“The more varied are our technical means, the greater the latitude for expression. . . . In order to create, the artist must make use of all the means that science places at his disposal: conserving or limiting oneself to the methods of times gone by is absurd. . . . Simple logic and facts therefore bring us to the use of new models, to the steadfast pursuit of modernism in art.”
Edgar Brandt – “Lecture to the Graduates of the Technical Professional Schools” Paris, February 10, 1922.
Atkinson-art, infused and inspired by the majesty of Bodmin Moor, one of the remotest parts of Southern England, often described as windswept and rugged, ”but to me the moor is a sea of land , a 360 horizon, untamed ancient lands, home to our Bronze Age forefathers and many since.” says Charles Atkinson.
As an award winning designer artist blacksmith working from my traditional workshop – ”a sort of Heaven on Earth – I combine traditional blacksmithing and metalworking techniques, some of which push the metals involved to their limit.’’
Energy and spirit, ingredients to life, are put into otherwise inanimate pieces of metal – breathe life into Steel – for instance the pure Silver finish to the Serpents allows movement and promotes their chameleon uncertainty by blending and taking on their surroundings through reflection.
Perhaps the energy and spirit is already there and it’s a case of unlocking it, releasing it, realising its potential, letting it flow, begin to be sculpted, changed, form an identity, a persona.
Titanium ‘Metal of the Gods’ which in the last decade or so has become the ‘new’ metal for jewellers and jewellery. Titanium or Ti, first discovered in Cornwall in 1791, is notoriously hard to work, resistant to corrosion in even the most hostile environments and has the highest strength-to-density ratio of any metallic element found on Earth.
“I wanted to explore a more varied range of metals, creating modern forms and shapes using traditional methods.”
For many years I ran my artisan forge just outside Oxford trading by the name of ‘Iron Awe’. As a Blacksmith I designed and made interior and exterior iron works including renovation and restoration work.
The work was varied and included making ironwork for the film ‘Braveheart’, engineering bespoke display solutions for prehistoric artifacts for the Oxford University Museum for Natural History; designing and forging entrance gates and railings for the Colleges of the University of Oxford, Christchurch Cathedral, Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons, amoung many others – if you walk around the centre of Oxford you will see a lot of my work.
In 2001, for my design and post war restoration of St Peter’s College main entrance railings incorporating the Cross Keys of St Peter, the ‘Keys to the Kingdom of Heaven’, I received an award for my “contribution made to the preservation and enhancement of Oxford’s heritage” by the Oxford Preservation Trust in conjunction with St Peter’s College, Oxford.
During that time I had sponsored two apprentices through college, the first became National Apprentice of the Year 1996, he was recognised by The Worshipful Company of Blacksmiths and awarded at a ceremony in London.
Eight years into my business and I was over trading. With an order book of two and a half years work I reluctantly had to turn down the opportunity to work on Windsor Castle and the Tower of London.
I worked off the order book, sold the business with some gear, keeping what I needed. I then bought a traditional ship ‘Josefine’ a Danish 1931 gaff rigged ketch, oak on oak, an extremely seaworthy vessel, sailed into Charlestown out of Gibraltar in 2004. I coded the vessel with the Maritime Coastguard Agency, achieved my skipper ticket and went to sea classic yacht chartering for a decade or so.
Whilst I enjoyed being a Blacksmith I was always drawn to the more artistic side of design, engineering and metalworking. I also wanted to explore a more varied range of metals, working and finishing, so founded Atkinson-art in order to make the finest metalwork in any metal.
Working with Titanium which was first discovered in Cornwall and Bronze which chimes with the local Bronze age sites, among many other metals, is both challenging and rewarding.
The temperate climate of Cornwall has an appeal, heated by the gulf stream, much like the ancient farmstead that is now home and work, situated in the shadow of the sacred Tor Brown Willy – I moved my workshop, all 25 tons, to the middle of Bodmin Moor, set up my internet business, created brands, designing and making product ranges as well as offering Bespoke: any metal, any scale.
Charles Atkinson from Atkinson-art WOLF & DINGO ViXen Ti-man
The magic of the internet allows anyone from around the world to share the passion for fine wrought ironwork, Chef’s knives, metal art and jewellery, handmade on Bodmin Moor, Cornwall, England.
Previous notable works by Charles Atkinson, some of which can be seen on the gallery page, include:
St. Peter’s College, Oxford
Post-war main entrance railings reinstatement, designed and forged in steel – awarded by the ‘Oxford Preservation Society’ in 2001
Le Manoir Aux Quat’Saisons Hotel & Restaurant
Foot railing, gazebo and lovers’ seat forged in steel
Magdalen College Oxford
Squash court balustrades forged steel
Hot leaded into stonework
Christ Church Memorial Garden
Entrance gates restored traditionally in wrought iron with Gold leaf.
