Sunday, May 12, 2013

Matthew Bayley Portrait in Excellence.

(c) Billy Mark Clutterbuck 

One of the wonderful things about the internet is, you can develop relationships with people you have never actually met in person. A little bit of self disclosure here, I met my wife, and mother of my daughter 13 years ago on the internet before there was such things as on-line dating services. With that being said, I have known of Matthew Bayley for quite some time, and it has been my honor and pleasure to be his friend.

I met him like I have met some many fine folks, through a friend of a friend association on Facebook. That was at least five years ago. I am and have always been a fan of his efforts. Whether it is Armour, Belts, Buckles, Purses or Castings, each of his pieces has shown a finished quality that a great deal of artisans around the world never attain. Matthew's world is undergoing a bit of a change in location at the moment, and I was very grateful that he was able to spare some time and speak with me. Here is our interview:

(c) Matt Black Armour

Q: Who is Matthew Bayley?

A: I’m an Armourer and Bronzesmith from England. I was born and live in the city of Worcester, as a city it is steeped in history and the county itself is full of medieval buildings and churches and museums. I grew up with two artistic parents who both encouraged me to indulge my interests so from a very young age I was drawing, painting and model making. By seven years old I was casting metal soldiers in the shed and by my early teens was even helping my dad build historic furniture.

(c) Pat Patrick

Q: How old were you when you realized that being a "knight" or Man-at-Arms, was no longer a childhood obsession?

A: It took me a while to get there, I had always loved knights in armour of course and I used to see medieval tournament groups on TV when I was small (this was in the days of bucket helms and string mail) and thought i’d love to do it, I filled my sketch pad with drawings of knights but never imagined that I might be doing the same thing some day.

When I was 11 a work colleague of my mother was involved in English Civil War re-enactment and so I was taken by my parents to watch, I was naturally hooked and started shortly after. It took a while but by the time I was 20 I’d joined a medieval group as a simple foot soldier and the medieval era became my favorite period!

Q: You went to a design school. What was the name of that school and what was the first medieval anything you designed during that time period.

A: I attended two art colleges, the first was the Art and design center of Worcester College of Technology where I studied 3D design. I benefited from two good tutors while I was there: Mike Blundell who often despaired of my historical craft leanings but was encouraging never the less, and Chris Lisney who was a part time tutor but most importantly he was also a blacksmith!

It was in his forge that I made my first and only sword, a small Falchion. Shortly after with the help of my dad and some bellows from some reenactment friends I had built my first living history forge!

By the time I was studying for my degree at Hereford I had to concentrate on artistic ironwork so my historical work was mostly put to one side, but I still snuck the occasional project into the workshops there and continued doing historic forge work in my spare time.
(c) Christine Pearn

 Q: I have seen bits and pieces of Armour that you have made. Have you made a complete harness-a complete Cap-a-Pie Harness?

A:To this day I have still not made a full harness, for some years I made armour part time, as my main income was from a company making armours in resin for the film industry and live role play this meant I was just taking on small projects on the side.

I am now working on recreating the armour of Robert Lord Hungerford for a client here in England, It’s a challenging project and we’re incorporating details from a few other English sources as the client wanted to see if some unusual armour features actually work, we’re taking a bit of a risk but I like that.

Armour Pictures 
(c) Matt Black Armour

Q: From what I have seen you are or were heavily involved in the War of the Roses Reenactment Community in England.-Do they keep you motivated to create new work?

A: I’m still involved in Wars of the Roses reenactment and enjoy a battle sometimes, I've also fought in tournaments which are certainly more physically demanding than a battle.

(c) Pat Patrick

I think my real motivation has to be firstly from my clients who give me some good challenges with the projects they bring and secondly seeing other armourers work. There are so many armourers across the world producing great work and this is a spur to push my work to new heights.
(c) Stephen Moss Photography

Q: Tell us about the entire range of work that you produce.

