What is a blacksmith

What is a Blacksmith? IntotheBlue forges out the answers

What is a Blacksmith?

A blacksmith is someone who works metal by hand, forging metal to make things. A Blacksmith who primarily works shoeing horses is called a Farrier. Now we’ve answered the what is a Blacksmith question, here are some more burning questions for you!

Where does the name Blacksmith come from?

The Black refers to the fact that heated iron turns black. The Smith part is less clear. It’s generally thought to refer to the action of striking, derived from words like the old English ‘smythe’  and ‘smite’, or perhaps the German ‘smithaz’, which means skilled worker.

So how did Blacksmiths come about?

Tools, household items and decorative things were fashioned out of bronze in the Bronze Age. Then we started working iron. By heating it, the malleable iron could be forged to make all sorts of shapes and forms.

During the the Middle Ages, every town, village, castle and estate had its own Blacksmith and it was an important role. The Blacksmith made everything from keys, nails, screws and bolts, to tools for agriculture and building. They also made things like doors, portcullis and fireplaces, to more decorative pieces like jewellery and all sorts of armoury too; from swords and shields to body armour.

what is a blacksmith in the middle ages

Making everything from keys and nails, to portcullis and castle doors – that’s what a Blacksmith did!

What caused the decline of Blacksmiths?

Industrialisation. Once things likes nails and screws could be produced on a mass-scale out of steel, iron and other metals, the Blacksmith’s role changed and was no longer an essential trade.

What is a Blacksmith’s role today?

These days many working Blacksmiths are farriers, travelling around stables to shoe horses. The term artist-Blacksmith is often used to describe what most Blacksmiths do these days. They undertake a lot of commissioned work, which includes anything from forging large sculptures, to items for the home such as fireplaces and accessories. They also create things like wrought iron gates, stairs and so on, which is known as architectural ironwork, as well as smaller, decorative items.

How do I become a Blacksmith?

It’s not easy to be a full-time Blacksmith, but there are a lot of hobbyist Blacksmiths in the UK. The British Artist Blacksmiths Association was set up to support, inform, train and showcase artist Blacksmiths in the UK and counts around 600 members.

It’s also a good idea to go on a taster experience day with a Blacksmith before committing to any expensive training courses, so you can see if it’s for you. After all, the role of a Blacksmith requires strength and stamina to work in a hot environment with very hot metals!

Blacksmith red hot iron

What is a Blacksmith without red hot iron? You’ll need stamina to be a Blacksmith


Crystal Clear – How Do You Make Stained Glass?

Warm sunlight filtering through the window, filling the room with beautiful colours and intricate shapes, while you stand there in awe. You guessed it, we are talking about stained glass windows! Many of you have might have already seen such an amazing sight before, especially the religious-sightseeing travelers, but for those who haven’t– no need to panic! We’ve put together a handy guide that outlines all you need to know about stained glass.

stained glass building

The Palace of Catalan Music in Barcelona has one of the greatest and most beautiful stained glass works in the world.

What is stained glass?

Stained glass refers to a certain type of colored glass or any sort of art pieces created with silica material, which is the primary constituent in sand. Stained glass has been used for hundreds of years, especially to decorate the windows of cathedrals, churches and other buildings during the Middle Ages in Western Europe, but nowadays you can also find stained glass windows in every other house or in sculptures and art pieces.

Why are there so many different colors?

As you might suspect, when you create glass from silica, what you obtain is a piece of transparent, colorless glass, basically what we all know as “normal” glass. So how do you exactly get so many different colors? The secret is adding a number metal oxides or powders to the molten glass – meaning when it’s hot as lava, depending which color you’re looking for. For example, if you’re trying to get blue glass you’d be adding cobalt to the mix; sulfur for yellow, iron for green, etc. As an interesting note, in the early years of stained glass creation, red used to be the rarest of colors as you needed to use gold additives to recreate it.

stained glass york chapter house

Did you know that the Chapter House in York Minster was used as the location for Edward’ I Parliament?

Use of stained-glass?

Stained glass has been considered an art since its conception until today. Not only it requires a certain aesthetic aspect, to be able to grasp a great design, but also a pair of skilful hands to put the whole piece together.

As mentioned above, the most common use for stained glass is as decoration of important buildings. In places such as churches or cathedrals, most designs would be related to passages of the Bible or a particular saint or patron, like the famous Saint Chapelle in France. We can also find stained class mosaics in universities or inside normal houses.

The love for stained glass art is still alive in kicking today and it has seen a great development in both techniques and applications. Thus, we can create pieces with stained glass such as jewelry, wall frames, sculptures among others.

melting sand

Glass is obtained from melting silica, which is the main component of sand.

What sort of materials do I need?

As with any crafty and artsy activity, there’s a number of materials you’ll need to gather to create your stained-glass masterwork. Assuming you’re buying the glass layers and not creating them yourself (we don’t recommend this unless you’re a professional!), there are other tools you’ll need such as pattern paper, markers, pliers, or soldering iron. We recommend you to take a look at Stained Glass Guide for Dummies and MotherEarthNews guides and write down all the things you need!

stained glass

Carefully putting all the pieces together using lead came materials.

