- Course studied:
- 3D Design Craft
- Year of graduation:
Stoking a passion for blacksmithing
Say the word “blacksmith” and it conjures up primal images of fire and metal sparking in a forge.
But Charis Jones doesn’t spend her time shoeing horses – rather, she creates beautiful sculptures and artwork that can take pride of place in any home, garden or public space.
She set up her business, Sculpted Steel, in 2008 after graduating from her degree in 3D Design Craft, and works with clients to create everything from jewellery and candlesticks to gates and railings.
The 43-year-old is also the resident blacksmith at Etruria Industrial Museum, demonstrating her skills on their regular steaming weekends, and is available for other outdoor events and festivals thanks to her portable equipment.
Charis, who was born in Kenya and brought up in Swaziland, has even been the subject of an oil painting by local artist Rob Pointon, who painted her hard at work at her forge at the museum.
Change of direction
The mother-of-two discovered her love of blacksmithing at Staffordshire University, having gone back into education as a single parent at the age of 32. She had previously worked as a theatre technician and set designer before deciding to change direction due to the unsociable hours.
“I needed a university which was close to the Black Country where I was living at the time,” she says. “I didn’t want to disrupt my children’s lives more than necessary. The original idea was to commute but I moved up here in my second term and have now made Stoke my home.
“The course offered a varied selection of disciplines and gave me a good grounding in design and contemporary practice.”
After graduation she had support from the University’s Enterprise Fellowship Scheme (EFS) to help launch her business, and even made the finals of the Lord Stafford Awards in the Entrepreneurial Spirit category.
She cites “hard work and lots of networking” as the key to making her business a success and says her future ambitions are “to make more high profile art”.
Previous large commissions include three steel installations for the former Chatterley Whitfield mining site, the awards for the Stoke Your Fires Animation Festival and four “gas giants” for Keele University’s planets trail, sculpted as open frameworks of wrought iron and steel – but she stresses that “no project is too big or too small”.
“I especially enjoy the challenge and satisfaction gained by working with a client to produce a bespoke work of art especially for them,” she says. “I do my best to make sure the whole commissioning process is as easy and enjoyable as possible.”
Charis, who names “oatcakes in the Ember Lounge” as her favourite memory of Staffs, has stayed connected with the University since graduation, taking part in the AA2A residency programme and providing work experience for a couple of students from her old course.