Wendy Alford joined Tasso Forge, Hammersmith, in 1980, after completing her degree in the Natural Sciences, at Chelsea College, London University. She initially worked in the drawing office, later undertaking training in the Forge and on site to gain all round experience in Blacksmithing.
Going into partnership with Forge Master Dave Townsend, in 1982, she helped run the London forge which employed between 6 and 12 craftsmen, journeymen and trainees, until 2003. Over this period, developing her own individual style and approach, she designed and worked on 100’ s of commissions which included, amongst a plethora of balconies, gates, staircases, screens, interior fittings and so on, the 11’0” diameter steel, aluminum and cast iron spiral staircase for the film set of Aliens III, forged steel railings to the pedestrian precinct in the centre of Reading and a large set of contemporary forged steel gates at Bradfield College, Berkshire (see Commissions). She has organized and worked on many restoration projects, including the Tower of London railings and British Museum gates.
In 1989, she bought the Old Forge in Haddiscoe, Norfolk, an 18th century traditional village Smithy, with evidence pointing to the existence of a Forge, on the same site, for over 1000 years, as cited in the Domesday Book! Wendy and Dave continued the restoration, begun by the previous owners, making improvements to the buildings and set up, installing equipment and machinery, whilst beginning to take on local work, carry out some or parts of commissions taken on by the London Forge, then larger projects, in their own right.
In the early 1990’s, Wendy became involved with the Worshipful Company of Blacksmiths, becoming a W.C.B. accredited Judge, a member of the W.C.B. Crafts Committee and the National Blacksmiths Competition Committee (NBCC). She was awarded Freedom of The Company in 2005.
Working in the Norfolk Smithy, Wendy finds inspiration in its fascinating history, the ancient adjoining round tower church and the beautiful surrounding countryside. She enjoys working in traditional and contemporary spheres, gaining enormous respect and admiration for the skill and ingenuity of Blacksmiths, throughout history, when carrying out restoration, whilst loving the freedom of expression that contemporary projects allow. In her sculptural pieces she works with the malleable qualities of the hot forged iron and steel, combined with the rigidity of the cold metal to create sculptures and collages from organic and naturalistic to abstract and realist.
In all her work, Wendy engages with the ancient and magical aspects of the Art and Craft of Blacksmithing to create original pieces, imbued with history through process whilst being uniquely of their time.
David Townsend began Blacksmithing at school. At 18, he joined the Royal Navy, training first as a mechanical engineer then as an Air Frame Engine Fitter. At 23, he obtained qualifications as a Toolmaker, working for 4 years at Hawker Siddely before returning to his first love at Forge and Anvil. He took over Tasso Forge, Hammersmith, London, in 1974 and remained the Forge Master there for almost 30 years. During this time, he extended and improved the facilities to include 5 fully equipped Forge Stations. He took on and ran many large restoration projects, including the gates at Regent’s Park (see Commissions), Ironwork to the rooves of the Victoria & Albert Museum and Natural History Museum, and reproduction of historic Wrought Ironwork at Hampton Court Tudor Kitchens.
He designed and forged balcony balustrade for the Institute of Watercolourists, Piccadilly and staircase balustrade for Harrods (see Commissions). He produced forged, fabricated and cast ironwork for hundreds of domestic and commercial properties throughout London and further afield including spiral staircases in Versailles, Dubai, New York and Israel. He has trained dozens of young people in the craft of Blacksmithing, with all its fascinating history, associations with alchemy, shamanism and herbalism and its context in the wider world of Art, Architecture and Industry.
He now wields his hammer in the rustic setting of St. Mary’s Forge, Norfolk, living up to the reputation of traditional village blacksmith, at the hub of the community. Combining his wide ranging artistic and engineering abilities as a blacksmith and toolmaker, he is able to carry out work on complex projects involving intricate technical challenges with skill and precision. It also allows him to fully develop his artistic and design ideas through to realisation.