Saturday, 18 September 2021

Coronavirus Diaries: David Gregory, blacksmith

Coronavirus Diaries: David Gregory, blacksmith

DAVID GREGORY is a master blacksmith who lives in Reading with his fiancée, two dogs, cat and assorted rabbits. He has run Cobalt Blacksmiths at a traditional forge at English Farm in Nuffield for more than fifteen years.

OUR main work has always been on historic properties, private commissions, teaching and demonstrating the craft of the blacksmith. Commissions have included recreating medieval-style hinges for the English Heritage refit of Dover Castle, handrails for the History of Science Museum in Oxford and the gates for the new treasury at Waddesdon Manor.

But early 2020 began without the normal positive anticipation of the coming year. The worldwide pandemic changed everything. Work that had been scheduled and projects that were upcoming were shelved indefinitely and things looked bleak.

I spent a couple of months working on the gorgeous farm estate where my forge is. I have been able to occupy myself but not far from my thoughts was the question of how long I could keep going.

Gradually, enquiries started to come in again from private individuals who in lockdown began to look for ways to change and make beautiful their surroundings. A marvellous job came in to make a gate for a client with a theme of the Four Seasons. The design outline had been gifted to the client by the noted London Jeweller, Theo Fennell.

I chose to interpret the silhouettes of all the flowers as being made 3D, as true to life as I could. This was a great challenge. There were a lot of experiments and at times the forge floor looked like someone had run amok in a florists’ shop. By this time my apprentice and another helper were on hand at separated workstations (anvils) to help.

I enjoy my art and am grateful for any work but in these unusual times this job somehow tasted sweeter than normal.

We had many walkers passing the forge on their allowed exercise trips, often times we would have muffled conversations through our face masks about the progress of the gates a few made a point of coming again to see what new flowers I had made, several asking when I would have students again on courses. “Soon I hope” has been my answer for too long but that time is now in sight.

The gate is now installed and loved by the client, a happy blacksmith am I.

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