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Films, Movies and TV.

The problem with being good at what you do is that people seek you out for that reason.

We been making Set Decoration and Props for Feature Films since 1998 and TV some time before that.

Following on from my Blog post ‘Man from U.N.C.L.E.’ in 2014, Burrows Lea Forge has a reputation for doing tricky work to a high standard but in timescales far quicker than most can dream of. Obviously this niche market costs a little more and relies a lot on what the client provides… namely quality information, style and mood interpretations, drawings, schedules and prompt payment. In return we advise, plan and produce what they need, when they need it, sometimes even the same day!

This is why we do so much work for the Movies; however this brings it own unforeseen problems. The majority of producers like Disney, Spielberg, Lucas are very protective over their product and production… rightly so, there’s a mind boggling investment in these Features. Resulting in Confidentially Agreements and Manufacture surrender rights documentation, meaning that as a supply company we can’t publicly show (let alone reproduce) what we’ve made for them, particularly when it comes to Social Media…. So nearly all the movie work we’ve done over the last 15+ years you’ll never see here or on our feeds, which is a bit frustrating from our point of view.

A minority of Movies production companies take a different approach and embrace the media storm, hoping it will whip up some free publicity one such film being released this week is ‘The Man from U.N.C.L.E’ a Guy Ritchie (Lock, Stock and Sherlock Holmes) directed movie for Warner Bros. A Re-imagined 1960’s Cult classic, where CIA agent Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill) and KGB operative Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer) participate in a joint mission against a mysterious criminal organization T.H.R.U.S.H.

So I can show a pictures of what we made (without being taken to court), but out of loyalty to our employers I’m not saying what they are or what scene they are used in. All I’ll say is its great from a crafts persons perspective, that Blockbusting Production Companies still see the worth of employing us old fashioned types alongside the cutting edge technology of CGI and Motion Capture. Long may it continue………… and keep me employed by going to see the film this month!

Blacksmith, Hand forged, Design, Ironwork, Forge, Wrought Ironwork, Hot Forged, Blacksmithing, the Man from U.N.C.L.E. ironwork, Warner Bros

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. ironwork for the film.

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Masterpiece

Blacksmith, Hand forged, Design, Ironwork, Forge, Wrought Ironwork, Hot Forged, Blacksmithing

Burrows Lea Forge Sign in the firelight.

This is my Company signature piece I reckon. Its pretty good generally, as its sums up what I do in a glance.
The back story is rather different…. I made this sign when I was leaving my apprenticeship in1995 (I was 26 years old at the time) and was to be my ‘masterpiece’.

I had been using a drawing for my company logo and thought it a good idea to realise it into a physical example of what I could do as a qualified Blacksmith. As usual I left it to the last minute to make it, so much so, my Master Smith threatened to refuse me my qualification if I was late in submitting it.

That manic week in 1995 making it has stayed with me all these years and every time i look at this piece I’m reminded of working like a demon to complete it on time….. I guess that’s also sums up what I do! #blacksmith #blacksmithing #repousse #masterpiece

 

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‘Robin Hood’ film 2009

Blacksmith, Hand forged, Design, Ironwork, Forge, Wrought Ironwork, Hot Forged, Blacksmithing, Robin Hood, Ridley Scott, Film props, Set Decoration

Robin Hood 2009 montage

What were you doing 5 years ago this week?

Well, we were making a last minute batch of Cauldrons for the Ridley Scott Film ‘Robin Hood’, starring Russell Crowe, Cate Blanchett, Mark Strong and others. The production company had been let down by a ‘Blacksmith’ manufacturer at the last minute, we were already busy with their earlier orders. Desperate, the purchaser approached us, working on the basis ‘if you want something done ask a busy man…..” So we made 13 of these fiendish Cauldrons comprising of nine individual steel metal pieces, which then had to be riveted together. Anyone with any experience of this process will realise this is not straightforward….. Oh, and did I mention we had only five days to do it!

