THE IRONWOOD ANVIL
BLACKSMITHING  

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Awards

Graeme has had the pleasure of being awarded the following awards:
Guelph Arts Council Jane Graham Memorial Award

  • This Award offered him opportunities to pursue both his personal and professional development in the art of blacksmithing.

2007 Guelph-Wellington Business Enterprise Centre Business Star Awards
  • Finalist for Business Plan of the Year.

Publications

Graeme's work has been published in the following:

  • The Iron Trillium
  • Ironwork Today 2: Inside and Out
  • Our Homes magazine
  • Talent Next Door

NEWS

GUELPH'S VERY OWN IRONMAN!                                                                    June, 2016

by Rukhsar Jaffer

I recently had the pleasure of talking to Graeme Sheffield, a Guelph-based artisan blacksmith who owns and operates The Ironwood Anvil Forge. 

Sheffield became interested in blacksmithing at a young age on a trip to a living-history museum where he received a horseshoe-nail ring.  When asked about his shift to blacksmithing and how he knew he would be good at the craft, Sheffield explained that he began blacksmithing because of a drive to explore the craft, a drive that he still has today. Although he did not go directly into artisan blacksmithing, he mentioned that he “relied on previous years of metalworking to foster this momentum.”

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Prior to his career as an artisan blacksmith, Sheffield spent 18 years building custom automation machinery for robotics. His previous career had a lot to offer. Specifically, he explained, “that training and experience offered me the chance to hone my skills in forming, shaping and assembling some pretty unique items out of metal. I learned about design, drawing, welding and assembly, electronics, project management, project estimating, quoting and customer service.”

The Ironwood Anvil’s name comes from a word that stuck in Sheffield’s head, and rolled off his tongue with ease, when he was starting his business. “Being a person who enjoys canoeing, camping, and being in the outdoors, I thought of drawing from a name associated to it,” he explained. He also pointed out, “The Ironwood tree has the hardest and densest wood of any species in Canada and it’s a tree I happen to like.” Additionally, “Ironwood is also the name given to a very large iron-rich mineral deposit in the Lake Superior region.”

Ironwood is not the only part of Sheffield’s art that draws its inspiration from nature. Many of his designs come from the outdoors. When asked about his creative process and designs, he explained, “I am drawn to the lines, shapes, shadows, and textures of nature, and people seem to really enjoy the fact that I am taking a hard, lifeless, industrial product and forging some life into it, altering its straight lines and giving it a more organic look.” Sheffield has also collaborated with other artists over the years, specifically stained-glass artists and a stone carver.Sheffield has a few other collaborators that he works with on a regular basis. His way of crafting allows his clients to be artists and engage in the artistic process. Many of them play a role in the design of their piece. According to Sheffield, “Some clients are very forward thinking and know what they want.” He also commented that the clients “get the chance to really personalize their project and interact with the ideas that I present.”

Sheffield usually begins and works on his pieces from drawings. “It helps to visualize what I’ll be doing at the anvil,” he remarked. Sheffield commented on the time sensitivity of the procedure, highlighting the importance of a drawing or a plan. “When the steel comes out of the forge it’s around 1200 degrees. You have to know what you’re going to do and strike while the iron is hot!” he warned.

The nature of the procedure is not only important to the design of the final piece but also has health implications. Sheffield describes some of these risks, how they might occur, and precautions one can take. “Cuts, bruises, burns, or crash injuries can happen in the blink of an eye if you’re tired or not paying attention. Safety boots, glasses, gloves, ear muffs, dust masks, respirator, welding helmet, long pants, and long sleeved shirts are all items that have to be worn at the appropriate times,” he shared.

When asked to comment on the future of blacksmithing, and perhaps its characterization as a vanishing form of art, specifically among youth, Sheffield’s response was both surprising and enlightening. “I don’t believe blacksmithing is fading. Blacksmithing has gone through a few renaissances over the years. With the dawning of the industrial age, the role of the blacksmith became more largely an artisanal one. There are, however, some very talented and specialized smiths working now too, such as knife makers, armourers and those that repair or reproduce historical pieces.” Sheffield has taught numerous students and believes, “The younger generation has quite a fascination for blacksmithing.” After all, “Just like in the days of old, it’s important to have at least one metal worker in your community!” he exclaimed.

