Forging ahead in revival of blacksmithing arts

Claire Tennyson

Reporter:

Claire Tennyson

THE ancient art of the blacksmith is alive and well in the Ballymena area.

And if Eamonn Higgins of Hot Milk Forge has his way, the skills of yesteryear will be passed down to future generations - thanks in part to global TV hit ‘Game of Thrones’ with its sword and sorcery primetime magic.

Hot Milk Forge is a Blacksmithing and Bladesmithing School based on the Lisnamanny Road in Ballymena.

It runs evening, weekend and day classes in Basic to Advanced Artist Blacksmithing and Bladesmithing and people have been travelling to the courses from all over the world.

Speaking to the Ballymena Guardian, Eamonn said he loves teaching his craft to keen and intrigued novices.

"I have been a professional artist and sculptor since 2003.

"For 15 years Blacksmithing has formed an integral part of my practice with public works scattered across the UK and commercial works collected internationally," Eamonn explained.

"However I love taking the courses and teaching people a new skill, something they wouldn't ever experience."

The 35-year-old said he recently had a lady travel all the way from Kerry to make her own unique creations.

"This woman drove a long way to do the course and she made a number of intricate brooches and pieces of art that she can treasure.

"I have many people that sign up to the course who are big fans of Game of Thrones and TV shows like that but a lot of people just want to try something different," Eamonn said.

"At the minute we are making mostly knives which seems to be the trendy item at the minute.

“This has probably come from the huge interest in Game of Thrones.”

Eamonn has been approached by the HBO series to make specific items for the show and has had many of the actors who appeared on the show taking his courses.

Hot Milk Forge offers evening and Weekend Classes in Blacksmithing with an artistic twist.

Evening classes are open to everyone above the age of 16.

Participants are encouraged to learn the traditional skills not just because the celebration of wrought iron work is a worthy idea but also because only blacksmithing can introduce you to the full potential of steel as a creative medium.

At the forge they weld with a fire and not with electricity.

Imagine making your own fire side set, wrought iron gate, gifts for your partner, sculpture, the list goes on.

FAMILY FARM

Hot Milk Forge is located on Eamonn's family farm and the workshop is where the first milking parlour was located many moons ago.

His childhood years growing up surrounded by natural beauty of the nearby Antrim Hills continue to influence his work which often looks primeval, resembling the misshapen bodies of humans and animals miraculously preserved in Irish bogs for thousands of years.

"I try to give my work a certain austerity, a 'terrible beauty' that is timeless and that can be associated with Irish art through the millennia.

“As I come from a rural background, the landscape and its people speak more to me than some of the more conceptual art in vogue.

“As a child I grew up playing in mud in haystacks and running about the fields.

“I absorbed all of this subconsciously and it comes out in my work.”

Eamonn has been demonstrating and teaching blacksmithing as part of his Public Art practice as long as he has been blacksmithing.

In 2014 on completion of a two year artist residency in the University of Ulster Eamonn decided it was time his blacksmithing classes had a permanent home Hot Milk Forge was born.

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