If you live in, or work on, heritage buildings it won’t be long before the skills of a Blacksmith are likely to come in handy.  In November’s Beam newsletter I share a conversation I had with Blacksmith Mark Harding who very generously shared his time one recent afternoon to help give a ‘deep dive’ perspective on how the trade has evolved over time.

Mark was drawn to metalwork for its creative problem solving and the application of traditional skills in ways that are relevant to modern life. Initially Mark mended metal finished costumes and props for his local re-enacting group. This quickly evolved to maintaining their C18 and C19 firearms. One piece of metal lead to another and Mark joined the National School of Blacksmithing in Hereford.

Mark gave me an insight into how collaboratively blacksmiths work together, helping each other solve metal working designs or fixing challenges in accordance to their skill strengths. He is passionate about the ethics of metalwork and highlighted intellectual integrity is important to uphold: it is not acceptable to copy other people’s work – it is a creative design process. Mark can provide many examples of blacksmiths who have been in the trade for several decades, and keep staying simply because there is always more to learn. 

Mark described blacksmiths as ‘prototype makers’ as they make things that have either not been made before, or have not been made for a long time. Mark reflects a lot of his work has been repair – from garden umbrellas to field trucks. Find out more about Mark and his work here. Creativity and skills are celebrated with the annual award made by the Worshipful Company of Blacksmithsthe Tonypandy Cup.

If you’re looking for a blacksmith near you, try the British Artist Blacksmith Association.