Although Sheffield is not a farrier (also known as a horseshoe blacksmith), I asked about his belief in the luck of a horseshoe, particularly given his story about the horseshoe-nail ring from his childhood. He mused, “If I said yes, that might imply that I am superstitious.” He went on to describe the various stories and superstitions associated with both horseshoes and blacksmiths, for example, “There are a lot of old stories about the luck of the horseshoe, including: ends pointing up collects good luck, ends pointing down over your door will shower you with good luck as you pass under it.” Finally he admitted, “If I were to hang a horseshoe over my door, it would be with the ends pointing down.” 

Sheffield shares that Guelph has played a large part in his ability to work on his craft on a full-time basis. “I love the fact that so many people enjoy what I do and want a piece of my work!” he expressed.

Photos by: Rukhsar Jaffer Photography

November, 2012

Guelph Ignatius Jesuit Centre commissions donor recognition tree


GUELPH-  Following on the heels of the successful completion and installation of the donor recognition tree for the Guelph Civic Museum, Artist Blacksmith, Graeme Sheffield, has been approached by the Sacred Ground Capital Campaign, of the Ignatius Jesuit Centre of Guelph, to create a similarly-themed tree out of his chosen medium of expression: steel.

The Ignatius Jesuit Centre, a striking property located two kilometers north of Guelph, is home to the internationally acclaimed Loyola House Retreat and Training Centre, the Orchard Park Office Centre, the Ignatius Farm, the Community Shared Agricultural Program (CSA), and the Plant an Old Growth Forest project.

Graeme forged and installed a three dimensional maple tree that adorns the front lobby of the Museum, and is complete with 165 hand shaped leaves, each of which is individually engraved with a donor’s name in recognition of their generosity. This time he will be hand forging an eighteen foot Red Oak. The Sacred Ground Capital Campaign has set their sights on 300 full-sized Oak leaves for their tree that will be installed in the front lobby of Loyola House.

The Sacred Ground Capital Campaign is well on their way to their goal of raising $5,000,000. Funds raised will refurbish Loyola House: home to the great vision and passion for the advancement of ecological studies and action, and where the leadership of the Ignatius Jesuit Centre has forged a 500-year vision for the land itself. It will also support an ecological restoration project that will double the size of the existing forest on the Plant an Old-Growth Forest lands, protecting the existing forest and wetland communities, and providing sanctuary for spiritual reflection and renewal.

For more information on the Ignatius Jesuit Centre of Guelph and The Sacred Ground Capital Campaign, visit www. ignatiusguelph.ca.

Source: Graeme Sheffield & Ignatius Jesuit Centre


  • Rob O'Flanagan, Mercury staff  Wed Jul 13 2011

Guelph museum commissions ‘Family Tree’ to honour donors


Blacksmith at work

Guelph blacksmith artist Graeme Sheffield of Ironwood Anvil will create the Family Tree for the Guelph Civic Museum, a donor recognition piece in honour of those who donated to the facility's capital campaign.

Rob O'Flanagan, Guelph Mercury

GUELPH — There are two ways to install a commemorative tree in a public place – plant one, or hammer one out of steel and affix it to a strong wall.

The latter is the approach being taken by Guelph Civic Museum. It has commissioned local blacksmith artist Graeme Sheffield to design, fabricate and install the facility’s Family Tree. The donor recognition piece will be featured prominently in the museum’s new digs in the former Loretto Convent on Catholic Hill.

The three-dimensional tree will have roughly 120 leaves, each engraved with the family name - and the year they came to Guelph - of those who donated $1,000 or more to the museum’s capital campaign. The fundraising drive exceeded its $500,000 goal by just over a quarter of a million dollars – a much appreciated boost for a Guelph institution forecasting a November opening of its new site.

Sheffield said he had long hoped a local artist could add an aesthetic touch to the new museum, and was overjoyed to receive the commission for the tree. The success of the fundraising campaign, he said, is proof of the broad-based community support for the museum project. He plans to make his tree something special.

“As soon as I read in the paper that there was this idea of a donor tree, I already had this grandiose idea about what I thought it would look like,” Sheffield said. Guelph Civic Museum, he added, could have chosen a design from a laser cutting company catalogue, but picked a handmade, one-of-a-kind design instead.

