Supporting Young Blacksmiths


16-year-old Loris on a work placement in the workshop

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.


Jack joins us on his journey

We are delighted to welcome Jack Waygood to the Ironart team for a 5 week stint on his journeymanship. He joins us after smithing at numerous workshops including with Ian Moran in the Black Country, Jo Williams at Bristol Docks and Roberto Giordani in Cesena, Italy. Jack’s goal is to head back to Italy early next year to work with Georg Reinking for two months.

“I’m  really enjoying working at Ironart; it’s great to work as part of a such a busy team with such a variety of commissions going through the workshop.”

Good to have you with us Jack!

jack-in-the-workshop

Thomas Coffe heads off…

Hard to believe but almost a year has passed since journeyman blacksmith Thomas joined us back in September 2015, as part of his apprenticeship with the Compagnons du Devoir  (also known as the Compagnons du Tours de France).

You’ll recall from an earlier blog that the Compagnons du Tour de France is a French organisation of craftsmen and artisans dating from the Middle Ages. The aim of the Compagnon guild is to train young men and women in traditional trades by acquiring experience by working in various workshops throughout France and internationally. Their traditional, technical education includes taking a tour doing  apprenticeships with masters.

As his year with Ironart draws to a close and with the next stage of his journey lined up, Thomas tells us how the last 11 months have gone:

“Looking back, the year has really been a great experience for me; I’ve worked on and seen so many interesting projects as part of the Ironart team, first working closely with Dominic then more independently. It has been such a busy environment. Everyone has been so helpful, welcoming and supportive. My English was very basic when I arrived – school level – now I can say a full sentence or two and have picked up some technical blacksmithing terms!

I came with only a small amount of ironworking experience and had never worked in a blacksmithing organisation. One project that stands out for me was making a balcony and balustrade for a property in Lansdown, Bath – learning new techniques and seeing the finished piece was amazing.”

Thomas at work

Thomas at work

Thomas leaves us in mid August and will move back to France, settling in Strasbourg for the next two years as he takes up a teaching role at the city’s Compagnons du Devoirs. He will be teaching 16-18 year old metalworking apprentices basic skills and techniques, as they embark on their own journeys.

“I am really looking forward to the next stage in my learning – and also a little nervous! It will be a very busy two years and I have never taught before so again I will have a lot to learn myself.

The confidence Andy and the team at Ironart have shown me has helped me already and I’m looking forward to talking about and sharing my experiences with other compagnons when I return to France. I am very lucky to have had this experience and would definitely recommend it to other apprentices. Thank you to Andy and everyone at Ironart for everything – I can actually speak English now!”

We wish Thomas all the very best!