Stepney City Farm blacksmiths head to Oz for prestigious commission

Two expert blacksmiths, whose iron sculptures including tree-frogs, spiders and butterflies decorate Stepney City Farm, jet off to Australia tonight for a prestigious commission.

Ian Lowe, 36, and Sean Marshall, 46, will work on a pair of giant gates for the University of Sydney which will then be unveiled by the country’s Prime Minister later in the year.

The pair have gained plenty of practice at their forge, part of the farm’s Rural Arts Centre, in Stepney Way where they have been based for the last two years.

Their work has even caught the eye of one of Heston Blumenthal’s top chefs.

Discussing his dream job down under, Mr Lowe, of Hackney, said: “For a commission like this, it has to be high quality. “It’s joinery work and other techniques that we specialise in.

“The scale of the task is quite monumental.”

The gates will be 15ft high and 30ft wide and will take up to eight weeks for a team of four people to complete.

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As well as their farm sculptures, also including a snail and snake, and regular commissions, they provide demonstrations to local schools on the ancient art of the blacksmith, which involves using tools to hammer, bend and cut metal.

Mr Lowe said: “We like to give children the opportunity to try something which is hands-on and challenging for them.”

He also recommends the craft highly.

He said: “It’s the ultimate bloke past-time - you get to play with fire and hit things.”

Their snail caught the eye of Heston Blumenthal’s former head chef at the Fat Duck restaurant - he now has a pair of them in his garden.

Mr Lowe joked: “He was supposed to give one of them to Heston as well to tie in with their snail porridge.”

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