Traditional crafts and skills

A new collaborative project aimed at bringing young people together with traditional crafts and trades has been launched at St Mark’s School, working alongside local blacksmith, Ironart.

The project will see students from Year 9 working to design and create a sculptural piece of art that is due to be unveiled in the summer term. It has been organised by Head of Creative Arts, Denny Lever and Head of Technology, Zoe Balfre, to introduce students to traditional skills and crafts that they would not otherwise have an opportunity to experience.

The students, all from Year 9 at St Mark’s decided that they would like to create a new set of entrance gates to enhance the lower entrance on Spring Lane in Larkhall and have been working on their initial concept designs under the theme ‘harmony’.

As part of the project, students were invited to visit Ironart and share their ideas with owner, Andy Thearle and his team, along with organisers, Denny and Zoe.

“The students really wanted to create something that would be a functional piece of art and something that could be added to in future years. Part of the school’s Learning to Lead initiative is aimed at encouraging students to take responsibility and ownership of their surroundings and this project allows them to really do that whilst creating a legacy for the future,” said Head of Creative Arts, Denny.

Head of Technology, Zoe Balfre added, “The students are taught technology in a classroom so an opportunity and experience like this is an absolute dream! They can gain real, hands-on experience from skilled professionals within half a mile of the school. We are really grateful to Ironart for getting involved in the project and everyone is really excited about working with them to create something very beautiful and very significant for our school.”

Owner of Ironart, Andy Thearle, commented:

“The Ironart team are really excited about the prospect of working with the Y9 pupils of St Mark’s school to create a new set of lower gates for the school in Larkhall. We are a long-established Larkhall business with strong links to this vibrant, thriving community.”

“The St Mark’s students met with our team of skilled blacksmiths when they visited the workshops recently; now they are tasked with creating a design that will translate well into metal. Metal gates have a huge lifespan if they are well made, this collaborative project will be a positive landmark on the landscape of St Mark’s not just for this generation, but the next and more! We are really looking forward to seeing what they come up with.”

In order to fund the project the school, supported by it’s the school’s PTA (St Mark’s School Association, SMSA) will embark on a fundraising campaign. The estimated cost at this early stage is £10-15K, although this may be less, depending on the final design chosen.

Head of School, Chris Ryan said, “Working with local groups and organisations has always been an integral part of our school’s aim to widen the experiences of our students in preparation for life after school. Our partnership with Ironart is a unique opportunity for our students to be very hands-on, working with traditional craftsmen to create something that will be an architectural piece for our school and community.”

“We would love to hear from any individual or organisation who may be able to help us in our efforts to raise the necessary funds to make this project happen and would urge anyone interested in finding out more to get in touch.”

For more information relating to this article, please contact Paula Hawkins at St Mark’s School on 01225 312661 or email