What do Blacksmiths do all Day? Tinsmiths Calendar Post

Blacksmith Luis de la TorreUntil now our working lives have been those advanced in their careers. Luis, at 19yrs and just six months out of college, is at the beginning of his working life and we asked him few questions.

How did this begin? “When I was fifteen my school programme of work experience came along and I had no idea how to spend the five days allocated. ‘Well, think about what you have enjoyed most in your life to date’ suggested my Dad.”

“A day with Ben Orford, a multi-disciplinary craftsmen, had so far been the best day of my life. With Ben I was allowed to really use tools and equipment to forge a blade and horn mount a woodsman’s knife” and Luis’ response led to a week with blacksmith, Alex Wilkins at Stretton Grandison, followed by six evenings at Holme Lacy College. “I was lucky that I had just had my sixteenth birthday – allowing me to enrol for the evening class and follow up my work experience”.

Luis at Ben Orford's

* Luis (14yrs) linishing at Ben Orford’s workshop

How did you learn? From there, after GCSE’s, Luis spent three years at Holme Lacy College, which is part of Hereford College of Technology, learning blacksmiths’ “sets” – that is the sequence of processes to achieve particular functions. The sets are essential and these were practiced over and again until perfect; a thorough approach that “sold” the course to Luis. “The college felt so different to school. There was mutual respect; I showed that I wanted to learn and the teaching staff gave me 100%.”

Hand-made Tools* Handmade Tongs for specific tasks, made at Holme Lacy

In a summer break, Luis built a forge at home and about that time began selling his small fire irons. “My forge wasn’t perfect – I little poisonous in fact – but selling my work was really encouraging, it was great to know that people wanted what I was making.”

Water-twisted Pokers* Water Twist Fire Pokers by Luis

Luis completed his course this summer and turned to improving his own forge and building up equipment, “It was quite a shock to come from the biggest and best equipped teaching forge in Europe to a small outhouse with forge and anvil – with rather inadequate ventilation! At college we learnt to make all our own handtools, but that didn’t stop me missing both the power hammer and the company of enthusiastic students”. Time management and self-discipline would be a challenge to most teenagers but Luis tries to put in six hours at the forge most days, admin and designing taking up more time. “If I’m working on a new idea or in the flow of making a group of pieces I work until I’m finished, recently I’ve been making for three Christmas events and have commissions to get out too”.

Plans for the future? Get a driving licence and go on the road. Luis is keen to get working alongside experienced blacksmith in a team or as an assistant on larger projects.

 Did family background play a part? “I think there has been a sub-conscious influence on me as I was growing up – having parents who are skilled in art and craft has trickled down to me. Most of their friends are creative and work on their own in this field so it was normal to me to see people working fairly autonomously. However, college really opened me up to learning, exciting my interest widely, so I’m thinking of a little more education  – I’ve always enjoyed Biology and would like to speak Spanish.” Well, all he needs to find is a Spanish Blacksmith, making enormous animals who needs an assistant!

Luis’ work can be found in little Tinsmiths – toasting forks a speciality  

Ledbury Country Market 1944-2014

Next Friday ‘Ledbury Country Market’ is celebrating it’s 70th birthday. The ‘Market’ takes place every Friday throughout the year in St. Katherine’s Hall (handily situated between the towns main carpark and the High Street) and sells all manor of locally produced goods. Everything comes from within a 15 mile radius of Ledbury, which means that of course all fruit, veg and flowers are absolutely seasonal, cakes and bakes home cooked without weird and wonderful preservatives, eggs free range from a farm just outside Ledbury and Jams and pickles made from local fruit and veg – all wonderful stuff.

This market began life as the WI market and the very first one was on August 4th 1944, because of rationing there were no cakes, bakes or preserves (no ingredients) but lots of locally caught rabbits! The market progressed in the post war years taking surplus produce from local gardens and farms and when the W.I. sought charitable status the ‘Ledbury Country Market’ was born as a co-operative.

The Market also serves as a meeting place where you can enjoy a cup of tea and a home made biscuit, many of the customers and ‘members’ have been regulars at the market for years but there is a warm welcome for all and no where is the feeling of Ledbury as community stronger.

w i flowers

If you have ever noticed the wonderful flowers that grace the shop all summer and wondered which of us has the amazing garden that produces such beauties – the actual answer is that they all come from the ‘Country Market’ on a Friday.

WI 7W I 99W I 9So congratulations to ‘Ledbury Country Market’ on your 70th anniversary and I do hope that the folk of ‘Ledburyshire’ will still be meeting each other and buying wonderful local produce in 2084!

WI 6

Ledbury Country Market every Friday 8.30- 1pm in St. Katherine’s Hall

Linen for curtains & blinds

linen band

Subtle colours of our Linen Curtain Fabric

In the latest in our occasional series of posts about cloth the focus is on linen. Starting with the basics; linen is a fibre which is obtained by processing the ‘Linum’ or ‘Flax’ plant. ‘Flax’ has a pretty blue flower and is grown for both the fibre and the seed all over the cooler regions of the world, with high quality linen being particularly associated with Ireland, Belgium, Latvia and Lithuania.

Linen has a number of properties which make it really good to use in the home; it is cool to touch and can absorb up to 20% moisture before it feels damp, it is lint-free, does not pill  and is durable to abrasion although because it has low elasticity repeated ironing of folds will eventually cause the fibres to break (the cuffs of linen shirts bear witness to this) . It is not of interest to moth or carpet beetle and is easy to take care of washing well even at high temperatures and has only moderate initial shrinkage. It can be finished to maximise or reduce these properties and can be woven as a ‘union’ with other yarns to produce cloth with particular characteristics. Linen has been used by humans as a textile for at least 30,000 years and with such a long history and with it’s particular properties the uses that linen are put to are extensive; bed linen, tablecloths, napkins, dish towels, glass towels and bath towels, home and commercial furnishing items (wallpaper/wall coverings, upholstery, window treatments, etc.), apparel items like dresses, shirts and suits, luggage, artists canvases, it is used by bookbinders and bakers and for paper and banknotes. The Tinsmiths selection of ‘Linen Fabric’ has grown steadily over the years and we now offer linen in qualities from very fine sheers to the chunkiest 712gsm upholstery linen.

 

curtain making in linen

As curtain makers we have always been slightly dissatisfied by the drape achieved by some of the stiffer linens and we now offer ‘Washed Linen’ in a really good range of colours and stripes – curtains made with this ‘Washed Linen’ drape fantastically, falling heavily to the hem.

Washed Linen Curtains; with a super soft drape this curtain is made in ‘Washed Linen, Indian Ink’

Linen has always been the luxury choice for bedlinen in hot climates because it keeps cool and dry even in the most humid conditions, however we have always felt that natural unbleached linen for curtains and furnishings is an excellent option for bedrooms where a calm and relaxed environment is required.

Irish Linen Unbleached Linene

Natural Unbleached Linen, our Heavy Irish Linen drapes softly for these curtains, the valence is Ticking Large, cream and the cushions are from our folk prints selection, Rondo

Of course Linen is a good upholstery cloth, the heavier weights are required for durability and for ‘severe domestic use’ some linen unions stand up to wear outstandingly, achieving very high rub tests; our Irish Linen Union has a 40,000 cycle rub test putting it in this very durable category. For loose covers the stability of linen comes into it’s own, because it generally washes with a minimal initial shrinkage and takes washing and cleaning processes well, it is the ideal choice for loose covers.

A washable 100% linen loose cover on our showroom sofa

A washable 100% linen loose cover on our showroom sofa

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Printed 100% Linen – Deerpark designed by Lewis & Wood

 

 

 

 

 

