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!

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