College of FET blacksmithing artist and tutor Eric O’Neill inspiring learners at Ireland’s only City and Guilds certified training course in Blacksmithing and Ironcraft Skills.
More College of FET Blacksmithing learners graduate this September at Ireland’s only City and Guilds certified training course in Cappamore
The ancient art of blacksmithing has been enjoying a revival in Ireland over the last number of years and this is certainly evident with another group of blacksmiths graduating this September at Ireland’s only City and Guilds certified training course in Cappamore.
Under the mentorship of well-known artist blacksmith and tutor Eric O’Neill, the forge at Limerick and Clare Education and Training Board’s College of FET, Cappamore Campus continues to be an inspiration to anyone interested in the area of Blacksmithing. This ranges from learners creating artistic sculptures, bespoke pieces of jewellery or furniture, more functional pieces or carrying out heritage conservation work.
Learners of all experience levels, from complete beginners to more experienced smiths have been benefitting from taking on the skills and techniques offered at this particular Blacksmithing and Ironcraft Skills course.
Deirdre McGuinness, this year’s only female blacksmith at the campus, has a unique perspective as the daughter of well-known Clare Blacksmith Conn McGuiness. Conn’s mentor was Paul Allen, a world renowned blacksmith who was also her tutor Eric O’Neill’s mentor. Conn sadly passed away a few years ago but Deirdre is proudly following in her father’s footsteps and hopes to get the family forge up and running again soon.
Another learner who received his City and Guilds accreditation this year is Eoin McBride who was subsequently accepted for further training with the All-Ireland Heritage Skills programme being run by the Prince’s Foundation. This is a bursary scheme delivered at different locations throughout the island of Ireland, providing an opportunity to keep traditional skills like blacksmithing, stone masonry, joinery, thatching and woodworking techniques alive.
Richard Fontes is an established blacksmith who was looking to improve on his forging skills and techniques during the course. He runs the Fox Fire Forge in Abbeyfeale, Co. Limerick, where he creates jewellery, art and hand-crafted fire-side equipment. Richard is also part of the well-known Feale Crafters, a community group of independent artists from the locality who run a popular market in Abbeyfeale every second Saturday.
Reece Saul Foster took over the 270 year old Lyons Forge in Mountshannon, Co. Clare four months ago and is currently operating his business Saul Forged from there. Prior to studying at Cappamore Campus, Reece was a youth worker and stone mason but has always had a keen interest in artisan crafts and heritage work. He is now working on repairing the forge and is the first blacksmith to do so in over 100 years. He was also recently commissioned to do a large project for a private art dealer and is grateful to his tutor Eric for showing him the skills he needed to help his business excel: “I cannot sing Eric’s praises enough for the work and passion he puts in to teaching blacksmithing.”
Eric is inspiring those interested in the art of Blacksmithing once again during this year’s National Heritage Week which runs up until August 20. Speaking about the initiative, Eric said: “This year’s theme invites the public to explore the traditions and practices, knowledge and skills passed down through generations and Cappamore Campus is hosting week-long free taster classes at its forge.”
Eric will also be in action at this year’s Cappamore Show which is taking place at the Cappamore Agricultural Showgrounds on August 19th and also at the Limerick Show at Limerick Racecourse on Sunday August 27th showing both traditional and modern forging techniques.