Trinity College, Oxford
Rose arbour tubular steel
- Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford, Vestry Rail – wrought iron extension, traditional methods only such that you’d never know
- Highcroft House, Eynsham, Oxfordshire, design and build the main entrance to one of the finest country houses in the county, including dressed stone piers and granite capping that was originally set aside for Sir Winston Churchill’s monument, forged steel gates and railings fully automated with electronic security relayed to the main house
- Dragon school, Oxford, Library Spiral Staircase etched glass on exacting steel spiral staircase
- Christ Church, Oxford, Master’s Garden Gate renovation in wrought iron with Gold leaf
- Trinity College, Oxford, Fellows garden gate design and forge, allowing visual access to the garden, forged in steel
- Magdalen College, Oxford, Entrance Gates, renovation in wrought iron
- Magdalen College, Oxford, St John’s Quadrangle, design and forge a pair of gates to be transparent allowing visual access to the President’s garden and beyond, forged in steel – complemented by the then Head of Planning Control and Conservation, Oxford City Council in a letter dated 25/8/99 stating – ‘The gates are wonderfully transparent….set in context the design and gates achieve near perfection’
- Trinity College, Oxford, Main entrance gates, restoration in wrought iron
- St Peter’s College Main Entrance Gates, New Inn Hall Street, Oxford restoration in wrought iron
- Oxford Oratory, Oxford, design and forge Main Entrance Gates forged steel
- Braveheart, the film, King Longshanks bed, large forged steel hinges
- St Mary Magdalene Church, Wandsworth Common, London – Entrance Gates and Railings, forged copper and steel
- Heritage Parks Southampton – design and forge steel railings
- New College, Oxford, huge sundial forged stainless steel for the Clock Tower
- Jesus College, Oxford, Junior Common Room railings, forged steel
- Boars Hill House, Boars Hill, Oxford – design and build the main entrance to one of the finest houses on Boars Hill including dressed stone piers, forged steel gates and railings fully automated with electronic security relayed to the main house
- Waterperry House Oxfordshire – high level roof light canopy, access platform design and made in aluminum with counter balance weights running on pulleys within a wall cavity.
- Boars Hill Heath, Boars Hill, Oxford main entrance gates forged steel
- Preston Baggott, Warwickshire, design and build two sets of main entrance gates including red brick piers, forged steel gates and railings fully automated with electronic security relayed to the main house and reception
- Brasenose College, Oxford, all main quad windows, boxes in forged steel
- Christ Church, Oxford freestanding and wall mounted hand railings to Cathedral entrance, Tom Quad, Cloisters and Blue Boar Court
- Denton House, Denton, Oxfordshire design and forge main entrance gates
- The Eagle House Hotel, Launceston, Cornwall grade II* listed, design and forge Eagle One Gin Bar balcony railings in steel and glass English Heritage approved ‘Each panel looks like a work of art’ stated the owner
- Oxford University Museum for Natural History dinosaur skeleton display stand in steel and display pieces for prehistoric artifacts
- English Heritage, Bodlian Library, National Trust, numerous Oxford Colleges, churches and resturants, Raymond Blanc OBE, Private Secretary to the late Diana Princess of Wales, Sofia former Queen of Spain
Special thanks to the Rolls-Royce and Bentley owners club for their kind invitation to celebrate Bentley’s centenary at the Grosvenor House Hotel, London, June 2019.
Modern Design, Traditional Methods
These are some of the traditional methods Charles uses, which have been used by blacksmiths for centuries.
Shaping and moving of hot metal, mainly iron and steel, by means of extreme force delivered locally by a hammer striking the hot metal on an anvil. This can be done manually or mechanically, or with a combination of both depending upon the size, section and type of metal being worked.
Shaping of a sheet of malleable metal by localised hammering to various degrees from the reverse side to create a design in relief. The material will require annealing (heating up to a dull red) from time to time to relieve stresses built up in the metal. The relief can increase in depth as long as there is enough material thickness to cope with the stresses of being stretched.
This is similar to repoussé but carried out on the presentation side, usually carried out in conjunction with and to highlight the repoussé work.
Taking inspiration from past Master Blacksmiths in particular Jean Tijou, Fritz Kuhn and the Master of Art Deco ironwork Edgar Brandt, from his workshop set within the ancient lands of Bodmin Moor Charles Atkinson has refined and combined traditional blacksmithing and metal working methods, some that break convention. Using a combination of metals and techniques he creates extraordinary Luxury Metal Art and exquisite Jewellery.
Charles is also passionate about Reliable Renewable Energy –
Why can’t we harness the energy from the tidal movements around our shores that happen every day? Why haven’t we?
His patent No: GB2443636 for ‘Apparatus, installation and method for electrical power generation’ was granted on 18th March 2009, the original application was filed 8th November 2006.
As an ex-commercial skipper of a classic 1931 gaff rigged ketch Charles draws on his knowledge of the sea, influencing the robust design, installation, metals and materials involved. He has further patent applications for future filing.
Charles Atkinson is the Director of Tidal Diamond Ltd, registered at Companies House No:04752364, a company he formed to progress the technology.