How The Art Of Decorative Metalwork Evolved

Decorative metalwork is both a practical and attractive feature that can add interest and style to your home, outside space, or business. It can serve a useful purpose as a sign, weathervane, hook, or hanging basket, and also bring a unique design element to your premises.

Metal is a versatile and durable material that carries a timeless charm when combined with the talents of a creative designer and fabricator. Here’s a brief look at how the art of decorative metalwork began.

The first people to produce iron lived in the Middle Bronze Age, where it soon replaced bronze as the material of choice for weapons and tools. However, it wasn’t until the Middle Ages that iron was first used for decorative as well as practical purposes.

The importance of the blacksmith to Medieval era communities cannot be underestimated, as the value of well-made tools and architectural features helped people to live and prosper. Metalwork was a high-status profession, and a good blacksmith was held in the same regard as a doctor.

The first decorative wrought ironwork was created by blacksmiths, who took their influences from classical mythology and nature. By the 17th century, designs throughout Europe became increasingly ornate, influenced by the flowing curves and elaborate patterns of the Baroque and Rococo styles of the era.

Many examples of this style of wrought ironwork still survive today throughout Europe in gateways, balconies, and stair railings. By the early 19th century the Industrial Revolution led to new methods of iron production, with much wrought ironwork being replaced by cheaper cast iron that could be mass produced.

The Arts and Crafts Movement of the late Victorian era developed as a reaction to the increasing deskilling of human labour that industrialisation brought about. It placed great emphasis on hand-crafted items as opposed to mass-produced factory goods.

The movement’s leaders, such as William Morris, John Ruskin, and Thomas Carlyle, feared that machines and factories were depleting human creativity and contributing to a decline in standards of the decorative arts in Britain and beyond.

They despised the new trend for producing ornamental goods for the sake of commodity, and insisted that decorative arts should combine form and function. They also deplored the ignorance of the quality of materials used in many of the new mass-produced items.

Arts and Crafts techniques placed great emphasis on relationship between a product and the humanity and creativity of the person who crafted it. Underpinning this approach was a wider philosophy that advocated the value of fulfilling labour and fair working conditions.

Most influential leaders of the movement were against the use of machinery and worked hard to preserve traditional craft methods.  As a result, wrought iron craftwork enjoyed a revival, and the tradition is still alive and well today. If you are interested in a bespoke metalwork item such as a motorcycle weathervane, please get in touch today.