Forging A Reputation

Blacksmith Oscar Duck is forging a brilliant reputation for his work that is both decorative and practical

A talented young blacksmith who hopes to embark on a ‘journeyman apprenticeship’ travelling the world meeting and learning from fellow craftsmen, is exhibiting his work in the Ribble Valley.

Eighteen-year-old Oscar Duck developed his love of blacksmithing when he was just 13, when he was inspired by a book to make his own bows and arrows.

A former pupil of Bowland High School, Oscar recalls: “I loved making things with my hands so I had this idea that I could make a small arrowhead from scrap steel. I dug a hole in the garden to make a fire and borrowed my dad’s claw hammer and my mum’s hairdryer – and it was quite successful!”

Having studied resistant metals in Design Technology Oscar soon realised that working as a blacksmith was what he wanted to do so he got in touch with master blacksmith Bill Carter at Trapp Forge in Read: “I worked part time on a Saturday with Bill for three years – it was like an apprenticeship. Bill was inspirational, I made lots of different things some decorative some practical.”

Having chosen a career blacksmithing and having studied product design at Burnley College, Oscar also studied for an Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) in web design in order to launch his business straight after his A levels.

“I knew a website would be essential to showcase what I do and to get commissions – and it’s going really well,” said Oscar, who has his own forge in West Bradford, where he lives. “I am enjoying working for myself even though it’s long hours. As there’s only myself, I am responsible for everything – the forging, the accounts, the packaging, the posting and the website. It’s a big responsibility. They’re long days as I forge eight hours a day then I start on social media – putting up videos on YouTube so people get to know me and what I do.”

One of Oscar’s favourite things to forge is a ram’s head, something that can be utilised on a variety of things: “I use it on the end of bottle openers or fire pokers. It’s something Bill Carter taught me to do.”

Oscar’s parent Roger Duck and Sophie Brookes are thrilled that he has discovered a true talent: “At first I think my parents were a little unsure about the 13-year-old who started a fire in the garden because he wanted to make an arrow head! But I think now they like the fact that I am really passionate about what I do.”

Looking to the future, Oscar’s travel plans have had to be put temporarily on hold due to the pandemic. Ever the optimist, Oscar adds: “I was hoping to travel on a journeyman apprenticeship straight after my A levels but because travel is restricted, it has allowed me to start up the business earlier than I thought. It has worked out for the best as I can fund my travels through the things I make.

“I am hoping to organise the journeyman apprenticeship myself and have already started communicating with other smiths throughout the world. I’ve started pinpointing where I would like to visit. New Zealand is on my list and weirdly there is some really good ironwork coming out of Russia so that’s another one.”

Oscar’s ornate ironwork currently forms part of the Northern Star exhibition at the Platform Gallery, which is celebrating the best of British craft talent up until Christmas.

Andrea Westall, the gallery’s co-ordinator, explains: “Oscar uses techniques that are hundreds of years old to produce beautiful long-lasting steel items. His work is a scintillating fusion of art and craft, and we are delighted to be exhibiting it at Northern Star.”

This year Northern Star opened earlier than usual to accommodate social distancing and to give people plenty of time to attend. Featuring more than 50 of the UK’s most celebrated craft workers, exhibits include ceramics by Gabi Komar-Dixon and items by Istanbul-born Emine Thompson, who makes beautiful jewellery laced with enamel and gold.

The Northern Star Exhibition is at the Platform Gallery, Clitheroe, and runs until 24th December

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Tedd Walmsley

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