Wendie McCaffley
Guido Gouverneur
Eveleigh Workshops

Guido Gouvernor - Wrought Artworks - Iron work Australia

Guido began his career in blacksmithing and metal working at age five in Dunedin, New Zealand. His father, Harry, was a 2nd generation Dutch smith, who learned his trade from his father in Holland between the wars and worked as the blacksmith for a large construction company. Being an industrious man, Guido's father decided to set up a forge in the garage at his home and to make decorative wares on the weekends to sell in craft galleries. With the first blow of the hammer on hot steel at that newly established forge, a shower of sparks shot across the garage floor and onto Guido's left wrist, burning him badly and leaving a scar that took years to fade.

Baptism of fire over, Guido's interest in smithing and all things metal grew steadily and he was soon standing on an apple box putting cold irons in the fire and drawing hot ones, to pass them to father who would yell in Dutch "Too cold! "Too hot!" or "just right!" By his late teens Guido swung a 20lb sledge for his father fire sharpening broken moils, to the constant taunt "if we had a steam hammer we could do this in one hit."

Surrounded by all sorts of crafts while growing up, including pottery and wood turning, he sought out a teacher of wood turning and found one in Mr. Rappard, who ran a full time business making spinning wheels and related items for a worldwide distribution in converted chicken sheds. Being Dutch, Mr. Rappard struck a deal - "You run the machines for me on Sunday morning and I'll teach you turning in the afternoon". So the fine points of sharpening chisels, bowl turning, speed selection and many more were learned in an environment in which hand tools and hand skills were used on an assembly line basis. Mr. Rapparat was acutely aware of cutting costs through increased production and minimizing waste and striving for an excellent product. He was a good teacher and remained in business for many years. Guido's father by contrast was not forward thinking used the most awful tools to his dying day, believing security and money unspent to be the performance markers. By the end of Guido's school years, his father advised against a career in smithing believing the trade was dead.

Guido secured an apprenticeship in Fitting, Turning and Machining and in his second year started studying for the New Zealand Certificate in Mechanical Engineering. At the end of his apprenticeship Guido applied for a position as maintenance fitter at Waipori Power Station where he worked on hydroelectric turbines and related heavy machinery, also seeing first hand the principles of electric distribution and control. A further stint with a materials handling firm gave Guido experience in site supervision of multi million dollar projects throughout New Zealand, installing conveyors and related plant equipment in abattoirs and factories.

At age 26 Guido sought to travel the world and take stock of his life and career path. His first port of call was Australia where soon he meet Wendie McCaffley, his life partner, and found in her choice of a life lived in self employment as a path that he wished to follow. By age 30 Guido had rediscovered his love of blacksmithing and traveled extensively in Western Europe looking at wrought work and the applied arts. Via his return to New Zealand he purchased a steam hammer and related blacksmithing equipment from a closing shipyard and railway workshop, which he shipped to Sydney. In 1988 Guido with his partner Wendie established Wrought Artworks in a factory in Arncliffe. Predominantly commissioned to do furniture for shop fit outs and residential interiors these first years helped to establish a style and quality that have become a hallmark.

In 1991 the lease on the Arncliffe factory was drawing to a close and by then the Eveleigh Blacksmith shop had been vacant for three years. Guido and Wendi’s proposal to lease the workshop from State Rail was approved and an entirely new phase in their lives followed. Eveleigh allowed Guido to explore scale and scope in decorative smithing beyond what was previously possible. Hammers that could do in one hit what a 20lb sledge took ten to do, tongs of unlimited assortments and space to layout commissions on a lavish scale, cranes to lift and machine tools to make precise fitting spares and replacement parts.

Eveleigh defined Guido more in his work and brought him intimately in contact with the Victorian engineering aesthetic and design philosophy that would play such a large part in later commissions. Ex-workers from the railyard years heard of this revival of the workshops and came to visit and in doing so imparted years of experience and training to Guido. The foundry ran along side the blacksmithing business for many years, with the last major work being recasting one of the Centennial Park Reservoir Gates in 2002 before closure in 2005.

For Guido 2006 was to be largest commission to date and drew on his skill and previous experience of casting, forging, pattern making and site supervision: the restoration of 165meters of 1912 balustrade, known as the Dawes Point Balustrade and possibly the most photographed railing in Australia. Directly underneath the Sydney Harbor Bridge and with views to the Opera House, the project was of public importance with significant heritage value and was successfully completed on time.

It is from standing on apple boxes and watching his father firing the kiln that these enterprises have been possible. For only by doing it do you know.

Guido Gouvernor - Wrought Artworks - Iron work Australia
  Wrought Artworks - Australian Technology Park - Locomotive workshop, (Bays 1 & 2) - Garden St, Alexandria NSW 1435 - Tel 02 931 96190 - Iron work Australia - Site Map - Links
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