Inmaculada Amor has inherited the passion for artistic forge from her father, Santiago Amor, a great master artisan who founded his workshop in Palencia in the year 1971 under the name of Forjas Amor- Artesanía en Hierro. It is an artisanal workshop composed of a large team of welders, locksmiths, embossers, drafters, etc. The workshop is specialized in wrought iron grilles, locksmithing and decorative elements in different styles.
They have carried out many works of all sorts: decorative, closing and locksmithing elements, sculpture, etc. Most of them have been executed in Castilla y León. However, they have also carried out great artistic works for Madrid and Marbella’s promenade.
The workshop always stood out because of its specialization in traditional techniques and artistic forge and, above all, in the mortise and tenon assembly systems of wrought iron grilles and bars forged with floral clusters and other elements called peras (of Castilian style). Proof of this are the countless works of hers that can be found in Palencia, both in public and private buildings. These grilles don’t seem to have been manufactured in the 20th and 21st centuries, but seem to be part of the old buildings, as is the case of the Renaissance Palace of the Museum of Palencia or the Baroque Palace Casa Junco located in the Calle Mayor, in Palencia.
This rigour in terms of techniques and models is not coincidental. Behind it there is a great amount of work in terms of historic research, which Inmaculada carries out in each of her projects, both in those of new creation and restoration. This way, any project involving wrought iron grilles or locksmithing elements remains integrated within the building. The craft of a forger requires strength and ability, and, moreover, when preserving traditional techniques, it is also necessary to include historic rigour. Inmaculada has spent two decades gathering information on the craft, a topic which is her uttermost absolute passion. As she aims to disseminate all this information, she offers her services as a consultant in relation to topics on forging, restoration, techniques, models, styles, etc.
After the closure of the artisanal workshop Forjas Amor, due to the retirement of the artisans, Inmaculada set up her workshop-studio on her own, combining artistic forging projects with other projects regarding her facet as a sculptress and also as a teacher in the subject of metal techniques. She wants to organize – in her workshop – an active museum with a permanent exhibition of artistic forge, where courses and lectures can be delivered regarding forging and its techniques.
She uses high quality materials, such as wrought iron (with a low content in carbon to ease the forging process) which is supplied in the shape of bars, flat wires or sheets, depending on the works to be carried out. She applies traditional finishes to iron: oil coating, natural oxidation with various layers of wax and, if necessary, in some pieces, they apply oil patinas or enamels.
To be able to forge iron easily one must heat the material until it becomes “red-hot” – a colloquial term used to describe the exact moment when the iron is easier to strike. Incandescent iron has different nuances in terms of colour. The most favourable colour to work with it, when it is most malleable, is when it is a cherry-red (850ºC), or hotter, when it becomes a reddish-turning-to-yellow, at approximately 900º and 1000ºC. Each time one heats iron, the material flakes and is reduced, losing a superficial layer. Therefore, it is important to heat it just as much as it is really necessary to do so.
There are many tools with which to work when it comes to iron, from those manufactured by the blacksmith himself – such as the pincers to insert and exert the bars of iron into the forge – to those more technological ones, as can be laser cutting. The forger uses all the tools which can typically be found in a metal workshop (such as hammers, to strike and shape the iron on the anvil), and, depending on the specific work, he will also use more or less of the technological advances which have been carried out in the field. For example, the pieces in the restoration of an old grille or fence should never be joined together by electric welding, but should be done so by making use of the techniques and means with which it was originally manufactured.
The majority of traditional techniques concerning the union of iron pieces are still currently in use when it comes to quality forge works, for example, in the case of rivets and collars. Moreover, for important works, the iron pieces are forge-welded, a technique used from Antiquity until today, consisting of heating the ends of the pieces which are to be joined together, almost until they reach the iron’s melting point, and then joining them together using a hammer, until they become one only piece. The industrial tools, on the other hand, are also combined with those more artisanal ones in order to speed up the process, especially when it comes to heavy tasks: presses, guillotines, wheels, mitre saws, bending machines, band saws, wire-drawing machines, etc. All this machinery comes in handy, even if, in the majority of the processes which are carried out, the tools which are used the most are the manual ones: files, sand paper, rivets, chisels, pincers, mezzalunas, filling machines, riveting pins, etc. However, the most important tool of all is an experienced hand.