Blacksmith, Hand forged, Design, Ironwork, Forge, Wrought Ironwork, Hot Forged, Blacksmithing, Robin Hood, Ridley Scott, Film props, Set Decoration

Cauldrons made in 2009 for Ridley Scott’s film ‘Robin Hood’

 

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The Man from U.N.C.L.E

Blacksmith, Hand forged, Design, Ironwork, Forge, Wrought Ironwork, Hot Forged, Blacksmithing

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. ironwork for the film.

Remember ‘The Man from U.N.C.L.E.’ films? I loved them! Well there’s a remake directed by Guy Ritchie coming very soon and we’ve made some bits for it!

All the bits you see in the photo are made out re-forged ‘scrap’ billets, the texture, colour and extra working gives the perfect character for primitive cell door ironmongery….. which its for! We knew this was what the designers wanted…. because the drawing showed us.

We made them for our usual designers; Julie makes our life really easy with her beautiful drawings, hand drawn and full size as they should be! The reason it makes it easy is because drawing by hand conveys texture, weight and character that CAD can’t…. long may they continue to do so.

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Bread and Butter, Nuts and Bolts.

Hand forged Nuts & Bolts

Hand forged Nuts & Bolts

Writing on the last day of January it’s hard to believe Spring 2014 is seven weeks away!

Its been a very soggy start to the new year and nearly all our current work involves extensive site work (exterior), so we’re a bit behind as you can imagine. On the flip side the unplanned, ‘forced’ time in the Forge has been used productively to clean up, getting all those little repairs and ‘favour’ based work out of the way.

Fitting wagon axle staples.

Fitting wagon axle staples.

So, I spent Friday morning at the hearth, forging repair links to fix chains, making swivels for Heavy Horse harness and re-forging breaker points. As an apprentice and learning my trade this sort of work was tricky, but fun. In my middle years, with refined skills this was bread & butter work, reserved for Saturday mornings and was a tedious necessity, while I dreamed of artistic opportunities and great works. These days when a MacBook is my most useful business tool, the opportunity to do straightforward, old-fashioned Smiths work is to be relished and like riding a bike or playing a musical instrument (so I’m told), it all comes easily and is a total pleasure to revisit.

And so onward into the New Year and this year publicity is my goal; I realized a few years back that all the publicity and advertising I had undertaken in earlier years had paid off, having reliable, long term work to look forward to and a healthy client base. But traditional advertising and promotion has been overtaken by web based campaigns. To ignore this change is business suicide and I’ve been increasingly frustrated to witness less capable companies are getting opportunities purely on the basis they are shouting loader than the rest of us; now is the time to do something about it. I guess that’s a life lesson in general isn’t it, we all know of ‘loud’ companies/people and perhaps think of them first. However in most instances, there’s a far better, more reliable (quiet) businesses/person at the end of the road. Its a shame that its no one’s fault really except those quiet businesses if we don’t recall them; but if we do remember them and don’t give the chance for patronage, there’s a good chance (without a high street position) they might not be around for long. It’s sad that the term ‘use it or lose it’ is being repeated so often now!

With that philosophy & warning I advise  myself and others to shout as loud (or at least quite loud) as the loud ones via keyboard and Smart phone. Here, there, Twitter, everywhere, Instagram, Facebook and all the other emerging markets too. I personally have lots to show and tell. So starting as I mean to carry on, please check out the sidebars on this page and take a look at my Twitter and Instagram feeds and ‘Like’ me on Facebook, if you dare. ‘Follow too’ on any of these and the this website if the fancy takes you. It all adds up these days!

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Kingpost Public Artwork

SONY DSC

August 2012, Burrows Lea Forge won a design competition for Public Art installation at Kingpost, Burpham, Surrey commissioned by Guildford Borough Council.

The site is confined and the Artwork had several jobs to do. It had to incorporate signage, a ‘nod’ to the heritage of the site, the usual public interaction criteria as well as having very low maintenance  requirements.

Burrows lea Forge rose to the challenge (as usual) and designed it tall and proud with a small footprint. One amendment to the design and the order is placed. We were very busy at the point of order and a long turnaround time had to given, with a promise and guarantee the work would be in place by the end of February 2013.

