The Sunday Business Post Magazine – by Margaret O’Brien.
Husband and wife team Michael Calnan and Gunvor Anhøj have forged a small business with a big reputation from iron, steel, bronze and copper. A native of Denmark, Gunvor Anhøj started a forging business in 2001 in England, while Michael Calnan’s background saw him working for Seattle-based glass artist Dale Chihuly. Since 2009, they have been based on the grounds of Russborough House in Blessington, Co.Wicklow, where they create sculpture that varies from elegant birdbaths, to boldly primitive fire braziers. “For the interior, we focus on the small sculptures as well as wedding gifts, and we also create awards,” says Anhøj. “We have made a range of period pieces for clients over the years such as bespoke door furniture, fire screens and lighting in steel, bronze and glass. Since we set up at Russborough House, our range has grown to include various hardware, some of which we invite people to ‘make yourself’ on our one- and two-day blacksmithing courses.” Their designs have changed over time. “We used to do a lot of abstract work, pieces that reflected a passion for the material more than the artistic content. Some of Michael’s pieces were monumental. Since arriving in Ireland, our pieces have been smaller in scale, and are largely inspired by what surrounds us.” When Gunvor made her first Venetian Hare, she recalls seeing hares regularly in and around the forge. Portraying the essence rather than the obvious, her pieces are delicate traceries of beautifully wrought metal forms, using as few components as possible to describe as much as possible. “We have our own distinctive style, but over the years we find ourselves increasingly borrowing ideas and concepts from each other!” she says. “We work separately on pieces, but help each other with advice. We have found a way to share the work space, we know when to keep quiet for example… we sympathise with each other’s blunders, and celebrate when things go right. We are a team in life, and our love for the craft is shared – we couldn’t do it without each other.