Mary Reynolds on board with NADFAS grant

We are delighted to welcome Mary Reynolds to the team as our newest Apprentice Architectural Metalworker, thanks once again to the generosity of NADFAS.

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Mary originally comes from County Leitrim in Western Ireland and brings a valuable blend of skills essential to any aspiring artist blacksmith: strong practical ability combined with an artist’s eye.

She has already proved her commitment to the craft having recently completed a one year creative metalwork course at Plumpton College, West Sussex where she studied essential blacksmithing skills such as Forging and Welding.

Mary settling in the Ironart workshop

Mary has worked as an artist, graphic designer and photographer but was drawn to the possibilities of creating sculptural work in three dimensions. In 2014 Mary secured work experience with two metal sculptors: Giles Walker, contemporary scrap metal artist and kinetic and robotic sculptor and Alan Williams, metal artist and blacksmith, both of whom have given outstanding references of her work.

“I approached Ironart because of their expertise in both traditional metalworking techniques and restoration expertise, and also for the possibility to be involved in sculptural commissions. I’m really excited to be part of the Ironart team,” Mary said.

In her spare time, Mary enjoys staying busy; she plays the accordion, takes part in circus training and cycles.

Watch this space for updates on Mary’s progress!

James Cuthbertson’s Nadfas apprenticeship


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.

PDF: Guide to getting into metalworking

Cecilie’s visit to Sheffield Forgemasters

NadfasNadfas Grant recipient Cecilie Robinson has just returned from a five day visit to Sheffield Forgemasters International, which is a massive industrial metalworking business and the biggest foundry in the UK. Sheffield Forgemasters make vast component parts for things like offshore oil rigs, submarines, ships and nuclear power stations. They have a whopping 800 strong team of people working a 24 hour operation with three rotating shifts.

Cecilie spent time in the pattern shop, where the scaled up drawings are turned into vast wood and filler patterns, then in the foundry where the team make sand moulds on a huge industrial scale. Cecilie had a go at welding with their team too, where she experimented with various rods – and modestly admitted she did “pretty well!”

Cecilie also visited the meltshop where recycled steel is melted down and elements are added to it. The day she was there they were making stainless steel components for a nuclear project. Pouring from a furnace into two 104 tonne ladles. The team at Forgemasters use computer programmes to simulate these pour processes, and their technicians can predict where issues will occur, such as problematic differences in cooling rates, air bubbles etc.
Then 12 hours later (late at night) these molten ladles were poured into the mould. This was apparently then going to take up to twelve weeks to cool and set! Ultrasound is used to indentify impurities in the casting which are then gouged out and rebuilt where necessary.
Amazingly the Forgemasters foundry is on a different site to the melt shop so the molten steel has to be transported on a flat bed lorry prior to the pour which is huge feat of logistics in its own right. Sometimes they pour up to six ladles per project. The whole experience was a real eye-opener and really worthwhile. Our thanks to the team at Forgemasters International for showing Cecilie around their impressive set up and making her feel so welcome.



Restoration of gate, panels and overthrow at St Mary Tory, Bradford on Avon

This historic gate, overthrow and side panels belong to the St Mary Tory chapel in Bradford on Avon and date back to the early 1800’s. This painstaking and detailed work was carried out by Ironart’s restoration specialist Martin Smith alongside Nadfas conservation intern Cecilie Robinson.

Earlier this week we finished reinstalling the gates which look wonderful next to all the refurbished stonework. These pictures tell the story of the whole project from start to finish.

NADFAS podcast – apprenticeships at Ironart

We were really thrilled to feature in a NADFAS podcast about apprenticeships.  James Cuthbertson and Cecilie Robinson are both recipients of NADFAS Patricia Fay memorial fund grants.

Please click on the link below to take you to the short film that was a made a few weeks ago here at Ironart.

NADFAS podcast

Replica glazed fanlight

Our restoration specialist Martin Smith and NADFAS apprentice Cecilie Robinson made this beautiful replica glazed fanlight a few weeks ago for a Georgian terraced house on Prior Park Buildings in Bath. Martin matched his design to a photograph he had been given of an existing glazed lantern from the terrace. If your house used to have a glazed fanlight above the door and you would like us to match to a historic design, we’ll happily give you some advice and a no-obligation quote so please get in touch. Please note we also restore and repair historic metalwork items like this.



NADFAS filming James and Cecilie

Today the Ironart team welcomed Judith Quiney, the Promotions and Marketing Director at NADFAS. Judith and Jane visited our workshop to film James and Cecilie for the NADFAS website and AGM.  Two years ago, Ironart was generously awarded two Patricia Fay memorial grants towards an apprenticeship for James Cuthbertson, and more recently a restoration internship for Cecilie Robinson. The short films following their progress will be edited and released in May. Our thanks again to Karen, Judith and the entire team at NADFAS for their support.

The National Association of Decorative & Fine Arts Societies (NADFAS) works to advance decorative and fine arts education and appreciation, alongside promoting the conservation of our artistic heritage. They support over 360 local Societies across the country, in mainland Europe and New Zealand.

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James Cuthbertson – apprenticeship update

Amazingly James, Ironart’s apprentice ornamental metalworker,  has been here for one whole year this month. He has fitted into the team so well it’s hard to remember what life was like without him. He is such an asset to Ironart both in terms of his metalworking skills, his common-sense approach to everything and his ability to make us all laugh and see the funny side of even the most depressing situation!

Since we last blogged about James’ apprenticeship he’s been involved with a vast number of key projects here at Ironart. He’s been out on site fitting with Andy, Luke and Jason quite a bit. Most notably a huge set of gates which we made for a private house in Orpington, and an internal balustrade in London. Both were tricky, technical projects. Back in the Ironart workshops in Bath he’s been assembling garden furniture and assisting the other members of the Ironart team with everything from garden benches to gothic chandeliers and the beautiful, contemporary meadow gate.

James is now into his seventh week of his ten week course at Hereford College. (He’s doing the Blacksmithing Design & Forgeworks skills course on a block-release basis). Just recently they’ve been studying repoussee under the expertise of reknowned artist blacksmith and lecturer at Hereford Paul Allen.

As ever we are extremely grateful to NADFAS, the National Association of Decorative and Fine Arts Societies. Without their support this apprenticeship simply would not have been achievable.

James Cuthberston - Ironart's apprentice

James Cuthberston – Ironart’s apprentice

ps: We just heard that James passed his college maths exam with 100% – Norton Radstock College have never had a student pass with such a high mark – they are all amazed. James Cuthbertson you are a man of many talents and we salute you!


Nadfas Apprenticeship visit…

We were delighted to welcome Karen Pratt to the Ironart workshops last week. Karen works for the National Association of Decorative and Fine Art Societies in London and came to visit Ironart as the lucky recipients of a NADFAS apprenticeship grant earlier this year. NADFAS is a leading arts charity which opens up the world of the arts through a network of local Societies and national events. Their grant was the catalyst for taking on an apprentice and we were extremely lucky to recruit James Cuthbertson out of a strong field of candidates. James has been with us at Ironart for nine months to date and is a very highly valued member of the team. James and Jason gave Karen a guided tour of the workshops where we had two large sets of gates in production.

It was great to meet Karen, and we are all really grateful to NADFAS for the opportunity that was afforded us by the grant.