Outdoor Work hosts Bedales’ first ever ‘forge-in’

By Iris Campbell-Lange, 6.1

Outdoor Work is unique in its ability to displace us from the normality of walled classrooms. It enables everyone, regardless of age, to become acquainted with the work that our hands can miraculously create.

On Saturday I, along with seven other keen blacksmiths (who are either learning blacksmithing as part of their Outdoor Work BAC, have chosen blacksmithing as an enrichment or regularly attend blacksmithing club with our visiting resident blacksmith, Lucille from Little Duck Forge), diverged from the routine of morning lessons and attended Bedales’ first ever ‘forge-in’. A forge-in is the term given to a group of blacksmiths working collaboratively on a project – and in our case, we spent the day making a decorative panel for a new wooden archway to be built at the entrance to Outdoor Work near Steephurst.

Joined by Sean, a 16-year-old blacksmith who runs his own forge – Little Frith Forge – from his parents’ garden in Kent, we became engaged in the task, forming pieces of metal into artworks which had previously been concealed by unassuming straight metal bars.  An empty square frame now encloses a scene of lilies, leaves and twists which radiate from within it.

Although Sean is a similar age of us, he was an amazing teacher and a very talented blacksmith. His youth and skill produced a sense of animation in the barn, as he worked to save pieces of metal that had burnt and entertained conversations concerning accidentally warped leaves.

The weather outside was surprisingly serene – cold and sunlit – broken by breaks for just-baked biscuits and tea while watching the young lambs stumble through muddy grass from behind the nailed windows of the forge. In this way, our Saturday was contentedly passed to the sound of hammers striking anvils (which only occasionally missed)! The finished piece has now been sent away to be galvanised before it is installed by Steephurst.