Working hands
In the forge surounded by the tools of the trade

In the forge surounded by the tools of the trade


Rebecca Knott

In the early 80’s, I was born in to a blacksmithing family at a time when there was a growing desire to reinvigorate UK blacksmithing with a new direction towards the contemporary art world. Spurred on by what was happening in Europe and overseas at the time, a young group of UK smiths were tired of making scroll after scroll and wanted to explore the full potential of the material and the many possibilities that could be found in modern forging. This was the birth of a new age of hot forge work in the UK.

It was an amazing environment to grow up in, and although I was too young to be able to distinguish one forging event from another, the artfulness going on was unmistakable. Throughout the years there would be many gatherings of these energetic artist blacksmiths forging and singing long in to the night. Much like cave paintings, chalk drawings could be found on any given surface, left behind from animated conversations depicting ideas, designs and problem-solving; creativity in action.

I have always had a strong creative urge and in my youth took dance classes and learnt to play the saxophone. Then I was taken with creating with wood and fibre. It was later that I moved to the forge and began experimenting with metal. After school I attended art college in Farnham studying photography. I was enthralled by the dark granular textures and the depth you could achieve from the developing process of black and white film. I then moved on to photography and Fine Arts at university. My interest in forge work re-emerged and upon leaving university I had the opportunity to go up north and work with a Master Blacksmith. With increasing confidence in my skills, I continued my learning alongside other smiths from around the world with my father, also a Master Blacksmith. Most of this time was spent learning the fundamental skills that would give me the freedom to develop my personal style and artistic sense within metal work and beyond.

There are many things I love about blacksmithing, from the making of one’s own tools, to the manipulation of the metal itself, from the brainstorming of ideas, to the design and production of the artwork. Challenges often arise because of the diversity of materials I use but there is nothing sweeter than eloquently solving these problems.  There is always something to learn both from the material itself and from collaborations with other artists. When working on a project the design process stems from a collaborative relationship with the client. Discussions with the client develop a framework, from which a piece of work evolves and can turn into the unexpected. My inspiration comes from all around me and I always look forward to when and where it occurs. 

There are several ways I work depending on what brief is set with the client. Functional pieces I allow the form be influenced, but not dominated by, the function then play with it until it's balanced or uncomfortable. It is a long and intuitive process. When making a latch for instance, I use design to draw attention to the object, creating a heightened level of awareness during and beyond its use. With my bespoke work I hope to disrupt the complacency of our everyday interactions and create memorable moments in time.

In addition to creating work that triggers an emotional response through touch, I also place an importance on visual stimulation. I treat the metal's surface as a canvas, exploring texture, colour and contrast. Textures are added using tooling to create layers that extend above and below the surface to form an image or pattern. Colour is introduced by combining materials whose natural colours contrast, sometimes combined with painted steel, to create subtle accents.

My hope is to engage the viewer both visually and physically, encouraging a new relationship with the world around them and the objects within it.


Diploma of Merit from The Worshipful Company of Blacksmiths