“I’m a blacksmith,” Sheffield said. “The idea of blacksmithing is you take steel and you manipulate its original form into something new. You touch it with a hammer and you bring life to it. Rather than just presenting this flat tree, I decided I would give it this more three-dimensional approach and bring it to life.”

Each leaf, he said, will be shaped and textured individually, each “with a life of its own.”

Museum director Katherine McCracken said the new location should be open for visitors by late November. Work on the renovation of the old convent is ongoing.

“He really brings the metal to life,” she said, speaking of Sheffield’s work. “It is going to look very much like a tree. The idea is that it is a family tree of the community of Guelph.”

McCracken attributed the idea for the donor tree to capital campaign committee member Murray Taylor, who envisioned a tribute to contributors in the form of a great tree, permanently rooted – or perhaps bolted - to the museum.

“There was the opportunity for some community involvement in the campaign at a reasonable donation level,” McCracken said of the campaign. “And we thought people would be really proud to see their name and the year they came to Guelph on the tree.”

A busy artist, Sheffield crafts furniture, wall-hangings, sculptures and scenes out of steel. He has a private studio/blacksmith shop in central Guelph out of which his Ironwood Anvil business operates. Commemorative tree work aside, his other steel fabrications will be on display during this weekend’s Art on the Street event in downtown Guelph.

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Thursday, July, 14, 2011 - 10:10:43 AM

Local artist picked for museum’s ‘tree’


The Guelph owner of an artisan blacksmith business has been picked to create a donor recognition piece that will be installed in the new Guelph Civic Museum.

Local artist Graeme Sheffield of The Ironwood Anvil will design, fabricate and install the “Family Tree” donor recognition piece in the new museum in the Loretto convent building next to Church of Our Lady,
which is expected to open to the public in late fall.

About 120 donors who contributed at least $100 to the new museum’s capital campaign will have their name and date of arrival in Guelph inscribed on a leaf on the “Family Tree. It will be located in the museum’s reception area and will be “a unique reflection on the heritage of the community, with both longtime residents and newcomers acknowledged,” a news release said.

The capital campaign raised over $770,000 towards the museum, which also got funding from all three levels of government.

Sheffield has 25 years of metalworking experience and six years ago founded The Ironwood Anvil, which specializes in custom hand-forged iron products for indoor and outdoor settings, the release said.

“I am very pleased to be working on this dynamic project that pays tribute to the donors to the capital campaign and the founders and citizens of Guelph,” Sheffield said in the release.

“Being able to use some of the same basic tools and techniques that have been used for centuries through the art of blacksmithing will give me the opportunity to manipulate the steel into forms that will give the tree sculpture some life-like qualities.”

He said he was happy to be able to take steel, “an otherwise cold, lifeless medium . . . and transform it into a lasting piece of art work that will feature enduring qualities and workmanship for current and future generations to enjoy.”

Sheffield is among artists taking part in Saturday’s Art on the Street event in downtown Guelph. For more on that, and on him, see Art on the Street

Old Pine Grove schoolhouse is now a stylish restaurant


Developer. Develper Mark Kindrachuk stands inside the new Borealis [email protected] in Kitchener. Behind him is the old exterior wall of the old Pine Grove school. Robert Wilson, Record staff Source: Robert Wilson, Record staff

By Valerie Hill, Record staff

April 1, 2011

KITCHENER — Real estate developers are sometimes confronted by citizen groups who balk at the idea of tearing down old buildings, particularly if there is a sense of history in the crumbling bricks and yellowed mortar.

It was no different for Mark Kindrachuk when he purchased the 16-hectare King Street East site in south Kitchener (the former SportsWorld recreation centre) that today holds the Sportsworld Crossing shopping, office and recreation development.

On part of the site, the 122-year-old Pine Grove school building is now home to a stylish Borealis Grille & Bar restaurant.

Kindrachuk is an architect and developer who has worked on projects in Waterloo Region for several years. He understands that many locals have, well, an unusual attachment to their past. So he figured from the start that people would have something to say about the old school.

“We held a little function last year and met with three ratepayer groups,” recalls Kindrachuk, president of the Toronto-based Intermarket Group.