How do you create a stained-glass window?

Although creating stained-glass is easier than most people think, it still requires a little bit of skill, a big room with lots of space and, obviously, a good idea of what you’re doing! So here’s a short rundown of how you make a stained-glass window:

  • First things first: you need to know what you’ll be doing, so take your time choosing a design you like and that would be able to create with the amount of glass and colored glass you have.
  • Once you have the design, draw it on your pattern paper in the actual size of the piece. Don’t forget to draw the squares as they’ll be used as guidelines and to “hold” the rest of design in one piece.
  • Time to trace the pattern onto the glass! Use a strong marker so you can see it clearly.
  • After you’ve completed the tracing, the next step is cutting the glass with a glass cutter. Be extremely careful and try to cut each section in a single movement. Do not stop in the middle of a section and start again or else the glass will shatter!
  • Make sure all your pieces fit when put together. If not, do the necessary corrections!
  • Next step is to foil the pieces. For this step, you can choose between using copper foil or lead came, whatever you prefer! The process is quite easy, all you have to do is wrap the edges with the foil material!
  • Almost there! Once you’ve covered all the pieces in foil, it’s time to solder them together using a soldering iron. Don’t forget to apply flux to the copper foil/lead came before soldering!
  • And last but not least, frame it and display your beautiful creation!
stained glass

Workshops and courses are a great idea to further your knowledge and improve your skills!

Where can I learn?

Alright, so our short how-to-stained-glass guide might be great and all, but you might not feel completely confident in doing this by yourself, so what are your other options? If you still want to give it a try without compromising too much, a one-day stained glass experience would be the best idea. This short experience gives you the chance to learn all the basics skills and knowledge, you even get to take back home your own creation!

If you feel like stained-glass making is the call of your life and would love to keep learning in hopes to become a professional, then it would be time join a workshop or longer courses where you can expand and develop your abilities.

One thing is clear, stained glass is a great hobby recommended for all ages and skill levels, and let’s be honest, nothing can beat that feeling of success when you’re finally done creating your master piece!

how to be a photographer

How to become a photographer

How to become a photographer

To celebrate World Photo Day on the 19th August 2017, we’re taking a snapshot look at how you can become a photographer. Looking at the different photography roles that exist, how to get into them and whether you can make a living from being a photographer.

With the rise of digital photography, having the equipment to be able to take high quality pictures has become accessible to many. Does that mean we can all become professional photographers? Well, many train and work hard for a long time before making it as a photographer.

The different types of photographer you can be

From wedding and portraits, to fashion and documentary, there are more strands to become a photographer than you’d think. All are creative in their own ways, but the lifestyle, working hours and conditions can be very different.

The first step – wedding and portrait photographs

Be a Wedding photography

Lots of opportunities to be a wedding photographer – as long as people keep getting married, they’ll want pictures!

Many amateurs make the first step into being a professional photographer by doing wedding or portrait photography. The hours are long and unsociable too, but once you get a name for yourself, this can open up doors and is often a way for artistic photographers to be gainfully employed whilst building up an artistic portfolio. There are lots of opportunity too, with many makeover photography studios all over the UK and people are still getting married!

Into the wild – become a nature and documentary photographer

wildlife photography

Capturing the wonders of British wildlife. Pic source: Paul Budd Flickr

Then there’s wildlife and documentary photography. Many start taking photos of the flora and fauna found in the great outdoors as a hobby and there are lots of wildlife photography short courses that exist to develop your skills. Getting your pictures published on things like wildlife calendars and in the National Geographic isn’t easy though.

One route to recommend is entering your finest shot into the BBC Countryfile Photographic Competition. It runs in July every year, with the 12 best photos featuring on the following years’ calendar.

Taking pictures in the extreme – expedition photography

extreme expedition photogrpahy

Taking pictures in the extreme – mountains and alpinism photography Pic source: Ben Tibbets

Still outdoors but taking to the photography to the extreme, is expedition photography. As well as being a good photographer you’ll also need to be an adventurist and even an adept mountaineer to get your great shots.

Chamonix resident Ben Tibbetts is an alpinist who is studying to become a mountain guide and has made a real name for himself in alpinism and skiing photography. It’s pretty extreme and you’ll need nerves of steel, as he explains: “I still get a similar mix of excitement and dread before climbing and shooting – will we get up the climb? Will we get some interesting images? Or will we back off, have a gear/psyche/conditions malfunction and head home empty handed?”.

And don’t forget, to get that great picture that documents that climb or ski, you’ll need to lug all your photography equipment up there with you – and back down too – so you need to be physically fit.

