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Forging niche market across globe

AN award-winning Teesdale forge is helping to revive a traditional craft across the globe.
Little Newsham Forge has helped to train several artist blacksmiths who have gone on to open businesses in countries including South Africa and Australia, as well as Europe.
Richard Walker is among those who are forging a niche market after working at Little Newsham under the watchful eye of Brian Russell.
Richard, who specialises in combining traditional and modern techniques, is now running a business in Victoria, Australia. 
“Working with Brian has helped me in ways that I could never had imagined. He taught me not only many practical skills in forging hot steel but to take a different approach, and concentrate on unique styles and always ensuring quality was at the forefront,” Richard, 31, told the Mercury.
Richard was introduced to blacksmithing in the US, traveling to Teesdale in 2004 to work at Little Newsham, where he spent 18 months.
“I lived with Brian and has family for about four months, moving into Barney itself for the remaining time. I was involved with some restoration work elsewhere, and a fair bit of work in and around Darlington as well. 
That experience set Richard on his way to starting his business, called High Country Forge, back home in Australia.
Richard said: “I loved not only the forge work with Brian but immersed myself in the English culture and lifestyle – most of it within the walls of the many pubs. I made many good and close friends during my stay.  The countryside, the people and the invaluable time at the forge made for a life-changing experience.”
Meanwhile, like many other former Little Newsham blacksmiths, Richard is going on to do great things. There would only be about five blacksmiths of this level in Victoria. My work is hard, but I am preserving skills and knowledge – it’s a revival of old-fashioned techniques,” he said.
The artist blacksmith forges a range of bold sculptural pieces including railings and balustrades, gates, signs, furniture, as well as small decorative homewares. Richard also carries out reproduction and restoration work.
His work can be seen across Victoria and his accolades include first prize in the sculpture section at a recent international flower and garden show. Little Newsham Forge has won many awards for its work, including restoring the ornate gates at The Bowes Museum.
Master blacksmith Brian Russell started the business 32 years ago. Since then, about 50 people have worked there. 
He said: “A lot of those people have gone on to work in different countries, with some starting their own businesses in the UK and abroad. We often take on journeymen for a few months.
“There was never any doubt that Richard would do well – but he’s being modest by saying he learnt his trade here. He was already very good.”
Brian also praised the skills of John Wood, who now has a business in Wagga Wagga, Australia.
John, who often works on architectural and sculptural commissions, spent a year at Little Newsham.
John said: “Brian and I collaborated on sculptural and architectural pieces, including a number of public art pieces. My experience with Brian Russell was invaluable and I continue to build on my technique with every creation.”
To see Richard or John’s work, visit www.highcountryforge.com.au or www.johnwood.com.au


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