Annabelle Bradley’s working life was once all about numbers and spreadsheets but now she spends her days stood at an anvil in the smithy.
Her time is spent heating metal until it is soft enough for bending and shaping, before using a hammer and other tools to turn it into artisan works after becoming a blacksmith in the heart of the Dales quite by chance. Although, not the core of her business she has even used her skills to weld bits back onto tractors and quad bikes to help people out.
“It’s very satisfying at the end of the day to have an item that you have produced, rather than working with numbers and spreadsheets every day,” said Mrs Bradley, who gave up her job as a tax accountant to take on her job at Malham Smithy and whose work is being showcased in a new exhibition.
Eagle-eyed TV viewers will have spotted her on ITV’s The Dales and seen her make chandeliers for the Buck Inn, the pub and hotel that stands close to the village green and to the smithy. Even so, some visitors are still surprised to see a woman working as a blacksmith.
“You can have people come through the door and say: ‘Oh there’s a blacksmith’ and then ‘Oh you weren’t what we were expecting.’”
Mrs Bradley, originally from the Bradford area, saw an advert looking for craftsmen or women who might be able to use the space. She loved the building and originally planned to work with silver but it became plain those renting the space were keen to see it used for blacksmithing.
The chance suggestion intrigued her and she set about gaining the knowledge she needed by working with an instructor and then developed her skills on the job. She has not looked back since and gets real satifaction from her work.
She went from sitting behind a desk to doing a physically-demanding job in a completely different location.
“Obviously its physical so its developing different muscle groups so that’s one obstacle to overcome, developing your strength,” Mrs Bradley said.
As time went by she learned to understand the metal and how it reacted to the heat and learned how correctly angling the hammer made her efforts more effective.
Her work includes functional ironwork ornamented with hand forged rams and sculptures inspired by the surrounding streams and woodland.
It covers everything from heart-shaped bunting to fireside tools and companion sets and she is keen to pass on her skills on and runs a beginners course for budding blacksmiths from the smithy.
Photographer Shaun Richardson, took pictures of her at work, while completing his BA at Blackburn University, and they are featured in the exhibition about Mrs Bradley and her work which is at the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority’s National Park Centre, in Malham, which is being staged until July 31.
Chris Lancaster, centre manager said: “We are pleased to promote work by local craftspeople in the Malham National Park Centre and we hope to have more displays of traditional crafts in the future.
“Annabelle’s work is influenced by the environment in which she lives and encompasses the many special features of the Yorkshire Dales National Park and the spectacular landscape of Malhamdale.”