The process of manufacture starts with the choice of the type of grille, depending both on the style and shape of the opening of the building and if it is going to go outside or within the opening, as well as the kind of finishing (natural or painted), etc. After that, the design is carried out with the aid of a computer (enabling to amend mistakes and to ease the distribution of the ornamental motives), to distribute the bars, fretworks or cresting. She then redraws at a 1:1 scale the design she has previously carried out using the computer on a metallic sheet, and cuts all the necessary material. The structure of the grille is manufactured and so are the bars, which, depending on their shape and technique can be: upsetted, forged, stamped, cleft, chiselled, etc. To join them to the structure of the grille without welding them, she tenons the top and bottom of the pieces to be able to rivet them, heating the material and then hitting them until they go flat, like a cap, on top of the splints. The pieces of the fretwork are joined together, at the end, using rivets or thiner splints, the collars.
For the finishing of the piece, one can give it a heat treatment and oil coating, leaving the grille with a blackish-grey tone, or a natural oxide which will then be protected using a paste wax, to create an impermeable layer on top of the iron to avoid oxide coming off.
It is commonly said that to learn one must only look attentively, but in the case of an artisanal craft there is also the need to practice; to practice a lot, in fact. Inmaculada was born in a household where forging was a well-known craft. She used to visit her father in the workshop where she would watch him work in the forge and dream of being able to – one day – work with iron like he did. It was then already in her early years when she showed interest in artistic studies. She started studying at the Arts and Crafts School in Palencia when she was 14. Her training has always been linked to crafts and visual arts. She has taken part in numerous arts and crafts exhibitions and has won various competitions. Apart from studying forging with her father she qualified with an advanced technical diploma in Jewellery crafting, advanced technical diploma in Applied Arts to Sculpture and also graduated in History of Art, what has enabled her to delve into the different artistic styles and apply the techniques adequately.
In the year 2000 Inmaculada started to collaborate as a model maker and sculptor in her father’s blacksmith’s workshop, carrying out the preliminary projects and the scaled templates for the workshop. She combined design works with the learning of the traditional forging techniques.
In the year 2004 she obtained the Carta de Artesano number 34-0245-CL-1ª Cast Iron Forge within the registry of Craftsmen in Castilla y Leon.
From 2005 to 2017 she actively worked in the artisanal artistic workshop Forjas Amor, collaborating in all the projects and processes.
She is a teacher in the subject of Metal Techniques and Jewellery. She combines her teaching work of visual arts with research, dissemination of information and manufacture of artistic forge.
Promoter of the artistic Castilian forge, she tries to spread her knowledge, so it is valued and respected, since, unfortunately, with the passing of time, the term “forge” has become so devalued that now it is used to designate any piece apparently made of metal which is painted black.
In 2013 she organized an exhibition – together with her father – to disseminate the different techniques which can be used to work on iron. The exhibition was titled “Forma y Función”. It was carried out at the Museum Teófilo Calzada in Fuentes de Valdepero (Palencia). It was filled with forged iron objects of a rustic and medieval style carried out with old bars, which contrasted with several contemporary iron sculptures.
With that same aim of creating awareness and spreading the traditional techniques of forging and its restoration, she has taken part in two fairs of AR&PA in Valladolid (2017 and 2010), a biannual fair dedicated to Art and Heritage, where she has carried out – together with her father – a live workshop where they show different metal techniques and welding procedures.
Her speciality is the manufacture of balusters of Castilian style. She has continued to develop them in the traditional way, parting from solid iron bars.
Mesón Cinco Jotas, located in the Plaza de Santa Ana, in Madrid. Various styles. Grilles for the façade following the style of the balconies and the floral motives of the paintings of the façade.
Habitat Castilla y León Spain. Participation of Forjas Amor in the book-catalogue of exporters of Castilla y León, published by Excal, as an artisanal exporting business of Castilla y León, within the section of forged furniture.
Restoration of the wrought iron grilles of a building located in calle Amador de los Ríos, 8 (Madrid), current Ministry of the Interior.
Restoration of the Baroque Palace Casa Junco, Palencia.
Monument to Blacksmiths in Mazariegos, Palencia.
Manufacture of the monumental grilles for the Museum of Palencia.