Extracts from my Design and Access Statement describe the work better than I can write here and now: “The proposed Kingpost & London Road parades Public Artwork takes the form of a Signpost, set into the centre of the existing, circular communal area. The Public Artwork is essentially a sign and a post; it has generic iconography on the upper portion of the post that is surmounted by a large two-sided insignia/logo/sign. It has integral signboards stating Kingpost Parade on one face and London Road Parade on the other.

Public Art at Kingpost

Public Art at Kingpost

The sign depicts a stylised ‘meld’ of a Crown (Kingpost) and a Cartwheel (London Road). The wheel sits/rolls on a ‘road’ obstructed by large pebbles (actually the steel ball nuts that hold the post and sign parts together). The design is visually balanced, giving neither the crown nor the wheel dominance; as with the two actual shopping parades. The framing effect of the wheel rim is truncated in the design to offer the signboards more space and get the message across.

For me this is a natural choice and application of imagery for this Public Artwork. I didn’t want to rely totally on the area’s history for a theme nor did I want to create abstract art that may stand against the environment. I consider this area of the Guildford district as a dynamic and changing scene, with plenty of scope for growth. There are many young families and small businesses in the area, so a simple, instantly recognisable form is respectful to them.”

I consider the site of the Artwork to be ‘walk by’ and ‘seen from a far’, so it has to be tall, over 4 metres in fact, if it were shorter it would just disappear into the shop signs and many road signs that ‘litter’ the proposed site. The post is quite large too, but it needs to be to resist flex caused by gusts of wind and/or revellers who decide to test their climbing skills.

The Artwork was installed on a substantial foundation, on time and on budget in February as promised.

Thanks to Guildford Borough Council for the commission, to S.R.Newman Ltd. for preparing the foundations/making good and to JPS Ltd for transport and lifting services.

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Not a gate?

Original Arts & Crafts, conserved and displayed.

When is a gate not a gate?

When its a piece of Art?

These lovely gates date from the late 19th Century (that’s Victorian if your British). We conserved these gates for a private client. Luckily for the gates the client is an Art professional, who realized their value culturally and financially. They we’re rescued from a salvage/reclamation yard a few years ago purchased with no provenance. The client wanted to use them as a feature somewhere in the house or gardens of her beautiful Edwin Luytens/Gertrude Jeykell designed Arts & Crafts House.

In consultation with Burrows Lea Forge Ltd. she was only to aware that the first rule of conservation had been broken; moving a piece from its original location. Nothing could be done about that now, but there was an opportunity to embrace another Conservation rule, namely if a piece is in danger in its location, it should be moved to a more suitable (preferably permanent) site.

Detail of Arts & Crafts gate.

These gates are very special, they are in an Arts & Crafts style, expertly balanced  and we suspect they were originally commissioned for a civic building, church or public office. There is an enormous level of detail, demanding top level forging skills. Interestingly and in the spirit of Arts & Crafts, the Artisan was only too aware of his excellent work and deliberately allowed ‘schoolboy’ errors in the setting the piece. As a craftsman I can easily identify what’s going on, the technical execution is so expert, it makes a joke of the deliberate errors, I suspect the Blacksmith responsible, might have hoped a Peer will see through his fakery, as I would in his situation. Well, I have!

Its amazing the time-shift a skill or craft can breach; you can get inside the head and empathize with someone long gone. Conservation and restoration does this, as you look closely, respecting the work of others, you can truely see inside their minds and feel what they must felt as they ‘turned’ a scroll or ‘pinched’ a collar or made a small mistake! Its a marvelous thing.
Back to the job! The client thought about the best use of the gates for quite a while and eventually with our guidance decided for us to install them in the covered arch way to the old coach-house of her property. The bare wall of the inner arch was crying out for some sort of ‘interest’. So we installed the gates on the wall. We were conscious to install them high enough to be aesthetically acceptable and safe from the prevailing weather. We used the original hinge mounts fixing them with stainless steel fixings into the Bargate stone wall. Mindful all the time of reversibility of of our actions.
So the gate went up, they looked great and as you can see there is  as much on show today, no less than there was 100 years ago, with any luck, 100 years from the view will be the same.

THAT”S CONSERVATION! sorry  I meant ART.

