Forja Lebrija is an artisanal workshop located in Lebrija, Sevilla, declared by the Andalusian administration as a place of artisanal interest in Andalusia.
The man behind it is Juan José Gómez Delgado, who has been carrying out his activity related to forging since 1986. He was given the title of Master Craftsman on 28 December 2015 by the Consejero de Empleo, Empresa y Comercio of the Junta de Andalucía. He was a disciple of the Australian architect and designer Donald Gray (Rafael Manzano Prize for Traditional Architecture 2015).
His products are elaborated in an artisanal way, highlighting as their most important qualities the correct use of the production techniques, the quality of the materials used in their manufacture, the quality of their finishing and the perfection and artistic richness of the final products. As a result, on 18 January 2017, the Junta de Andalucía granted him use of the quality label “Andalucía Calidad Artesanal” for all the traditional wrought iron grilles forged in his workshop (gates, balconies, handrails, fences and grilles).
Forja Lebrija is continuously researching to develop a product which best-fits the current tendencies of the market, applying innovative elements to the traditional Andalusian wrought iron grilles.
All this is possible only because Forja Lebrija is made up of a team of professional, committed and passionate people who are involved in a common project and who have the strong will to continue giving the best of them every day.
Wrought iron grilles receive a different name depending on where in the building they are placed: gates, grilles, balconies, handrails and fences. The materials they use are solid iron profiles with different shapes and measurements. The dimensions of the pieces to be forged (width, thickness, longitude, among others) adapt to the needs of the project, choosing and using the techniques of cutting, stretching, broadening, and reducing, among others, by means of working with the forge and the anvil, using templates or references and carrying out small adjustments, to obtain the precise specifications established in the project.
The final shape of the project is obtained by choosing and using specific techniques such as curving, folding, upsetting and clefting among others, and working the material at the forge and the anvil to guarantee it adjusts to the final requirements of the project.
The position of the pieces is controlled by means of progressive welding, carrying out one first spot welding, avoiding this way to overheat the areas where the welding is carried out, to ensure that no deformations occur. The rivets are placed verifying their dimensions and making sure there are no backlashes and movement between the pieces to be joined together and the rivet itself, in order to guarantee its adequate functioning.
The manual coating is carried out by specific techniques such as filing, brushing and sanding, among others. Regarding the treatments which are applied to these materials, heating is the only one which is used in the manufacture of each of the pieces.
The heating of the piece produces changes in the colour of the metals, which varies depending on the temperature they reach. The nuances of the colours may help us to know the temperature that the iron is reaching, being 900ºC the ideal temperature to work the material, with a yellowish red kind of colour, and also 1000ºC, when iron turns an orangey colour.
Forja Lebrija has improved – during these last years – the systems to control and evaluate the quality of the products, to be able to identify more effectively the possible problems which could arise in all the necessary processes.
From 1986 to 1989 Juan José Gómez Delgado was part of the team of apprentices at the School of Crafts in Lebrija, led by the Australian architect and designer Donald Gray (Rafael Manzano Prize for Traditional Architecture 2015). For several years he was in contact with old blacksmith masters and he attended numerous sessions and gatherings relating to the craft throughout Spain, where he slowly started to master his techniques at the same time he acquired new knowledge.
He has a diploma in welding by the university Santa Teresa de Jesús in Ávila and has been a teacher in various courses of Professional Training of the Junta de Andalucía, under the speciality of crafts related to metal. In the year 1998, the Association of Municipalities of the Lower Guadalquivir Region awarded him the prize of the I Business-Related Projects Competition of the Lower Guadalquivir Region because of his efforts in promoting an artisanal craft which is considered of historic and cultural heritage and which is on the verge of becoming extinct.
In the year 1996 he started Forja Lebrija and he dove deep into traditional Andalusian wrought iron grilles. In 2004 he carried out an extensive research to catalogue the existing forged gates in Lebrija and the city of Seville. He decided to continue with this work in 2012 and has not stopped ever since, thus, retrieving a part of the traditional wrought iron grilles which are ultimately a combination of craftsmanship and heritage. Aware of the great historic, cultural and artistic value of the pieces, he decided to implant a quality system to validate each of the locksmithing elements he manufactures in his workshop.
He has a title which certifies him as an Occupational Educator for courses linked to Professional Training for Employment by the Junta de Andalucía since 2009, within the speciality of crafts related to metal (artistic locksmith, forging, blacksmithing and welding). Throughout the years many apprentices from different training programmes have attended his workshop.
With the ultimate aim of not letting this craft be lost forever and for it to continue, he dedicates part of his time to passing on his knowledge and practical experience. To that aim, he carries out workshops where he shows how he works, with live demonstrations, and also organizing interactive workshops so that anyone who is curious about learning can take part and acquire basic knowledge to dive into the craft of forge, being all this useful for the promotion of his business as well.
His last project, “COMPLEJO ARTESANAL FORMACIÓN Y ARTETURISMO”, is a true reflection of his personal life and professional career, where he combines his work with forge, his interest in research and his dedication to training other future artisans.
He has taken part in projects and works for official entities, provincial councils, town councils, foundations, as well as monuments which are part of heritage, among which it is important to highlight his work for the Reales Alcázares in Sevilla and the Cathedral of Sevilla, for which he has recently reproduced the key which opens the gate of the Cristo del Perdón. Other works, include the locksmithing elements for the door of the Galeón de Andalucía, restorations for the Parish Church of San Roque in Las Cabezas de San Juan, the Parish Church of Santa Marta in Los Molares, the Parish Church of the Purísima Concepción in El Garrobo, the Parish Church of San Pedro Apostol in Jerez de la Frontera or the Parish Church of Santa María de la Oliva in Lebrija. nta María de la Oliva de Lebrija.