Bright Young Things: Hereford College of Arts

Abby

A strong collection of printed & stitched linens by Abby Bury

Herefords Textile Design BA(hons) course has become outstanding over recent years with a talented and committed group of tutors; the excellent degree show is one of the events I really look forward to. So I was delighted when Tinsmiths was asked to provide a ‘Real World Brief’ for the level 5 students.
The students were set a brief to design a small collection of fabrics suitable for the Tinsmiths brand and they had 6 weeks to work on this project (alongside a marketing project and some work placements – who ever said students don’t work hard!). The first part of their brief required them to find out about Tinsmiths; research the designers and fabric companies whose cloth we sell, the type of fabrics that we like and try to identify a ‘house style’. They then had to work through design ideas; some identifying our natural fabric theme worked from a starting point of the ‘natural world’ and others spotted our love of Central Asian and folk textiles and so drew on historical references like tapestries and folk designs.
The final part of the project required each student to present their collection to me in concise 10 minute presentation which covered the research, design development and finished pieces.
We have not been involved in a project like this before but what a treat it was! The Level 5 group, which includes students specialising in weave and print, although not large, are all committed, hard working and completely engaged with their work.
I was so impressed by the quality of the responses, each student had either a clear and coherent overall idea for a collection or one or two strong individual designs and on the whole they all seemed to have almost too many ideas for the time allowed. What a pleasure and well done all of you – I can’t wait to see what you do in your final year!

alice

A subtle collection of wool mix weaves by Alice Noble

sadie

Soft ombre weaves by Sadie French

Holly

Holly Griffiths collection with an urban feel included a smart linear print.

jess

A monochrome collection by Jess Evans based on observational drawing.

becky

With depth and subtlety Becky Chambers-Perola’s work is based on Russian folk motifs.

 

 

 

 

 

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Sarah Fereday’s indigo collection including a lovely small repeat shell print.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do click on the images to view full size.

 

Hereford College of Arts, Textile Design BA(hons) degree show 14th – 21st June for details visit https://www.facebook.com/events/286465278196181/

Tinsmiths Calendar Post – What do Hairdressers do all day?

Mervyn Parnell taking it easy.On being asked why he became a hairdresser, Mervyn Parnell is liable to give one of two answers, either: “I was good at art, I could draw and I knew I was creative. I could have gone to art college but it was full of ‘hippies’ not people like me, so I thought that hairdressing would allow me to be creative and earn a living”. The other answer is “I was a 5’2” lad with buck teeth, so I figured that going into an industry which had loads of girls and not too many heterosexual men working in it, that I would be bound to pull.”  I’m not sure which answer is true. In any case Mervyn started as a Saturday boy in a salon near his family home in Gloucester in his early teens, he was cutting hair at 15 and had is own client list at 16. “No one ever taught me, there was one chap John Phelps who ran another salon and had been a world champion, we just used to talk about cutting hair which sounds a bit sad but he’s the only person that I learned anything from”.

A girlfriend and job brought Mervyn to Ledbury at the beginning of the 80’s. “I remember getting off the bus with a Mohawk haircut wearing bondage trousers and I thought ‘What the heck am I doing here?’  Mervyn has continued to be one of Ledbury’s more stylish residents with a collection of more than 60 vintage Levi jeans, 25 Levi jackets from the 40’s & 50’s, Pendleton shirts and 1948 -1956 suits it can be said that Mervyn is more into clothes than most “It just smacks of laziness, dressing badly”.

Denim jeansIn 1986 Mervyn opened the Cutting Club, with a distinctly mid century feel and educational selection from Mervyn’s extensive record collection of northern soul, 50’s & 60’s R & B and roots rockabilly music playing, the salon has been busy since the day it opened.

50's vibe in the salon“My working day starts at 7.30 in the morning and ends at 7.30 in the evening, I have 20+ clients a day and I can’t wait to get a pair of scissors in my hands”. “So you like what you do?” “Absolutely; I like to create and change, I like cutting hair and I really like the people that I work with, in 28 years I’ve never had a crossed word with any of my stylists”.

The Cutting ClubLike Martin (the Printer from January), Mervyn is another Ledbury Luddite, there is no computer in the salon or in Mervyn’s life and no mobile phone either, this seems to be an aesthetic choice as much as anything ‘I struggle with technology, I’m just not interested, I prefer things which are crafted with a hand and heart’. And fashion as a concept is difficult for him too ‘I like style not fashion, I like a good hair cut where you can see it’s a whole exercise in shape, not to be dressed’ sideview

Mervyn and I go back along time; he first cut my hair when I was 14, it is a haircut which is etched on my memory because until that day my hair had been long, straggly and mainly scratched back into a ponytail and found under a riding hat but the sleek sharp bob that Mervyn gave me made me aware of a whole new world of possibilities!