A: I've been running Matt Black Armour for about 5 years full time now, I had the intention of producing simple munitions armour for reenactors and found myself being approached by Jousters and people wanting some pretty exacting details so I find myself taking on a limited number of projects each year that allow me to concentrate on details. I now have a client for whom I am making a Cuirass in medium carbon steel, with a velvet covering and gilded fittings, I know it will look gorgeous when done but I know I’ll be too scared to watch it being used.

Cloth Covered Breastplate.
(c) Matt Black Armour

Back in early 2011 my Dad and I created Bayley Heritage Castings, a small foundry reproducing historical costume accessories, originally we were just going to make fittings but it expanded into crafting complete belts, and even some casting in precious metals. I offer a plating service for our products too so we've made gilt bronze jewelery and high status girdles, in fact my partner Vicky has her own company Aquerna Fabricae and working with her we have produced fabric covered girdles using gilded fittings and mounts.

I was accused by one of my black smithing tutors of being a closet silversmith, I guess he just saw something that I didn't at the time!
Gilt Bronze Rings by Bayley Heritage Castings
(c) Bayley Heritage Castings

Gold and Peridot Ring by Bayley Heritage Castings
(c) Bayley Heritage Castings

Boar Badges For Richard III Supporters
Gold, Silver, and Bronze by Bayley Heritage Castings.
(c) Bayley Heritage Castings.

Q:Have you ever had a desire to Joust.

A: I would love to joust, I've had a few riding lessons in the past and ridden some horses used for jousting, I thoroughly enjoy just being around horses. Unfortunately with my work and other commitments I really couldn't devote the time and money required to bring my horsemanship up to scratch but I can still dream.

Q: Where do you expect be with your business in the future?

A: I've found being an Armourer full time to be a struggle, especially when no two jobs are the same, you learn as you go and sometimes it’s a hard lesson but I've found a good balance.

I think I can safely say that the castings business has changed things dramatically, It started small but brings in plenty of work alongside my armouring. If and when I move into other periods though I know I’m going to need an extra pair of hands to keep up!

* Editorial note: It should be annotated that Matthew Bayley and his fiancee' Vicky Binns have entered into a commercial partnership. Binns is the owner/operator of Aquerna Fabricae. She makes Dresses, Girdles, Purses, Belts, and Hats. The following photographs demonstrate how both of their remarkable talents have blended seamlessly together.

Clothing, and armour pictured were created by these two talented people.

The Girdle/Belts were made by Aquerna Fabricae with the metal parts being cast by Bayley Heritage Casting.

Belts by Aquerna Fabricae and Bayley Heritage Castings.
(c) Aquerna Fabricae & Bayley Heritage Castings.

(c) Aquerna Fabricae

(c) Aquerna Fabricae
"A commissioned gown in black on black damask with black faux fur collar and sleeve cuffs. Green damask under gown, front laced kirtle (visible lacing), silk neckerchief and headdress created by myself (Vicky Binns). Wide red leather girdle with hand cast bronze buckle, chape, grommets and studs hand crafted by Bayley Heritage Castings. Custom bronze ring frame purse, with black linen and silk pile velvet, decorated with hand made cotton Turk head tassels and a glass beaded drawstring opening was hand crafted by both Aquerna Fabricae and Bayley Heritage Castings in collaboration."

Q: Tell us something about you, that you think no one would suspect...

A: Some people who know me via social networking may be aware that I like to find time to spend in the kitchen, I love to bake cakes be it a big layered sponge or my Tennessee whiskey chocolate brownies.
I also love to make sushi, I've met people who've been on courses and ask how I do it! There’s something so cool about a neatly done Uramaki (inside out sushi roll) especially if it’s filled with Tempura Prawn or Katsu Chicken.

(c) Matthew Bayley

(c) Matthew Bayley

I would like to thank Matthew Bayley and Vicky Binns for their patience whilst waiting for this interview to come out. Thank you both for your willingness to give of your time, and to so generously share your efforts.

Matthew Bayley's Associated Web Sites:

Matt Black Armour

Vicky Binns: