Tobias Forbes Gower was selected to design and build a new entrance gate for the Butterfly Conservation commission, set up by the Richard Seager Annual Arts Award. The Conservation in Gloucestershire agreed to be the recipient of the 2018 Award, in celebration of their 50th anniversary as the national charity dedicated to butterfly and moth conservation.
Trained as an Artist Blacksmith, Tobias is fascinated by the plastic state that occurs when metal is heated, and how its plasticity can be harnessed to create beautiful and functional objects. Creating objects that are informed and considered is the main focus of Tobias’ professional practice as a designer, maker and Artist Blacksmith. We’re excited to see Tobias’ finished gate for the commission!
When did you know you wanted to become an Artist Blacksmith and what attracted you to the craft?
I have always enjoyed making things and working with my hands. After spending a few years working on hobby projects in my shed, I decided to apply to study Artist Blacksmithing at Hereford College of Arts—fortunately I got a place. From the first time I walked into the forge, I knew that I wanted to be a blacksmith.
What do you enjoy most about working with metal over other mediums?
Metal is fascinating to me. It can exist in two massively different states; when it is hot, metal is malleable and plastic so we can forge it to shape and manipulate it. When it is cold, it is strong, solid and tough. This dichotomy in the nature of the material allows us to create beautiful and functional items that are honest to their construction material. This is what I most enjoy about working with metal over other materials.
Can you tell us more about how you approach new projects and your creative process?
Whenever I approach a new project, I begin by trying to determine the intended function of the product. Once I have determined the functional parameters of a project, I begin making samples to try to determine how the material can best be used to achieve these desired functions.
Do you have any favourite objects that you enjoy making, or different types of metal that you like to use?
I love creating functional objects for inside the home; adjustable shelving, tables, lights and vessels. The relationship between form and function is key to my creative process. Generally speaking, I find objects of a very simple and pure function, for example, bowls and vessels are the most fun to make. I particularly enjoy re-purposing heavy industrial steel stock: pipe, angle iron and H beams.
If there was one object which you haven’t yet created, what would you choose to design and why?
I have wanted to design and make a chess set for as long as I can remember. I have always enjoyed playing chess and I think a chess set would be an interesting challenge as a designer and maker.
What advice would you give to someone who is thinking of becoming an Artist Blacksmith today?
The best advice I could offer anyone thinking of becoming an Artist Blacksmith would be to get in touch with BABA (The British Artist Blacksmith Association). I have never experienced a group of people as friendly and as willing to help as the blacksmithing community, whether it’s advice on how to best approach a technical task or a helping hand when times are hard, I have always found blacksmiths to be willing and helpful.
After getting in touch with BABA, I would recommend any of the fantastic courses offered across the country. My experience with Hereford College of Arts was absolutely fantastic—my only regret is that I cannot go back and redo the course from the beginning!
All images by Tobias Forbes Gower.