The Cutting Club. Tel:01531 635866 and to get a flavour of the music Mervyn is cutting to follow this Spotify link to a few of his favorite tracks.

Tinsmiths’ Calendar Post: What do Upholsterers do all day?

Sam Prentice’s workshop is crammed with furniture. It’s always this way when I visit. Sam is self conscious about it, ‘You can’t photograph here, it’s too messy’ he protests. Over the years I’ve come to understand that any upholsterer that isn’t busy isn’t very good. Once people find a good upholsterer, commissions for small footstools quickly progress into a set of dining chairs, a sofa or two; as one job gets finished and delivered, another is picked up ‘I am never short of work but trying to make a plan or manage it, well that’s more difficult.’

Sam Prentice Upholsterer

Sam set up Hartpury Upholstery in 2005 when he and his wife, who had family ties with the area, decided that Gloucestershire was a good place to bring up a family. ‘I couldn’t do this in London, the overheads would make it impossible. You do need a bit of space’ and getting started with his own workshop? ‘Around here it’s all word of mouth, you do a bad job and everyone knows about it – but that’s been really good for me, because it works the other way too’

Being a one man band Sam has to cover every aspect of his business; part of the week will be spent heaving furniture in and out of the van either when collecting furniture to be reupholstered or delivering finished pieces ‘My friends joke ‘how’s the stitching?’ but, when they’ve lent a hand delivering, they realize it’s a bit more physical than that’.

Every job is different; the age and condition of the piece will dictate what is done, the materials used and how the work is done. The day starts at 8.30am and finishes around 6.30pm ‘If I’ve nearly finished something I will carry on until it’s done if I can, family permitting. I like to start the day with something new.’ Of course there’s the inevitable paperwork; invoicing and ordering supplies to keep on top of, as well as being a sales person. ‘I’m a tradesman, not a salesman. It’s not me. Some of the people I’ve worked for were quite ruthless about it and I’ve wondered if I shouldn’t take some of that, but it’s just not my nature.’ Sam reflects.

upholstery toolsupholstery springsindustrial singer sewing machine

 

 

 

 

So why upholstery? ‘It’s in the blood, my Dad and Uncle were both upholsterers, I did my apprenticeship with them and then worked with them. Seven years in total; they worked for a chain of hotels in London doing restoration and new furniture’. It was 1982 when Sam began his apprenticeship as a 16 year old school leaver. ‘The country was in recession, it’s felt a little like that ever since’. Sam’s Dad had been in the trade all his life. ‘At weekends he would have projects going at home. One of my earliest memories is the sound of the treadle on his sewing machine going in our front room.’ Being trained in the era of piece work and very exacting standards Sam’s Dad & Uncle kept a close eye on the apprentices. ‘I am so glad I had that time with them, the stories they had, working with my Dad I had seven quality years with him’.

Sam's father's union cards

Sam’s father’s union cards

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After the hotel chain Sam went to work for small independent shop in Islington that offered a re-upholstery service, with a wide variety of furniture coming through the door it gave him a chance to increase his knowledge and suited him in other ways. ‘I’m an Arsenal supporter, so I could get to all the midweek home matches.’ Five years later, ‘We were in recession proper and that business went under,’explains Sam, whose move to work with an interior design business and later for an antique dealer showed him another world with a high end clientele and where qualities like longevity were not so important.  ‘It was a real eye-opener: it was all about the look of it.’

Webbing a seat base

 

chairs to re-upholster

When I ask how things have changed in the trade over his working life it becomes clear that things have gone full circle. ‘Customers today say to me,‘I want this to see me out.’ Excellent workmanship and good quality cloths, with an emphasis on value and long life, are once again the order of the day. I asked Sam whether he still liked his work, whether he’d change direction, “I didn’t realise what I was missing until I set up my own workshop. It’s very rewarding to see my customer’s reactions to the finished pieces. I think if you don’t enjoy it, it reflects in your work. You’ve got to have job satisfaction”.

close up of piped armchair

buttone back armchair in Lewis and Wood Fabricwing-armchair1

Sam Prentice www.hartpuryupholstery.co.uk Tel:01452 700 004