Ancient craftsman setting up business

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A TRADITIONAL craftsman is hoping for a new lease of life in the island.

Having studied medieval engraving, metalwork, leather and woodwork for 17 years, quietly spoken Phil Hatton, 45, is now one of the leading proponents in the field.

Some of his pieces beggar belief. Take, for example, his largest commissions – a pair of nine-foot-long, 14th- century cannon, cast by hand in bronze with hand-tooled fleur de lys and artillery badges.

‘It took four men to lift the cannon into their seatings,’ explained 45-year-old Phil, originally from Leeds.

‘They are a reproduction of the main guns found in a 14th-century galleon.

‘The cradles were hand-carved using a mallet and gouger.’

According to Phil they are now magnificently displayed in a client’s garden back at home in Leeds.

Another extraordinary piece of craftsmanship is Phil’s authentic chain mail tunic with 4,000 individually forged links with a matching hand helmet with intricate gold and brass detailing.

‘I feel an affinity with the traditional ways of life,’ said Phil.

‘I learned the old black arts from a local smithy who has since died. He taught me the earliest method for fusing two pieces of cold bar together, by heating them up until red hot and then braying them with a hammer. It’s amazingly simple technology that works’

So powerful is Phil’s affinity with the ancient ways that he says he often gets flashbacks.

He described one particular memory from Viking times, saying: ‘I see myself jumping from the bow of a Viking long boat into the sea. With wet boots we do a Nordic march into battle and afterwards we collect the spoils of war – gold.

‘Then we come across a monastery where the enemy have been hiding away with the hope of finding sanctuary.’

Since his passion for ancient craft began Phil believes the value of his personal collection alone has reached more than £30,000 and he has won many prizes for his work, including one from Leeds Art Gallery and another from popular motoring show Top Gear for converting a mark II Ford Capri into a batmobile.

Phil’s creativity appears to know no bounds. Not only is he a very able seamster, he also enjoys painting. He explained: ‘I want to start painting a lot more now that I am in the Isle of Man. I have an idea for a large fantasy canvas involving the standing stones found locally.’

He is currently taking on a limited number of private commissions. Potential customers can contact him on 426135 or they can pop into Avalonis on North Quay in Douglas to find out more about his fascinating work and see some examples first hand.

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