I am Aaron Petersen – Blacksmith. (In Welsh ‘Aaron y Gof’). I am a worker of that most magical of materials, iron. Iron is a material like no other. Steeped in history and myth its use in decorative and functional objects goes back to the early Celts. The Blacksmith is not to be mistaken for a farrier, someone who shoes horses. Unless you want your horse trotting round on a couple of pairs of 12 inch high candelabra you are probably best off finding a good farrier (highly skilled and trained equine specialists). What I produce is high quality, hand forged, metal work for the home, workplace and public spaces.
I have been designing and producing ironwork both full time and part time for over two decades. I trained as part of the family business, started by my father, and continued by myself and my brothers. I have been wielding a hammer almost since I could lift one. I obtained my arts training via Newport Art College, leaving in 1987 with a BA (hons) in fine art in 1987.
ferric-fusion-2This was followed by a stint as a prop maker for film and television which involved a range of multimedia product work. I worked on a number of television and film productions including the Oscar nominated Welsh language film, Hedd Wyn (directed by Paul Turner). I also worked for a small props company making promotional and advertising items. Work included the production of a life sized incarnation of the stage monster ‘Eddie’ for the group Iron Maiden.
Returning to iron work, I spent 6 years working as the resident demonstrating blacksmith in the National Museum of Wales in St Fagans, Cardiff, making and restoring functional iron work for the buildings and gardens and demonstrating blacksmithing to the public. Additional work carried out at this time included the production of number of domestic items for the National Slate Museum in North Wales, as well as many bespoke items for private indivuals restoring and renovating barns and other building projects, including listed buildings (for example, historically correct iron strap hinges, window furniture and traditional door latches).
I left the museum in 2003 and moved to West Wales. A trained teacher (PGCE), I work part time at Barry College in the Vale of Glamorgan whilst continuing to develop and grow my smithing business. I use my teaching skills to train beginners and those more advanced in hot forging skills. I currently supply work to a couple of small galleries in West Wales. (for a fantastic range of Carmarthenshire art and craft visit the Origin Dyfed gallery. See their website for details http://www.origindyfed.co.uk
Alongside other family members and in partnership with peers I have worked on large public sculpture commissions including a 30 foot steel mural now housed in Cardiff City Hall and a large commissioned dragonfly made out of recycled steel for the firm Dow Corning in the Vale of Glamorgan. The latter was designed with Jon Williams, best known as the sculpter of the Gaudi inspired Scott memorial sculpture in Cardiff Bay
What do I make?
rams-head-pokerI offer a cost-effective design & making service for most types of interior and exterior ironwork. From small scale pieces suitable for giving as gifts or for providing the finishing touches to your home through to large works such as gates and railings and garden sculpture designed to complement your house and garden. On this website you will find examples of just some of the products that I have made. Most of the larger items are bespoke designs for individual clients. The smaller items are available to order.
There are two strands to my work – traditional and modern. The traditional items are those that you would expect from a time served smith with knowledge of traditional techniques and an interest in renovation. The modern items demonstrate that blacksmithing doesn’t have to be ‘ye old worlde’. Contemporary metals and finishes combined with age old techniques combine to make really funky items that are as cutting edge as you want. Want a modern, shiny run of fencing with a cool Nordic feel? Or perhaps your own design wall sculpture to reflect a retro focused living space? Maybe something that combines Celtic imagery but brought bang up to date with a 21st century twist? Whatever you want, if it can be made in metal, talk to me and we’ll see how we can make it happen.
Some examples of the items I produce include
Candlesticks and candelabra/candelabrum and Rush light holders
Curtain poles for straight and bay windows plus door poles and rails for awkward spaces
Kitchen racks and hangers
Hearth furniture – fire dogs, pokers, tongs and brush sets
Boot scrapers and boot removers
Security grills for windows and doors
Sculpture for indoors and out
Door and window furniture (hinges, brackets, etc).
I have also made unique reproduction items for specialists such as re-enactment groups. This has included small items such as nails and hooks and even, memorably, a scolds bridle!
Why choose hand forged ironwork?
William Morris, the father of the ‘arts and crafts’ movement said “You should have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful”. Nothing fits these criteria better than hand forged iron work. Even the simplest functional items, say for example, a simple hanging rack, has beauty. Look closely and you will see the individual marks of the hammer, the delicately curved scroll ends of the hooks coil gracefully. From where you stand they are the same in size and shape but look again, each one slightly different, unique. Each one beaten and twisted by hand in the heat of the fire, it is hard to believe that this was once a piece of cold, grey metal. It will affix to the wall providing a strong base to hang your pans or kitchen implements on. (Trust me if you have one of these you will use it every day – we have one and do not know how we managed before when we had to rummage in the cupboard for pans). Useful and beautiful and as a bonus virtually indestructible.
The things I make are designed to last. In fact you could say that hand forged ironwork is the ultimate sustainable product. The item you buy today may become part of your family heritage, maybe being passed down through many generations. Iron really lasts. We have examples of Roman age iron work that is still in good shape. There is no reason why your great or even your great, great, great grandchildren will not be using that special item you choose today. Imagine buying a candlestick as a wedding gift and that same candlestick being used at the Christmas table of those relatives you will never meet in the future. Iron is the material of family heirlooms.
The handmade aspect of my work is important, not only in relation to the quality of the item and its finish but also in the process of making. The blacksmith does not simply ‘produce’ an item, he or she ‘transforms’ it. This is a process beyond the technical act of making. Part ccraftsperson part artist, the good smith gets to know the metal and works with it heating, bending and beating instinctively until its form is developed. A tap here, a twist there, working with the material as opposed to against it, whether that is make a linear form, angles or curves. This is a completely different approach to the cheap mass produced ‘iron’ work wares that you may come across elsewhere. This will usually be ‘cold bent’ metal, poorly constructed with great clumps of welding at the joins. It will probably be a lightweight inferior material and it will, sooner or later, come apart at the joins, bend, peel, flake, rust or move out of shape. Proper hot forged iron work will not fall apart. Joints are properly made, riveted for strength where necessary. I do not buy-in components such as scrolls, or pre-made panels and just weld it all together. Whenever practicable the components are made using traditional blacksmithing techniques. However if it is appropriate I can also use up to-date technology such as plasma cutting or mig welding.(After all you don’t want to wait a year for a long run of railings or a staircase).
Enjoy the site
This website only shows a small section of what I do. To purchase any of the items shown contact me by email and send a cheque payable to A. Petersen or pay via PayPal using the site button. I am afraid I do not currently take debit or credit card payments. Please give up to 3 weeks for making and delivery.
Why not have a go yourself? We run small and friendly weekend courses for no more than four people at a time (sometimes just one or two). Come along and learn how to forge and make some useful (and hopefully beautiful) items to take back with you. If you are interested in attending one of our training weekends email me to enquire about dates and for further details.