“I met with them and they said ‘Can you save that building?’

I said ‘OK.’ ”

Simple as that.

Or maybe not. Legally, Intermarket Group was not obligated to save the schoolhouse, given that the City of Kitchener had yet to designate it for protection as a heritage landmark. And Kindrachuk soon learned that saving the building would cost “hundreds of thousands of dollars” more than if it was torn down and anew building erected.

First, he had to convince the pension fund investors backing the development that they should save the school — and he feared they might not share his vision.

Kindrachuk developed a cunning plan.

“They (the investors) wanted to meet at the site,” he remembers. “I said no. I wanted to show them the package, ‘This is what it’s going to be.’ ”

So it was off to Balzac’s coffee house in downtown Toronto’s hip Distillery District. The Balzac’s outlet there is located in an 1895 pump house and was designed in the style of a Grand Parisian café with an enormous Vaudeville chandelier audaciously hanging in the centre of the ceiling.

This, thought Kindrachuk, was exactly the ambience he was after for the Kitchener development. And the investors agreed.

Back in Kitchener, however, the old schoolhouse nowhere near resembled his lofty vision at that point. The site was first occupied by a log schoolhouse built in 1809. That school was replaced by a wooden structure in 1855 and then in 1889 the frame building was replaced by a yellow brick school house.

The property had been owned and lived in by the Heldmann family from 1955 until 2005 and since then it had seen various uses, including office space, but the building was deteriorating and attracting vandals and pigeons.

“I’m an architect, so I’m interested in history and architecture,” says Kindrachuk, who says he spent hours researching the building’s past.

When an engineering report declared the building structurally sound, it was time to develop a concept on paper — one he eventually turned over to another architect for final renderings and which would include large additions added to the back and the side of the building.

Kindrachuk’s first idea was to use the building as a retail outlet, but he then considered the possibilities for a restaurant. That was when the Guelph-based restaurant chain, The Neighbourhood Group of Companies Ltd., entered the picture. The chain, which owns the Woolwich Arrow Pub and the Borealis Grille & Bar in Guelph, learned about the Kitchener project through a broker. It seemed to fit their criteria of a unique space that would attract an older crowd.

“It was for people in their 40s and 50s, more upscale, (a space) that was both historic and relevant,” he said. This new Borealis also promised to support local producers, meaning that whenever possible, everything from the meats to the vegetables to the honey and beer would be produced by area farmers and suppliers.

The focus on local would carry through to the reconstruction of the school, from contractors to artists to craftspeople. A sprawling, wrought-iron chandelier in the Harvest Lounge, for example, was made by Graeme Sheffield of The Ironwood Anvil in Guelph. And the historically correct tin ceilings throughout the building were made by Brian Greer’s Tin Ceilings of Petersburg, Ont.

The windows in the school were returned to their former full size, letting more light pour in. The dank and dark basement was converted to a cosy, romantic wine tasting cellar. The old cubby hole washrooms became wine storage vaults. And upstairs, hardwood floors were patched where necessary and refinished.

One of the messiest jobs involved removing peeling paint from the brick walls. Outside, a chemical peel did the job and inside, sandblasting was used. One stunning example of the cleaned brickwork can be found in the Harvest Lounge. The lounge is a modern addition, attached to what was once the rear exterior wall of the school. The exposed brick of that wall is now a dramatic two-storey backdrop for the bar.

The school’s stone foundation was also repointed. Even the old staircase had a good going over after being relocated within the building. The original carpenter from 1889 had signed his name on the back of one of the stair boards, Kindrachuk noted, so the 2010 carpenter added his own signature before nailing the stair boards back in place.

Up on the second storey, each section of wainscotting was removed while the walls were sanded. The plaster was left bare. Even today, it is decorated only with schoolhouse-style lamps and a few enlarged sepia prints showing the serious faces of 19th-century Pine Grove students, the boys in short pants and the girls in dresses.

“Older people come in here now and point to the photo and say, ‘That’s my mother,’ ” Kindrachuk says.

The restaurant opened for business at the end of February. Its official opening will be later this month, held in conjunction with a charity fashion show to support Anselma House in Kitchener, which provides shelter, education and outreach services to abused women and their children in Waterloo Region.

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