Episode #76 – Shona Johnson “In Our Souls,It’s What We Want To Be Doing”

Shona Johnson is a 3rd generation artist blacksmith living and working in Edinburg, Scotland.  Shona began training as a blacksmith at Ratho Byres Forge in 1989 and became a partner of the P. Johnson & Company in 1993.  The business which consists of her father Phil Johnson (founder), her brother, Mike Johnson, and her husband Pete Hill. All four partners work tightly together each bringing a little extra to the team: leadership, forging, engineering, design, communication and marketing skills.

couple MergedPanel design from Shona

What We Talked About

  • Phil Johnson, Shona’s father, was interested in blacksmithing from seeing his father-in-law’s forged work (this would be Shona’s grandfather, a blacksmith) and soon discovered the BABA, British Artist Blacksmith Organization. This is when he really went down the path to becoming a full time blacksmith and founded the P Johnson & Co as a blacksmith business.
  • The company also has a designer, Jois Hunter, who turns ideas into sketches, detailed drawings, and models, contributing much to the success and achievements of the business.
  • Shona studied agriculture and worked in farms and loved working with the livestock and the way of life. Though she couldn’t see a future career in agriculture.  In 1989 her father asked her to come work at the company while she figured out what to do next, it’s 2016 and she’s still there at the company blacksmithing.
  • She learned a lot from her father and from working with other smiths at hammer-ins and conferences.
  • The company makes a variety of gates, railings, and sculptures through commissions. They also work with Municipal parks for public sculptures.
  • Shona has been invited to design and make a panel for the Ypres 2016 WW1 Memorial. Her panel design tells a story of her grandfather and his brother meeting each other near the front lines during WW1.  Her grandfather was a sniper for the Royal Irish Rifles and heard that his brother Johnny was close by on the front lines, so he sent a note to him saying “let’s try to meet.  They each rode bicycles to meet each other during the war to talk about family and home.

Here is Shona’s account of her panel design:

The Finnegan Brothers, Thoughts of Home

My Granddad, Jimmy Finnegan volunteered in 1914 when he was 17 years old leaving his blacksmithing apprenticeship to join the Royal Irish Rifles.  While serving on the front line, as a sniper, he got word that his brother, Jonny Finnegan, was billeted nearby.  The two brothers managed to send messages to each other and arranged a time and place to meet on the reserve line.  Both borrowed bicycles and remarkably meet up and spent a short precious time together before returning to their regiments and the job of war.  The brothers would not meet again until several years later, at the end of the war, home in their beloved Edinburgh.  Jonny returning from fighting on the front line & Jimmy liberated from a German prisoner of war camp.

I wanted to capture the essence of the brother’s rendezvous, caught between the harsh reality of the war, death, despair and the ravaged landscape and their thoughts and chat of cherished family and friends many miles away back home in Edinburgh. The stunted trees represent the war torn landscape with the brothers greeting each other towards the center of the panel and memories of home symbolized by crow-stepped gabled houses and the tall tenement buildings of Edinburgh, home to the Finnegan family.

Shona Johnson Ratho Byres Forge April 2016

  • Shona and her husband are planning on making and bring custom tooling needed to texture and finish the panel. She’s also planning on bring a life sized drawing of the panel as well.
  • The Ratho Byers Forge (where their business is out of) held a poppy making workshop and had around 20 blacksmiths show up to make 200 poppies to donate to the Ypres event.

Guest Links

A Big Thank You to today’s sponsor ? Ypres 2016 International Blacksmith Event, www.Ypres2016.com ypres logo

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One thought on “Episode #76 – Shona Johnson “In Our Souls,It’s What We Want To Be Doing”

  1. Just returned to Casa Grande, AZ from SLC, ABANA conf, thanks for your contribution to our passion of making something functional/beautiful from material unorganized.
    Keep up the good work

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