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 (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%.”
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.”
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