Updated: Apr 6, 2021
I’ve started another journey. The Old Crafts. I’m going out with people who work with their hands using skills passed down through generations.
My great-grandfather was a farrier in London, George Ponder, the father of my father’s mother. In 1881 George and his wife and baby were living at 404 Mare Street, Hackney. I have been looking at old photographs of London streets at the end of the 19th century and the shocking crush of horse-drawn traffic. My great-grandfather was one of hundreds of farriers needed to maintain the feet of those hard-working horses. I thought of George as I watched two farriers at work earlier this year.
There weren’t so many women farriers when Lisa Collins went into the trade in 1998, but there are more now. I made drawings while she shoed her daughter’s pony, Pumpkin, using traditional hand tools my Victorian great-grandfather would have known. Nowadays the farriers travel to the horses with a small gas forge in the back of their van, very different from the time when every village would have had its local blacksmith and the horses went to him. But the tools are the same, as Lisa describes: “I’ve got the anvil, shoe turning hammer and tongs, a pritchel you carry the hot shoe to the horse with (it’s also used for punching nail holes through). I wear an apron and have a hoof knife, hoof cutters, a rasp, nailing on hammer and a foot stand, also clenching tongs which are the things we use to bend the nails over.”
In all my visits I make sketches in my book and collect conversations, often returning later to make a recorded interview. I work on a composition back in my studio and then a large charcoal drawing or small painting.