Some people make their living doing unusual jobs. Others do ordinary work with particular skill and dedication. Still others offer their talents as true amateurs, because they love what they do.
They all do good work. And we’d like to showcase their efforts here. Check back for the newest essay in the Good Work series.
Matt Coe, of Matt Dingle Blacksmiths, blends traditional and modern techniques to produce smithery that combines beauty with function. An artist blacksmith, Matt designs and manufactures sculptural and practical pieces on commission from his forge on Dartmoor, England.
Historically blacksmithing was an abundant rural profession, with a smith in every village and town. Called on to perform a bewildering array of tasks, blacksmiths were considered invaluable for their manufacturing knowledge. Unlike farriers or wheelwrights, smiths had extensive knowledge in how to make and mend many things from tools to lengths of chain. A blacksmith created objects from wrought iron or steel by forging metal and the first half of the word comes from the colour of the metal after heating. In modern blacksmithing, smiths generally produce furniture, gates, railings, tools and often sculpture. The industrial revolution meant that blacksmiths were needed less and less with objects being mass produced faster and cheaper by machines. Blacksmiths became more and more insignificant and smiths today have to find more niche and specialist areas of the trade to survive.
Matt has spent 16 years establishing himself as an artist blacksmithing and runs a successful business. Largely self-taught Matt worked early on in his career with an engineering firm, where he learnt the engineering basics used today in his balconies and stairs, among other things. Matt spent a few years producing more commonplace objects before progressing to making sculptural pieces. He now works solely on commission for clients making an array of individual and beautiful pieces. Customers who shy away from the mass produced seek Matt to make objects that are bespoke, tailor-made and hand-crafted.
A favourite part of Matt’s job is the design process and he is often commissioned by clients to design something sculptural for a specific area of their home or garden. Inspired by nature and the organic world around him, Matt designs pieces closely with his clients, which often evolve organically during the planning and manufacturing processes. Pieces are often designed to both mimic and blend in with their surroundings or to stand out from them.
This is smithery for the modern day combining technical skill, with functionality and business acumen. The romanticised techniques of traditional blacksmithing are still practised by Matt, but balanced with practical modern techniques to run a business which supports a young family. Matt uses a traditional forge outside for larger scale work, such as his ongoing projects for Dragon’s Den Deborah Meaden’s family. Smaller work is forged on an internal gas fired forge, which is perfect for controlling temperature and when working quickly. This combination of techniques enables Matt to work to tight deadlines and to run a business that supports his family and fulfils his creative interests. Continuing an ancient practice in the modern day, Matt takes century’s old techniques and uses them to create pieces for our modern day needs.