Jake James: Blacksmith
The Iron Throne
CURATOR KARINA EASTWAY | INTERVIEW WITH JAKE JAMES | PHOTOS JAKE JAMES | COUNTRY CANADA
Jake James specialises in contemporary modern-design forged ironwork, but he knows that everytime he places a piece of steel into an intense flame, he is stepping back into a history which is almost as old as mankind itself.
An Englishman now living in Canada, Jake has two decades of award-winning work under his belt, and crafts forged metal not just into a finished product, but into a sensory experience.
WAS BLACKSMITHING SOMETHING YOU FOUND ACCIDENTALLY OR ALWAYS HAD A PASSION FOR?
I stumbled upon it mostly by accident after wanting to learn how to weld.
HOW DID YOU FIRST START IN THE CRAFT?
After discovering this was what I wanted to do I enrolled at the Hereford College in the UK to study blacksmithing and from there I spent three years with a master smith near Southampton, UK, then a couple more years as a journeyman before setting up my own forge in Canada.
DO YOU THINK SHOWS LIKE GAME OF THRONES AND VIKINGS ARE MAKING THE CRAFT MORE RECOGNISED AND ALSO POPULAR AS A MODERN ART FORM?
There has definitely been a rise in the popularity of certain elements of blacksmithing – blade and axe making have skyrocketed in the last few years and the current crop of TV shows have had a big impact
CAN YOU DESCRIBE THE PROCESS OF BLACKSMITHING FOR US AND WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE PART? Blacksmithing can be succinctly defined as the process of transforming the cross section of the material (most commonly steel) through the application of heat and pressure. What this generally means is heating steel in a furnace to around 1200 degrees Celsius and then hammering it into shape. For me the most enjoyable part is when you are at the anvil and that piece of material is responding to your hammer blows, while it is that hot the steel almost feels alive.
ARE YOU A SPECIALIST IN ONE PARTICULAR AREA?
I’m probably best known for a very expressive and organic style of forging where I treat the steel much like plasticine and really push the material about to create heavily sculpted forms.
CAN YOU TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT THE TRADITION OF BLACKSMITHING?
Blacksmithing goes back thousands of years and across a huge number of cultures, so its traditions are too numerous to count. At its core though, the process of forging the metal remains the same as when it was first discovered, so in that sense every time you heat and work a piece of metal you are reaching back to some of the earliest traditions of mankind.
WHAT’S THE PIECE YOU’RE MOST PROUD OF?
I don’t know if I have made it yet!
CAN YOU GIVE US A LOCAL’S TIP FOR WHERE YOU LIVE?
Hike East Sooke Park (Vancouver, Canada), a beautiful coastal forest and a good chance to see whales from the trail.
WHERE IS YOUR FAVOURITE TRAVEL DESTINATION AND ON YOUR BUCKET LIST?
The south island of New Zealand holds very fond memories for me, I travelled there when I was 19. I don’t have a bucket list, but I never turn down opportunities to visit new places.
COULD WE GET A FINAL INSPIRATIONAL QUOTE FROM YOU?
From an idea, anything can be grown. From iron, anything can be forged.