We continue to support young blacksmiths in developing their skills. Over the last couple of months, we have been happy to have Matthias Kuhn, a German Journeyman continuing our tradition of placements. Matthias is in his 6th year of training. During January he has been using the workshop a couple of days a week to get his portfolio ready for applying to study at Steneby Institute of Craft and Design. Steneby is host to Europe’s largest academic metal/blacksmithing workspace and is a brilliant place to study for anyone interested in a career in ironwork.
Matthias tells how in Germany the traditional Journeyman is a familiar sight. Journeymen traditionally don’t use any technology including a smartphone. They cannot spend money on transport and rely on lifts, mainly hitchhiking. This means they meet many people on their travels and get jobs along the way. Exploring different workshops means they learn a wide variety of skills by seeing how smiths work differently across many settings. Journeymen have to remain 50km away from their hometown and they travel and work this way for 3 years and 1 day. Interestingly, Matthais has chosen not to do it the traditional way as he wants to travel beyond Germany and as people don’t recognise the tradition outside Germany it makes things difficult. Matthias is doing his own modern version! We wish him much luck with his plans for studying at Steneby and for the future, it has been a pleasure to have him at Ironart.
Following on from this we also have local, 16-year-old Loris Sarkissian on a work placement in the workshop, 2 days a week. Loris started studying at Hereford College this September, 3 days a week. He came looking for a work placement for the two days a week he is not at college, to get even more experience. We are happy to welcome Loris into the workshop.
We can hardly believe it but James, who joined us as an apprentice architectural ironworker, has now been at Ironart for three full years. The apprenticeship became available thanks to a generous NADFAS grant. James is a hugely valued member of the Ironart team and throughout the last 12 months he has been working with increasing autonomy. “I’m now being tasked with interpreting individual projects from a hand drawn sketch. It’s down to me to choose the materials, make the piece from scratch and resolve details in a way that looks good”.
As well as project-managing bespoke ironwork commissions, James has been furniture-making and involved in several ironwork restoration projects. He has also been using his knowledge of CAD software to assist Andy with design. James says of his experiences:“This third year has been a positive experience. I’m happy that I made this decision, it was the right journey for the right reasons. The apprenticeship has opened more avenues and curiosities than I could have envisaged – the people I’ve met and places I’ve worked. I’ve gained a valuable insight into the processes around our craft. I’ve enjoyed the extra-curricular stuff we’ve done too, the day trip we went on in 2014 to Wolverhampton (to visit Legg Brothers steel mill, Barr & Grosvenor Foundry and a huge galvanising plant) helped to improve my breadth of knowledge.”
Jason Balchin, one of Ironart’s workshop managers writes…“James’ confidence and competence is at a very good level. He is able to work under his own instruction and complete jobs from start to fruition. He has come on in leaps and bounds. He has a consistent, high level of finish and attention to detail. He has a good technical mind, he is the main machinist, as an example he is our go to-man for any lathe work. James is a real asset to the company.”
If you are also interested in becoming a blacksmith there are various routes to get into the craft, read through our ‘Guide to getting into metalworking’ which we hope will give you a starting point. Don’t forget we run one-day blacksmithing workshops here at Ironart, follow this link for more information.