Sheffield Design Week Workshop:
The workshop will include a tour of the forge where stainless steel was originally produced, the opportunity to see items being forged and a chance to hear about the history of Portland Works and my own experiences of working here over the past 40 years.
Workshop times and dates:
Sunday October 30th
Workshop One: 12pm - 1pm
Workshop Two: 2pm-3pm
How many people can attend each workshop?
Cost per person for attending your workshop:
Andy Cole Q&A
Who or what inspired you to do what you do?
Eric Wigfull, my original boss at Portland Works inspired me to do what I do. Eric had been working in the forge at Portland Works since 1958 and employed me, at the age of 14, in 1976.
I knew Eric from being three years old as Eric and wife Dot went dancing with my mum and dad. I can remember walking to Heeley Bank School and looking out for whatever new car Eric would have got.
How would you describe your work?
I forge specialised hand tools. Using a furnace of over 1,000 degrees I forge hand tools into shape using a man-powered spring hammer.
I make wood turning, wood carving, wood chisels and outwork forging - which basically means I turn a piece of steel into whatever the customer wants, this has included gigantic hooks for pulling bales of hay and things as exotic as palm tree pruners.
Where are you based? How would you describe Portland Works and your workshop?
I am based in the original Portland Works forge from the 1870s - stainless steel was forged for the first time in my workshop.
Portland Works is a traditional, Victorian, little mesters factory. The atmosphere today is as it has always been, we are a tight-knit community and we all help one-another out.
My forge is just as hot, loud and dirty as it would have been 100 years ago. The only difference is that the machines are now driven by electric motors as opposed to the original line shafts.
Thinking of your role as a maker, what are you most proud of, and why?
I am proud to say that I am one of the last known survivors to be doing this traditional and physically demanding trade here in Sheffield.
What is the most satisfying part of the work you do?
Seeing the quality of the finished article is the most satisfying part of the work I do. The tools I produce are of such a hard-wearing quality, I know that in 50 years time they will still be being used for their original purpose.
What would be your dream project?
I have always wanted to make a rams head poker, but haven't got round to it yet. Making one uses a lot of different skills and time to make something that looks so gorgeous.
What are you working on at the moment?
At the moment I am making high speed turning tools (used by wood turners). I work in small batches of 200-300, some days I'll make a couple of hundred tools, where as other days I'll make a couple of thousand.
When you're not working, what do you like to do?
When I'm not in the forge I travel around Yorkshire to go clay pigeon shooting.
I spend my evenings helping my partner out, plating up gammon and pineapple - or pulling pints of Worthingtons.
Information about Portland Works:
Portland Works, a red brick grade II* listed factory, is one of Sheffield’s most iconic Victorian buildings. Built in 1879, the engine room of Sheffield’s industrial revolution has diversified substantially over the last century. The birthplace of stainless steel is now home to 23 makers specialising in contemporary and traditional manufacturing. Product versatility extends from custom made knives to sipping gins. Items produced today at Portland Works play a role in a myriad of daily activities from keeping coats off of the floor at Arbourthorne Primary School to serving cream cakes at the Savoy, Britain’s first luxury hotel.
Two world wars later and Portland Works has seen better days, despite the odds being stacked against renovation and rebirth, the site of significant historical importance was saved in 2013 by over 500 community shareholders. The once neglected building is now in a state of continued renovation, steadily transforming a romantic ruin into affordable and retrofitted workshops fit for future generations of Sheffield makers.
Find out more information www.portlandworks.co.uk
Georgina Barrett - Manager
0114 275 9354