‘Tijou’ gates in the sun.

'Tijou' gates in the evening sun, nearly complete, just the overthrow to be installed.

‘Tijou’ gates in the evening sun, nearly complete, just the overthrow to be installed.

Late Friday afternoon 9th August 2013 and the sun is still shining.

Today was the last ‘hand’ painting day (final coat is hand painted with a brush) and Lee the painter has gone off on holiday. The site is clear of scaffold and the enclosure covering, all the major work is complete on the ‘Tijou’ gates.

There are still a few little snags to sort out and the overthrow to be lifted into position, but that’s it. All the new and repaired work fitting went without a hitch and it is very difficult to tell the new work from the originals the discrete ID stamps are the only clue. The replicas (reproductions) are accurate and of similar character, without any embellishment or improvement in design or their manufacture. The repair work is the same, this is the result we aim for; it is so important in conservation and restoration to have minimum impact, not only on the physical structure but also the aesthetic appearance.

Reproduction 'Tijou' gates lock plates x 4 in brass copying exactly one surviving but damaged.

Reproduction ‘Tijou’ gates lock plates x 4 in brass copying exactly one surviving but damaged.

Asides, we can all improve upon our work, today, tomorrow, certainly years down the line and sometimes without check. I was advised as an apprentice that “a true craftsman’s most severe critic should be himself (herself)”. An Artisan, in the interests of economics, has to know when to call it a day and stop making. On occasion I reflect on work I’ve made and feel there are elements I’d perhaps change, omit, improve or do differently, but out of time and context any alterations or improvement would count for and achieve nothing. In the case of other peoples work, everyone can be a critic and some are quick to suggest ‘improvement’. The latter will always be subjective and inevitably very rude! So with this in mind if you are in a situation where you could physically alter or ‘improve’ (in your opinion) another craftsman’s work, to do so would be rude and I believe, unprofessional.

From a conservation perspective, there is an issue of historical accountability regards to reproduction and repair, however from a craftsman standpoint, to change or improve an existing, tangible design(s) is plain wrong. It works both ways too, you need to work to the exact standard that the original craftsman worked to, not less to make the job potentially easier and not more to satisfy your ego. You may have a reason to offer subjective comment in your report, but not to mess with the physical artifact you are being paid to replicate or repair.

'Tijou' gates, Andy and Ben fitting one of the last forged collars to a pre-painted reproduction acanthus decoration on the gate frame.

‘Tijou’ gates, Andy and Ben fitting one of the last forged collars to a pre-painted reproduction acanthus decoration on the gate frame.

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About Nick Bates

I'm a Blacksmith working in Surrey, England, UK. My business, Burrows Lea Forge operates from a Forge just outside Guildford in the village of Shere. I've been trading as a Blacksmith since 1992. Burrows Lea Forge specialises in hot forged Ironwork, designing and making bespoke items for both the public and domestic markets. To the casual onlooker, there seems to be two sides to my business, Artist Blacksmith and Traditional Forge worker, but as an Artisan I see no difference, if you love forging hot metals as I do.... its all the same!
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