CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Somerset Life today CLICK HERE

The A to Z of Somerset: B is for Blacksmith

PUBLISHED: 17:12 20 September 2016

Vik Martin meets blacksmith Jo Williams in our series of A to Z in Somerset

Vik Martin meets blacksmith Jo Williams in our series of A to Z in Somerset


With one foot in tradition and one in innovation, how does Somerset inspire its workers? Over the coming months Vik Martin will take a stroll through the alphabet to find out

My next visit is to Jo Williams, a blacksmith living in the Chew Valley, with her forge at the Underfall Yard in Bristol. Blacksmithing is a traditional craft and the atmosphere at the forge is very different to the light, techy office I’ve just come from.

Jo herself is unusual for a traditional blacksmith though. She’s petite, feminine and fine art trained. Originally a sculptor working in metal, she fell in love with blacksmithing while preparing for her final degree piece.

“Ten years later I decided to go back to college at the National School of Blacksmithing, to specialise in forging skills and metalwork. The idea was to gain a better understanding of material and techniques, so my sculptures would be more ‘informed’. After that I was hooked and I decided to stay on for another two years! I was then fortunate to receive a year of training as a conservator blacksmith in heritage ironwork with the National Heritage Ironwork Group and got to work on some amazing projects including the Tijou screens at Hampton Court Palace.”

Jo hasn’t always had an easy ride though, being a woman in what is still a male dominated industry.

“Many people automatically assume ‘Jo’ is a man or that I won’t have the strength or ability to make something big or heavy and that’s not the case. Hot metal can be as soft and pliable as plasticine.”

Jo moved to Somerset from a farm in rural Herefordshire and felt drawn to the local landscape, as the artistic side of her work is heavily influenced by nature. “The balance of city and countryside works well. I can be inspired by the natural beauty of the area, whilst still having the momentum of the city to drive my work. I use traditional forging techniques, which gives the work a very different look and feel to machine made components and modern welded metalwork. It’s much more in keeping with the rural styles of Somerset.”

So does she dream of one day having a workshop in the countryside where she lives?

“In the future, who knows? Somerset has got everything, hasn’t it? Rolling hills, lakes, coastline, the Levels... It’s an area of outstanding natural beauty and that does suit the organic nature of my work. Combined with the peace and the clean air, well, it’s very inspiring.”


Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Somerset Life visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Somerset Life staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Somerset Life account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

More from Out & About

38 minutes ago

Simone Stanbrook-Byrne discovers wildlife-rich waters, an old railway line and Victorian splendour at the foot of the Mendips

Read more
Yesterday, 11:00

A bracing winter walk is the perfect way to blow away the cobwebs, and where better to embrace the crisp, chilly air than through the varied, and beautiful, landscape that Somerset has to offer

Read more
Tuesday, December 4, 2018

From playtime and past times to ephemeral and esoteric, Simone Stanbrook-Byrne looks at 30 reasons why we will forever love Exmoor

Read more
Monday, November 26, 2018

In this edition of her special series taking a look at village life in Somerset, Andrea Cowan visits Milverton

Read more
Thursday, November 22, 2018

Magnificent architecture, rich in history and truly stunning, stately homes and gardens provide a delightful day out for visitors. Somerset boasts plenty, and we bring you 8 of the most special locations to visit this Christmas

Read more

A favourite spot for locals, Emma Dredge explains why people love Chard Reservoir, its scenery and its wildlife

Read more
Friday, November 9, 2018

Military historian Richard Pursehouse reveals the significant connection between a Somerset centenarian and a famous Westminster grave

Read more
Friday, November 2, 2018

Simone Stanbrook-Byrne takes a look at The Macmillan Way, a long-distance path that was specifically set up to raise money for charity

Read more
Friday, November 2, 2018

What is it that makes Taunton unique? Here’s 10 of our favourite highlights

Read more
Wednesday, October 31, 2018

With landmarks steeped in history, coaching inns housing tragic tales and plenty of scary stories from around the region, its little wonder Somerset is full of haunted locations waiting to be explored. We’ve found 15 of the spookiest spots to visit if you dare!

Read more
Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Simone Stanbrook-Byrne explores two villages on the Mendip Hills and the tranquil paths that link them

Read more
Thursday, October 25, 2018

Somerset’s county town has more than its fair share of good pubs, and a myriad of wonderful walking routes between them, as Laurence McJannet discovers

Read more
Wednesday, October 24, 2018

“Calor’s generosity means that we can give a new lease of life to our village hall.”

Read more
Tuesday, October 23, 2018

This month Andrea visits Ashcott

Read more
A+ South & South West

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

subscription ad

Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory

Subscribe or buy a mag today

subscription ad

Local Business Directory

Property Search