This September, Wendy took part in the Blacksmithing Festival and World Championships held in Stia, a picturesque town in the mountains to the east of Florence, Italy.
Accompanying Melissa Cole from Wiltshire and Michelle Parker from Worcestershire she was proud to be a member of the first and only all women team to compete; they were sponsored, on this occasion by the Worshipful Company of Blacksmiths (see Links).
Even though they arrived on Wednesday afternoon, after 23 hours travelling, into the middle of a heatwave – 32 degrees centigrade in the shade, over 40 degrees next to the Fires! – they took the first 3 hour slot, which was on Thursday 1st September 5.45 pm, for their team forging. Based on the theme of Evolution, publicised one month before, they had designed a flowing piece representing the tail of a fish, disappearing into the waves, rippling water and sand patterns either side and the figure of a woman emerging the other end. Despite only one practice session working together, the team co-ordinated well, so that they finished within the time allowed and were pleased with the result. Several Blacksmiths complimented their effort, entitled, at the last minute, “Born from the Sea” (no greater accolade than praise from your peers), some even had interesting interpretations of it, which had not previously occurred to them!
The following day they each competed in a 3 hour solo session; all were affected by the heat, but Wendy (and 4 other smiths over the 3 days) succumbed after 2½ hours. Fully recovered, she was, happily, allowed to complete her “Tree of Life” between 7.30 and 8.00 the following morning.
The atmosphere in the Piazza was terrific. 12 Forges were arranged along one side, with tiered seating for the crowds of onlookers, a fountain (very tempting, but most resisted!) coolly occupied the centre and long trestle tables were placed in two L-shapes across the other side, upon which were arranged the labelled, completed pieces, at the end of each 3 hour session. With over 100 Smiths from all around the world taking part, there was live forging action non-stop from Thursday evening to Saturday night, with some demonstrations whilst the judging took place during Sunday. So many Blacksmiths signed up to compete that an extra slot was organized from 12.00 midnight on Saturday to 3.00am on Sunday! In fact, at half past midnight on Saturday, the Piazza was “buzzing”, it seemed that, along with all the Blacksmiths, the whole town was there!
The Prize-giving Ceremony dissolved under torrential rain, but could not dampen the spirits of the Smiths, especially the British team lead by Stephen Lunn from Northumbria, who won the team class and Michelle Parker who won the women’s class with her brilliant “Eve” – a dinosaur reading a book!
So, along with viewing the beautiful work on display at the Exhibition Stands, visiting the Trade Stands (like kids in a sweet shop!) making new and renewing old friendships, enjoying the warm Italian hospitality, all in all, it was an incredibly exciting and rewarding experience.