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Gallery!

Forged and painted flower, Middle Street, Shere.

In these pages I hope to show you what we’ve been up to over the last twenty or so years.

The pictures in Gallery pages are mostly my own designs and if they are not, the designer is accredited. Where the designs are solely Burrows Lea Forge’s they will carry an Artist copyright and cannot be copied or used without my permission. The work itself is entirely ours, I don’t show pictures of other peoples work! With that said I hope you like what you see and don’t forget to give me a click or call if you want more information.

We’ve done a lot of work for a small company and worked very hard to keep solvent and good humored. I’ve worked with many Smiths, Designers and Architects since 1992 and where possible (and justified) I’ve accredited those involved. Somewhere in the Web process I might have missed someone or another, it won’t be deliberate, so don’t sue me or anything. If you are missing and feel you deserve some credit please don’t hesitate to drop me a line or call and bend my ear.

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Bacchus Gate

In July 2008 the Bacchus gate came to life in a sketch, doodled in crayon (because that’s all I had), in front of the customer on a spiral pad (because that’s all I had).  Ever the professional, I had left my site bag in my other van. I was warned by a very well know Blacksmith friend of mine never to do this as it can look amateur and may commit you to something you might regret. I’m sure he’s right!

But I would disagree on one account, I often find sketching quite liberating and often catches the moment far better than memory ever can. Even a few lines can remind you later of what was happening at the time. I have to work very hard when it comes to sketching, I can technically draw very well and I can do formal drawing without to much trouble, but to do ‘off the cuff’ doodles I have to be careful. But this time it was like a dream, it flowed and as the client described what he was trying to achieve for his home.

Bacchus gate detail.

We discussed Bacchus, the god of indulgence, the Horn of Plenty, grapes, fruit and what too many good times can do to you. So a Horn of Plenty Gate adorned with vines, fruit and a bit wobbly was the result…… perfect as the gate was to be sited at the head of a narrow stair to a wine tasting cellar, against a rustic brick wall and to be seen from a French Provence inspired kitchen.
So I scaled the design up from the folded paper to full size and handed it over to the workshop. They did a brilliant job. It was one of those jobs that everyone enjoyed, the money was right, the design was perfect and there was plenty of scope for free form interpretation. The gate and a small panel were finished in a Slate grey finish that my Friend Andy Quirk showed me how to make up and apply.

I wish that so many other jobs went this way…… the client was also delighted!

Bacchus Gate and Panel

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Restoration of ‘Tijou’ Gates at Petworth House.

Acanthus Rosette

Acanthus Rosette on existing Gates in need of Conservation

September 2012 Burrows Lea Forge Ltd. won the tender commissioned by The National Trust to Restore the ‘Tijou’ Gates at Petworth House, West Sussex, England,

The Contract is signed and the Purchase Order complete. This is a dream job for us and probably most British Blacksmiths (the ones that actually hot forge their metalwork that is!). The Gates need Conserving and Restoring to their former glory.

Tender test piece 200 x 200mm x 12g, mild steel, Acanthus Rosette made by Nick Bates

Despite being known locally as the Tijou Gates, they are in fact Victorian opposed to early Georgian. That doesn’t mean they are any less in character or quality. In fact I believe Victorian Acanthus Work of this quality is in a league of its own, being almost perfect in charachter and execution, without the wasteful  excess of the Master Ironworker ,Jean Tijou.

The reason they are known as the ‘Tijou’ gates is that they are based upon his design, a design the man himself used on three occasions at Hampton Court Palace. The most notable is the last incarnation, commissioned by George I, known as the Lion Entrance Gates facing Bushy Park.

This a big job for us, at least 30 weeks. So my Blogs from now on will consist mainly of notable previous work, no less interesting though. There are still a few new things in the pipeline, namely our Conservation of The Durdan Gates at Epsom, UK and our latest Public Art commission for Guildford Borough Council. at Burpham, Surrey, UK.

I’m writing a separate Blog for the ‘Tijou’ Gates as it will take up so much of my time, please take a look though if you are interested Petworth Gates.

‘Tijou’ Gates Circa 1900