by Peter Baird.
As you enter the Garden during our current Winter Show a very striking, large bright red poppy sculpture catches the eye. It’s actually a bio-ethanol fire pit, beautifully created by sculptural blacksmith Julie Grose, and is her sole piece on display amongst the dozens of wonderful works to be seen through until the end of February.
Julie is based in her forge in Wallingford, Oxfordshire, where she produces architectural ironwork, homewares and garden art.
It’s easy to be drawn-in to the appeal of working with mild steel when talking to Julie, who is marvellously enthusiastic about her craft. However, it’s very physically demanding work and it takes its toll, she tells us, since it is not just about the energy expended, hammering, twisting and turning the iron, it’s about hand-to eye coordination, blood, sweat and tears, the emotional journey and the blisters which combine to make this a truly creative process. It’s also about having good problem-solving skills, patience, a mathematical brain for measuring and making precise cuts as well as creative and design flare. And when you see the results of her labours, you have to say, it’s worth it!
Setting up a blacksmith workshop requires a host of equipment; from the essential forge, anvil, hammers and tongs, to grinders, chisels, vices, twisting tools and a uniform of protective apron, gloves and visor. But if you would like to have a go at creating something not only unique but useful too, Julie runs taster days in her workshop. These are 1 to 1 sessions when she will instruct you on the 9 fundamental techniques of blacksmithing. You begin by making a hook which requires many of these fundamentals, then move on to create 1 or 2 more pieces of your own choosing (within reason!) under Julie’s guidance and careful tuition.
This is a terrific opportunity to try your hand at an artisan skill with (almost) sure-fire guarantee of success. For more information about Julie and her taster days, please visit her web-site Julie Grose Metal Design, Creative Arts