Catching up with Artist Blacksmith Jack Waygood
25th January 2021
Artist Blacksmith Jack Waygood received a QEST Radcliffe Trust Scholarship in 2018 to learn the craft of axe forging in Sweden. Since then he has travelled extensively as a journeyman blacksmith, and here he tells us about his experiences and his future plans.
What did your QEST scholarship fund?
My QEST Scholarship took me to the famous Gransfors Bruks forge in Sweden. I already had a lot of experience as a blacksmith but I wanted to learn new skills in axe and tool making. I gained detailed knowledge and experience in axe making as well as studying fire control, working with coal, jig making, drawing out, swaging, fullering and much more.
Tell us about your scholarship experience?
This was literally living the dream for me and the beginning of what turned into a two-year extended journeymanship. I wanted to throw caution to the wind and put myself into a dynamic situation, and without my scholarship I wouldn’t have been able to take that first step. My time in Gransfors was even better in reality than I had imagined. The blacksmith in charge, Fredrik Thelin, taught me the fundamentals of axe making by hand and by machine. He also inspired my approach to travelling as he was well acquainted with the traditions of journeymen blacksmiths.
How did this impact your career?
The award from QEST, combined with a Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Fellowship, provided me with the opportunity to work as a blacksmith around Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Czech Republic, Austria, Switzerland, Italy and France. Alongside this, my aim was to record my experience and give exposure to journeymanships back in the UK. Soon after returning home I accepted a job offer to work as a blacksmith on the new ‘Lord of the Rings’ TV series being made in New Zealand. This rare opportunity direct resulted from the impact of my scholarship.
Can you tell us more about your subsequent career?
I left New Zealand when the pandemic hit and had to find my feet again. I started an MA in ‘Contemporary Art Practice’ at Edinburgh College of Arts and started a regular feature in the Artist Blacksmith magazine called ‘Travellers Tales’, where journeymen share their experiences of working and travelling. It aims to inspire and highlight this extraordinary educational route. I have also recently gained approval for the creation of a ‘Journeymanship’ platform on the British Artist Blacksmith Association website.
During lockdown I have been giving virtual lectures for universities and colleges who are struggling to teach blacksmithing remotely. My focus and enthusiasm are now geared towards setting up my own forge directly after graduation. I have a location in mind and have organised my machinery and equipment to get me up and running. I’m receiving mentoring support from the Prince’s Trust to help me get a firm grip on how I will run my small creative business ‘Work of Iron’. I have also set up my new Patreon page which gives an exclusive insight into my work as well as invitations to my live events, The Fire Side Sessions. There is merchandise on offer, including first edition prints of The Emblem of the Pandemic, bespoke and personalised forged items, videos, images a newsletter and much more.
Any recent highlights?
Blacksmithing and being awarded the support to further my skills has been life changing and given me a lot of incredible memories. My focus is now to pull all of this experience together and continue my journey settled in Edinburgh. When I get there, I hope to share the many highlights I have discovered along the way. Forging an axe and then drinking a cold beer in a sauna afterwards is definitely one of them!
What are you working on at the moment?
Just before moving to Edinburgh I created a series of ornate face masks titled Emblems of the Pandemic. They are made in copper and worked cold using repoussé techniques, the backs are padded and lined with a silk finish, and I used leather straps with a brass buckle for fastening. In the first semester of my MA, I used the masks to create a video art piece titled Mangled, made in collaboration with a physical theatre performer. Due to the lockdown and not being able to go to a forge this was a fantastic experiment in diversifying my practice into the digital would and trying something new. There will be a private view of Mangled on the first Fire Side Session coming very soon. You can find all the information about this event and get an exclusive insight into the progress of Work of Iron by supporting me on my Patreon page. Discover more at www.patreon.com/workofiron
What are your plans for the future?
Once Work of Iron is up and running, I aim to create projects that engage with a wide audience and communicate visual ideas through highly skilled craftsmanship. I am motivated and have lots of ideas, so I hope we can all move on from these strange times very soon and make positive changes to allow arts and crafts flourish once again. Thank you everyone at QEST for your support and also for all the work you do in supporting British craft.