From the first moment I hit hot steel, I knew what I wanted to do.
I was working at the V&A Museum after completing my art degree in London, and I’d often wander around the iron work gallery, imagining how everything had been made. My brother is a farrier in Northallerton, and one weekend we went over to his friend’s forge. I was mesmerised by the fire so I had a go at putting a point on the end of a bar, and it was great – when I got back to the office on Monday, I handed in my notice there and then.
No two products are the same.
I draw out a design in full size on a board, then with a lot of heat and precise hammering in the right places, I bring it to life. Once I design something, I never reproduce it but I make a range of different items, from candlesticks to tables, chairs, garden furniture, gates and railings, and even public sculptures.
I don’t think of this as a job.
I absolutely love what I do – I always come into the forge with a sense of purpose and it’s never a chore. It’s incredible to be able to transform something from a piece of paper to a real, three-dimensional product. Seeing the amazement on each client’s face is also rewarding.
Some elements can be a little bit tedious.
The hardest time to work is when it’s freezing cold, and I have to break an inch of ice on the quench buckets. No matter how close you get to the fire, you never feel like you’re getting warm.
My working hours change with the seasons.
During winter when it’s dark, I try to finish as early as I can, but in summer, I don’t stop until I need to change tools, and I work most weekends too. I’ll do whatever hours I need to if there’s a tight deadline.
I like it when it’s just me.
I don’t have a team working with me, but sometimes a friend who’s a trained engineer will help out when I do need a hand.
There aren’t many blacksmiths, so there are some crazy stereotypes.
I definitely don’t shoot horses, and I don’t make knives or swords – TV shows like Game of Thrones and Forged in Fire make people assume a lot.
Where there’s hot metal, there’s always a risk of injury.
I’ve had plenty of burns and odd trips to the hospital with pieces of grinding steel in my eye, but nothing too serious – touch wood.
I want to give people an understanding and appreciation for the trade.
I run taster courses for everybody from young professionals to retired people. Women tend to do better on these because they listen more, while the men get primal as soon as they see a hammer, and beat at the metal without thinking about instructions.
I can’t keep away from fire.
We’ve just had a log-burner fitted at home, so I put that on as soon as I get home after a long day at work. I also love cooking, as that helps me unwind. One of my favourite things to make are lentil and chickpea bean burgers. After dinner, I’ll get my tablet out and browse through Pinterest and Instagram – I really enjoy looking at pictures for inspiration.
Art is my big passion.
Whenever I get the chance, I go to art galleries and craft markets, and visit local craftspeople in the area to learn more about what they do.
We’re in the most beautiful part of the country.
Actually, I’d go as far as saying that the North East and Northumberland boasts some of the most stunning scenery in the world. The people are so friendly and warm too – it’s far nicer than living in London. My favourite area is probably Weardale.
I don’t think I’m cut out for being on TV.
I was on Four in a Bed a few years ago, and the experience was quite frustrating – everything takes more time and effort than people realise.