Bridewell Organic Gardens is an independent mental health charity based in rural West Oxfordshire. From 2002 to 2007 I was the Gardens' resident blacksmith.
I worked alongside men and women in recovery from mental illness, teaching them to forge steel. For me, the work was a revelation – process, not product, became the focus of my concentration.
I'd come to blacksmithing because of the violence I'd witnessed as a child. Forgework had been about transforming trauma, making something beautiful out of experiences that were ugly and humiliating. At Bridewell I discovered that I wasn't alone in experiencing that catharsis.
Use your whole body to work the steel and you can let rip and vent your feelings on the metal until you're shattered.
Seeing the ideas in one's head become reality was liberating and made me believe for the first time that perhaps I had some creativity in me after all!red.