbed wire escalated during WW1 and has become one of the most potent symbols of the inhumanity of the war.  The use of barbed wire was one of the main reasons that this war stood in stalemate for so long.

The line is also similar to a stitched wound and evokes the scar that the Great War left in human consciousness.

The panels were made as part of a live forging event held in the Grote Markt in the centre of Ypres. I headed up a team of smiths and together we produced the panel over two days. The completed works are now on permanent display at Langemark-Poelkapelle next to the German cemetery.

During the forging festival there was also a selected exhibition of forged metal sculptures made on the theme of 'Transition'. I participated with a sculpture entitled 'All the Same'. The work is a tableau of 6 elements made from identical pieces of stock, 150mm of 25 square bar that display the fundamental processes of blacksmithing: drawing down, fire weld, punch & split, fuller & spread, upsetting, drawing down & bending.

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SEPTEMBER 2015 21st Biennale Europea d'Arte Fabbrile di Stia (Biannual World Forging Championships, Stia, Italy)

Returning again to Stia for the World Forging Championships. This biennale I acted as striker for colleague Sam Pearce, assisting him in the solo competition. First Prize!!

 

AUGUST 2015  BABA (British Artist Blacksmith Association) AGM @ Yorkshire Sculpture Park

The annual gathering of British Artist Blacksmiths was this year a 3 day event at Yorkshire Sculpture Park. In honour of the host site, a live project was set by the organisers inviting 5 smiths to team up with a maker from another craft discipline in order to make a collaborative sculpture. I teamed up with smiths Matthew Garton and Maxwell Anderson for the forging and Steve Pickup and Carine..... from The Willow Bank (www.thewillowbank.com) brought the practice of free sculpting with willow to combine with the forged work. We had a loose objective of form based around the structure of shells and seed heads, though much of the magic seen happened in the making over the 3 days. We were so pleased with the results that we plan to collaborate further.

The AGM had a programme of talks to which I also contributed. I delivered a one hour illustrated talk on the subject 'What's the Point in Forging', perhaps a strange and controversial proposal, particularly to an audience of blacksmiths! My intention was positive. This is a question I often ask of myself given that there are alternative production methods for many of the works that I make, however, for me (and the other smiths) the result of the talk was an affirmation of practice and a positive boost to the continuation of our craft.

 

 

AUGUST 2014  IBF (International Blacksmithing Festival) @ Devon County Showground

A four day international forging event at which I headed up a team of 6 smiths, (Sam Pearce, Matthew Garton, Maxwell Anderson, Christian Vaughn-Jones, Aran Lang) competing in a live forging competition and flying the flag for Wales. We had 8 hours to produce a panel that, along with the panels of the  7 other competing teams, is part of a stretch of railings at the Devon County Showground. The panels' themes were to reflect the Showground's activities, our panel represented 'Country Living'. We came 3rd!

 

 

SEPTEMBER 2013 20th Biennale Europea d'Arte Fabbrile di Stia (Biannual World Forging Championships, Stia, Italy)

Sam Pearce, Edward Blower and myself entered into the team competition for the 20th World Forging Championship at Stia. We had 3 hours to produce a piece of work to the theme 'Plasticity'. We designed a visually playful sculpture that demonstrated some of the principle processes involved in forging, It was called '250mm x 4', as we started with 4 pieces of stock metal measuring 250mm. Our team came 2nd (out of about 50 and up against some pretty stiff competition). A very proud moment.

 

 

AUGUST 2013  'Forged' Hereford College of Arts & BABA AGM

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'Forged: 20 years of Artist Blacksmithing @ Hereford College of Arts' was an exhibition staged in the college atrium to celebrate 20 years of delivering university level artist blacksmithing at HCA with works from 20 of the colleges' alumni. I had the opportunity to be involved in this project from its genesis, assisting Delyth Done (HCA Programme Manager of Higher Ed. courses/Course Leader Artist Blacksmithing) in the organisation and curation of the exhibition. I was also one of the exhibiting artists and contributed an essay to the exhibition catalogue.

The opening of the exhibition coincided with the annual BABA AGM held at the Holme Lacy Centre for Rural Crafts. In addition to the 'Forged' show, I curated an exhibition of work contributed by the BABA delegates and gave an illustrated talk on works I had made for an ongoing commissioned project for a client's French garden.

 

 

 

MAY 2012  Ivano-Frankivsk 10th International Forging Festival, Ukraine

I attended the biggest annual forging festival in the Ukraine (out of about 10 festivals!) as part of a group representing Hereford College of Arts. This event saw the genesis of the Hereford Anvils, the moniker for HCA exhibition blacksmithing team. Alongside HCA Programme Manager Delyth Done, I led a cohort of students -Edward Blower, Simon Bushell, Sam Pearce, Robert Thomas - joining in the team competition in the festival, each team had  hours to make a forged bell which was to be incorporated into a large sculpture where the town's first church once stood, the sculpture was to commemorate the founding of the city. The Hereford Anvils won the highest commendation of the Golden Anvil for our sculpture.