Hello, my name is Denise and here’s a little more about me:
I’m an award-winning female artisan blacksmith. I travel a lot due to my husband’s work. I make intricate pieces that people can use in their home and give as unique gifts. I also make large sculptural artworks and you can ask me about custom making something for you.
I switched careers from nursing to blacksmithing – as you do! My first time using a flypress I almost killed a man and I’ve now been working in my various workshops across the world for over 20 years. I say I’m a travelling blacksmith – which is more than a little ironic given all the heavy equipment we blacksmiths need.
Since the day I was born I have virtually moved every two years because my father was in the Airforce and so was my husband for 30 years too. Since moving to Australia, my husband, though no longer in the Airforce, has jobs closely related to aeroplanes used by the Airforce and so we still move by choice, dependant on what opportunities my husband’s work follows. I say I’m a travelling blacksmith – which is more than a little ironic given all the heavy equipment we blacksmiths need.
Since taking up blacksmithing I have moved from Manchester to Brampton, Cambridgeshire to St. Eval, Cornwall to Somerton, Somerset to Culdrose, Cornwall to Riyadh (Saudi Arabia) to Perth (Western Australia) to Canberra, ACT to Townsville, QLD., and now to Newry, Victoria.? Moving house and forge involves normal removal services for household contents, then hiring a forklift to lift equipment from my shop to the doorway, and a specialist lorry with hyab crane to lift, sometimes over rooftops onto the lorry itself – or truck as they say here in Australia. On my last move the firm moving my power hammer managed to drop it on its side incurring a loss of 3 months’ use, which of course their insurance did not cover. The logistics of hiring different companies to arrive at the same time to coordinate moving my equipment is a challenge my husband could definitely do without. It usually causes him to lament that he wished I did sewing or knitting…..And “never again” is said, but we always do!
From Nursing to Blacksmithing
On my 18th birthday, I entered the world of nursing and then spent the next 25 years following that career, until nearing my forties when my husband was posted to North Wales. The nearest hospital had no vacancies in the Intensive care unit where I specialised at the time, and so I went to the local arts college.
During my arts programme it appeared that I had an affinity for 3 dimensional design and the college suggested I pursue a degree at Manchester University in 3-Dimensional design and so I did (and no nursing jobs had materialised.) During my 2nd year at uni I was introduced to a 2-day workshop on hand forging steel and I immediately fell in love with this and decided this was what I wanted to do.
The time I almost killed a man with a flypress
When I first started out with blacksmithing I went to a conference and there was a flypress there, and it was all so new to me and there was another lad who was also new to it as well. So we were swinging this flypress, and I swung it letting go because I didn’t know – I had never been given any instruction – and this lad decided to bend his head forward as I threw it with all my might! I couldn’t believe it, but it hit him on the side of his head! It was the first event where we had first-aiders (thank goodness!) as his head was not good. The first aiders slapped this dressing on and I felt obliged to go to the hospital with him because I was still nursing at the time, and there was just this little spot of blood, and they thought he’ll be okay. Well, they took the dressing off and you could see his skull *literally* so, well they thought perhaps they better X-ray him.
Anyway, well something like eighteen stitches later, they said they would release him but only if someone stayed with him all night. So I said you better sleep in my tent, so that was quite a joke, the fact that he should sleep in my tent all night… I could keep an eye on him but by the morning I had decided there was nothing wrong with him, he could go on his way. I’ve never heard of him since so I have no idea what happened to him. But he was very proud of the fact that he had got blood all over his apron.
Keeping up to date
Since moving to Victoria and being surrounded by many more blacksmiths, one in particular who started out as an internet friend, I have increased my travel tremendously due to the generosity of Bruce Beamish who drives alot and who is also the Australia representative for Anyang Power Hammers. I have joined him on several car journeys now and to various blacksmithing/knifemaking shows and have become quite knowledgeable on the Anyang hammers too.
During the last couple of years I have been to Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide Knifemaking Shows. I have been to USA and stayed with James Johnson, the American representative for Anyang power hammers. That was a fantastic trip. He has a massive workshop and Bruce and myself even starred in a couple of videos (You can view them here). We then travelled for 3 days with a power hammer on board our truck as well as a trailer to Salt Lake City from Dallas, where we attended the Abana (Artist Blacksmiths Association of North America) Conference. You can read more about the projects I’ve been involved in here.
I’m currently situated in…
Newry, Victoria. We live in an old brick built farmhouse, which is way too big for two people to live in, but was chosen because my shed was the main priority. And so, we rent an old cow shed which is now my workshop.workshop
The farmer lives up the road but still uses the other farm buildings around me and brings the cows into the fields surrounding me frequently. I love their visits. We have a small orchard with apple, plum, peach, cherry, limes, lemon and chestnut trees and a small vegetable patch, where I’m currently growing kale, broad beans, peas, and have just planted spinach, onions and turnip.
My views are just beautiful, surrounded by rolling countryside and hills in the distance, some topped with snow.