Catwalks and models – the life of a fashion photographer

Vanity Fair Diana

Mario Testino’s famous Vanity Fair cover shot of Princess Diana

Fashion photography is notoriously difficult to get into. Mario Testino must be one of the best-known names in fashion and portrait photography, having captured everyone from Kate Moss (his muse) and Madonna, to Princess Diana and Kate Middleton. He arrived in London from his native Peru in 1976, living in a tiny flat in a disused hospital, making ends meet by selling portfolios to models. Mario Testino’s work first appeared in style bible Vogue in 1983 and that Vanity Fair cover of Diana in 1997 catapulted his career.

Capturing the celebs – the long lens of the paparazzi

celebrity photographer

Catching the celebs – the life of a pap!

You’ll have to have even thicker skin to be a celebrity and lifestyle photographer (or you could say paparazzi!). The very best have invaluable contacts at airports, hotels, restaurants and at events around the world, as well as those very long lenses.

And like the coveted role of photo journalist, you need to be prepared to drop everything and head off at a moment’s notice to where the person or the story is happening. It’s a fascinating world and the recompense for getting that sought-after ‘money shot’ can be huge (Hello magazine allegedly paid $15,000,000 for the first pics of the Jolie-Pitt twins Knox and Vivienne), but it’s not for everyone.

Always on target – become a sports photographer

sports goal photo

Goaalllll! To be a sports photographer you have to capture those winning moments!

Another arm of press photography is sports photography. Once again, competition is fierce, with picture agencies and news outlets all sending their photographers to sporting events. You’re paid to be there and capture that moment of exhaustion and elation when the athlete crosses the line, or the celebration when the multi-million pound new signing scores their first goal. Intense, but well-paid for the best in the game.

Providing a valuable image – ‘government’ photography services

forensic photographer

It’s a crime scene – and you as a forensic photography need to be there!

On the opposite end of the scale is medical/police photography. Not exactly glamorous or filled with world travel, but a more stable photography job, albeit one that you’ll need a cast iron stomach for. Medical photographers are there in the operating block to record accurate and objective images of injuries, diseases and operations.

In a similar role is the forensic photographer with the Police. You’ll be called in to produce a visual, permanent record of accidents and crime scenes for measurement and analysis for the enquiry and as evidence in court. Serious stuff. There are also openings in the Armed Forces and other government bodies to become an official photographer.

Marketing the product – sell yourself as a commercial photographer

commercial food photographer

Food photography – a delicious way to earn your living as a photographer

Somewhere in between is commercial photography. This could be anything from photographing delicious-looking dishes for a food magazine, taking photos of buildings being restored for architectural clients, doing stunning shots of the latest sports car for launch marketing campaigns, to selling images to a stock photo agency. Once again, most people who become commercial photographers are freelance and it’s all about contacts and seeking out the work.

The two essential things (apart from a good portfolio) needed to be a photographer:

Timing. A photojournalist who arrives on the scene after the car has speed off, a fashion photographer who missed the moment the model spins in that gorgeous flowing couture gown, the wildlife photographer who sits all night waiting for the badger to appear only to give up and head off as the appear…it’s all about timing. Admittedly, much of it could be luck, but the best photographers seem to be in the right place at the right time.

Skill. And this is a question of nature and nurture. An inherent eye for good shot is one thing, but can you be taught to be a good photographer? If you’re inspired by and interested in photography, the answer is yes and there are lots of ways to learn how to be a photographer.

The educational route to becoming a photographer

Unless you’re Brooklyn Beckham, it’s not every teenager who’ll be able to release a photography book on a whim and become a photographer that way. Most youngsters wanting a career in photography look to further education.

On the UCAS website (the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service) there are currently 390 different photography courses available to undergraduates in 2018. They range from one year foundation courses and Higher National Certificate (HNC) and Higher National Diplomas (HND), to three year BA(Hons) degree courses.

Access to further education photography courses varies according to what type of course it is, but is usually dependent on attaining enough UCAS points via A Levels, BTEC, or Access courses. If you browse the UCAS site, each course offered has a full description of what you’ll learn, what you need to get on the course and how to apply.

Many further education institutes welcome applications form mature students (i.e. anyone over the age of 21), who will be considered individually on experience, rather than qualifications. So if you’re looking at a complete career change in later life to be a photographer, further study is a very real possibility too!

More info on how to become a photographer

If you’re feeling inspired there are several websites with essential information for anyone who wants to become a photographer.

beyond the lens

Beyond the Lens – the bible when it comes to being a photographer

The Association of Photographers produces the book ‘Beyond the Lens’ which features on pretty much every photography course syllabus in the country. They also act as lobbyists and advisors to their professional photographer members.

The British Institute of Professional Photography focusses on the role of the commercial photographer, but is open to photographers of all professions. They represent photographers around the world, lobby, educate and inform, offering support and networking.

The British Journal of Photography is the world’s longest-running photography magazine, having been established in 1854. It’s all about showcasing talent, keeping you up to date with the latest technology in photography and generally just being the place to look if you want to see which images are impressing eyes around the world.

Just three more places to look if you’re interested for more reading on how to become a photographer.