It is a well-known fact that most of the developed world has been transitioning towards a service-based economy. In an era where skilled artisans seem to be a dying breed, Ray Hood from London Engraver has managed to carve out quite a name for himself as a hand engraver. At Man of Style we are big fans of artisans, so we sat down with Ray to discuss what led him to become a master craftsman.
Sam Wines: When was the exact moment that you knew you wanted to become a hand engraver?
Ray Hood: When I was about 16 years old I discovered my Grandfather had been a hand engraver; my Dad showed me some of my Grandfather’s work and I was so impressed with the level of detail and the fact it was all done by hand, I instantly wanted to learn how to do it. My Grandfather had worked for Garrard & Co (the former Queen’s Crown Jewellers) before passing away, so with the contacts he and my father had made, I managed to secure a two-week work placement there. This experience cemented my desire to follow in his footsteps, and I started college to learn the all-important basics straight away. After one whole year of learning to cut straight lines and circles to perfection, I began my 6-year apprenticeship at Garrard & Co and worked alongside some of my Grandfather’s old colleagues.
SW: It took you seven years to become a master hand engraver, was there ever a time where you considered calling it quits?
RH: Not really, I truly do love what I do. There has only been one occasion when I decided to try something else…but it only lasted one week before I came to my senses! I missed being at the bench and using my creativity. I seem to have a natural gift for a rare skill, and it would be a shame not to carry it on – especially as I have all my Grandfather’s tools to use as well.
SW: So if you’re the London Engraver what prompted the move to Australia and why Adelaide as your home base?
RH: My wife Carly and I had been on holiday to Australia a few times and loved it. We
got back to London after one trip, and there was an advert on TV about emigrating to Australia, so we thought ‘what the heck, let’s give it a go’! Nine months later we had been granted our Permanent Residency, and we made the best move of our lives. The opportunity to have a great work-life balance and of course the weather were big drawcards for us.
It wasn’t that we chose South Australia really, more like South Australia chose us – it was the only State that was offering State Sponsorship for Engravers so at the time we didn’t have any other options – but we’re so pleased it worked out this way. We love Adelaide and its laidback lifestyle, it suits us, and we wouldn’t want to live anywhere else right now.
I miss the history of London and the UK; the old castles and architecture and so on – but it’s not enough to make us want to move back there. We love the beach lifestyle here too much!
SW: What is the strangest thing you’ve had to engrave?
RH: I think the weirdest thing would have to be a Viking helmet with full-size horns – It was the most awkward piece to work on without losing an eye!
SW: What was your favourite commissioned piece/a career highlight?
RH: My favourite commission is yet to be revealed actually, so you’ll have to watch this space! It’s my most significant commission to date and is indeed one I’m very proud of with just under 200 hours of work going into it.
I’ve been very fortunate to have done work for several VIP’s and celebrities and to have also engraved some historical and famous pieces throughout my career – Formula One, Wimbledon, ICC Cricket World Cup, Augusta Golf, Heineken Cup, Royal Ascot, FA Premier League Cup – it’s certainly been eventful!
Imagery courtesy of London Engraver.