‘Craftsmen show how they really are resource efficient

August 12, 2016

Ken Fanner

FORGING AHEAD: Ken Fanner of Ironwork of Distinction Ltd, who won the Dorset Entreprise Livewire competition for new business in 1991 claims his high-end ironwork  is an investment in quality and durability.

Stephen Caulfield

LEVEL BEST: Steven Caulfield uses willow mainly sourced from the Somerset Levels where it is harvested on an annual basis. It is a fast-growing crop which when cut back can grow back to the same height by the following year.

Mark Evans

GOOD WOOD: Mark Evans of Twisted Oak Timber Creations uses sustainably sourced wood he is called to pick up or uses from work he uses from woodland management, so he sees the raw material turn of the log into the chair, a toadstool or chopping board.


THREE traditional craftsmen showed their unique sets of skills to the Dorset public earlier this month.

Mark Evans of Twisted Oak Timber Creations of Shaftesbury, North Dorset; Ken Fanner of Ironwork of Distinction Limited and willow basket weaver Steven Caulfield of West Sussex gave practical demonstrations at the Poole Town and Country Show held at Upton Country Park.

As well as these specialist stands, there were falconry and dog agility demonstrations and arts, craft and food marquees and a goat show. The younger generation enjoyed putting bets on terrier and ferret races.The show is in its eighth year and is run by Oakleigh Fairs.

Held on Saturday and Sunday 7 and 8 August, the second day was delegated for a Companion Dog Show with all the proceeds from entries going to the Marie Curie Cancer Care charity.

Steven Caulfield travelled to the show from Worthing, West Sussex, and has the raw willow material sent down to him from the Somerset Levels, as it does not grow well enough to be commercially viable in his neck of the woods.

He has made bespoke willow products for the past 30 years, and many of his work includes fruit storage bowls, hampers, laundry baskets, furniture, fruit storage bowls, pet baskets and many other items. He became an apprentice basket maker in 1985 and went on to set up his own business eight years later.

Stephen designed a basket prop for the back of the automobile star for the stage version of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang in the London Palladium and has been featured on Sky News, Channel 4 and the BBC.

“Somerset willow seems to go up every year. It has gone up from £14 to £56 a bundle.”

On the next pitch to Stephen was farmer-turned-ironsmith Ken Fanner. He was taken on by his father as an apprentice at his father’s forge at Wimborne after his Dad ended 41 years service as the resident blacksmith with H King and Sons.

They both served private households, estates, local authorities, farms and other craftsmen.

In 1991 Ken was awarded by the Worshipful Company of Blacksmiths for his standard of work after completing the New Entrants Training Scheme (NETS) under Paul Allen and later that year he won the Dorset Entreprise Livewire competition for new business.

Ken makes bespoke products such as railings, gates, hand rails, contemporary sign brackets, pergolas, arches, hanging basket brackets, seats and sculptures.

Ken said: “We expanded the family business into high-end ironwork and restoration work with the help of a grant through the Prince’s Youth Business Trust. Our services now span across the UK, and include design, manufacture and installation of traditional and contemporary ironwork to private and commercial sectors.”

Mark Evans of Twisted Oak Timber Creations has been designing his own furniture from the tree felling right through to turning the logs into bespoke furniture for 10 years and always uses sustainably-sourced timber. As part of that process he works a few days a week helping to manage the woodland on a small estate.

He had a number of items on display including some very striking chairs with high backs; and toadstools and owls designed from use of a chainsaw. He also designs chopping boards, coasters, jewellery boxes and treasure chests.

Mark sometimes receives call about trees that have been brought down and is asked to go and collect them so they can be used for material to design items.

He said: “I have a mobile saw mill for felling, turning a log into pieces, taking it away and turn it into a piece of furniture. We as a furniture maker do the whole process.”

  • AN observation for the show authorities I found was that these craft exhibitors were on fringes of the showground and not in the centre and as an integral part of the show being educating the public on rural crafts, it may be better to put them back centre stage in future years.



{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Rebecca August 12, 2016 at 7:16 pm

Matt, I found this very informative. Thank you.


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