Alison Jackson and Dan Lorrimer have been in each other’s lives for years, sometimes without even knowing it.
They were at the Australian National University together, studying metalsmithing and sculpture respectively, yet didn’t cross paths. Years later, they both worked at Fink & Co, albeit in different areas of the Queanbeyan design business.
But today they are together, in life, creativity and all the other areas that matter as partners in Ferro Forma, an award-winning artisan workshop in the village of Braidwood.
From the workshop they built next to their house, they create wearable and useable art. Their hand-made pieces range from earrings to flatware and vessels, all created from metal using traditional artisan methods.
Alison said the name, Ferro Forma, fit the couple perfectly.
“‘Ferro’ meaning iron, reflects all that we do is deeply connected with this material. Whilst not directly making work in pure iron, all our tools are made with this material. In essence, it is the foundation of all we do,” she said.
“‘Forma’ meaning form or shape, pays homage to the work that we do, so often led by form.”
About four years ago the artists, who had been working from workshops in Canberra’s industrial sector, felt it was time for a change.
“We had places in Canberra but decided to look for a space together,” Alison said.
“We use a lot of large equipment,” Dan added, “moving is not easy, so we only wanted to do it once.”
They chose Braidwood because it was affordable. The fact that the village had a reputation as a hive of creative activity also helped.
“It is such a beautiful landscape here, such a friendly community,” Alison said.
“It’s really nice to live somewhere where there are so many people who do such different things.”
“We found the right place for us here,” Dan said.
“Right” because it was on the edge of the village which gave them the space they wanted and also because there was enough land next to the house to build a workshop from scratch for them both, just the way they wanted it.
“It turned out to be twice as big as the house,” Dan said.
It’s the perfect space, they say, for their loves: making, creating and tinkering.
Building their own workspace allowed the artists to create precisely what they wanted – and needed. Having worked in a variety of spaces, they knew exactly what they didn’t want. It had to be efficient without being clinical, inspirational but with few distractions.
“We’ve divided the space into front and back,” Alison said.
“The back area is for the more heavy-duty type equipment whereas the front is for the smaller tools, like the jewellery bench.
“We probably think it looks like a mess in here but we’ve had people who’ve thought how neat it was. But it is important for us to have things organised … that helps with the workflow and productivity.”
Alison said moving to Braidwood affected their work – in a good, organic way.
“You can’t not be affected by your environment,” she said. “It can reflect the work you do.”
She said the couple tried to work a five-day week, even though “small business never sleeps”.
For Dan, it’s all a matter of inspiration, acting on it when it hits. He said his inspiration often started as a spark, an idea.
“Often it can be when I’m making something else, and something in that process interests me. But you don’t always know where it’s going,” he explained.
“It’s like the process of addition, over time. Eventually it all culminates in something and turns into a ‘thing’.
“I don’t sketch things out first; I suppose I am more process-driven. A piece might come from something else I am experimenting with. That process of discovery is one of the things I enjoy the most about creating.”
Alison said one of the reasons their partnership worked so well was because their skill sets were complementary, even though their creative eyes could be quite different.
“I’ve always worked with the smaller, softer metals where Dan likes working with the larger harder metals,” Alison said.
“I think that’s why it works so well because we both bring different things to the partnership. And of course there’s a lot of chatting back and forth. Sometimes I’ll take the lead on an idea, sometimes he will.”
“If one of us has a good idea, we convince each other about the best way to make it,” Dan added.
“I’m hopeless at sketching – it’s usually easier for me to just make it. But when Alison sketches something, it’s always beautiful.”
Apart from thriving creatively in the Braidwood environment, the couple also admit it has brought them other lifestyle changes.
“When we’re working, we can be a bit like hermits,” Dan said.
“But here, I find that we are getting to know more people than we did in Canberra, whether it’s just walking down to the post office or wherever you are. Here you tend to have more incidental conversations, which is good.
“It’s a great atmosphere to live and work in.”
More information about Ferro Forma is available on its website.