Gillian Butler - Fylde Blacksmith
PUBLISHED: 21:44 12 January 2010 | UPDATED: 16:11 20 February 2013
A young woman from the Fylde is forging a name as a blacksmith. Stephanie Bartup reports Photography by Kirsty Thompson
What's a nice girl like Gillian Butler doing in a place normally associated with muscular men pounding pieces of red-hot metal?
'I just love making things,' explains Gillian. 'I saw a course on metalwork in my brother's college prospectus when I was 16 and thought I would give it a go.'
Gillian is one of the few female blacksmiths and, rather than bashing horseshoes into shape, she more often creates some unique and wonderful objects ranging from butterfly sculptures to pieces of furniture.
Ten years on from her course, Gillian has her own workshop located at her family's farm in Esprick on the Fylde. 'My mum and my two brothers work on the farm while I'm in the workshop. I create anything from copper bags, chairs, tables - whatever a customer orders. Each design is unique,' she says.
Her most popular item is a weathervane, which sells for around 100. As we speak Gillian has just completed two orders, a chandelier and a fire grate. She also works on items for the farm and made a roller for the fields.
'I do come in quite useful around the house, I can usually fix things - I even mended the copper curtain rail the other day.'
And it seems news of Gillian's trade is spreading fast, as she recently sent weathervanes to customers in Spain and France. 'I also sent a few smaller decorative items to Australia - they were to people who had heard about my work through friends,' she says.
Being a woman in a male-dominated business does not seem to bother the 26-year-old, who describes herself as 'a bit of a tomboy'.
'Before I opened my workshop, I worked in places where I was the only girl but I don't mind - I grew up with two brothers to contend with,' she laughs. But she admits the job is not an easy one. 'I don't think it's for everyone. It's a lot of hard work - I work every day, with at least 40 hours a week of hard grafting.'
With a career as a blacksmith not foremost in many school-leavers' minds, it's a sad sign of the times that the college course on which Gillian learnt her trade is no longer available. 'I guess there's not a lot of demand for it anymore - it's not something people think of doing,' she reflects.
The unique designs Gillian offers are becoming quite a tourist attraction. 'I get people coming in to see what I do. I know it's quite an unusual job, but I've always been creative. I get my inspiration from nature usually.
'Whenever I'm not sculpting, you'll find me with my horses, or our other animals on the farm. I'm a real country bumpkin!'
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