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Opening times

  • Saturdays and Sundays
    8am-5pm
  • Mondays to Fridays
    8am-6pm
  • Café 16
    Mon-Sat 10am-4pm
  • FREE ENTRY

Forging our flower stands – Q&A with Ashlee Donaldson

The above photo by Laura Richardson shows Ashlee in the forge in Red Row, Northumberland.


Stunning new flower stands have arrived at Newcastle Cathedral, complementing the building’s recent transformation. These were hand forged by designer-blacksmith Ashlee Donaldson of Rasp Lifestyle at her dad, award-winning blacksmith Stephen Lunn’s forge in Red Row, Northumberland.

The design takes inspiration from the industrial heritage of Tyneside – specifically the Tyne Bridge and railway lines that run through the city centre, with blue glass inserts inspired by the coats of arms from our medieval font.

We recently caught up with Ashlee, who tells us, “I was honoured to be asked to design and make a piece to sit within such magnificent surroundings”.

What inspired the design of the Cathedral flower stands?

The design was inspired by the prominent industries that existed in Newcastle. The sweeping spiralling frame and the horizontal supports riveted in place represented the rail lines that were so important to Newcastle. Ideas from Canon Clare MacLaren contributed to the design. She suggested that there could be details within the flower stands that referenced the font and blue stained-glass that adorns the Cathedral. 

How long did the process take from design through to making? Can you tell us anything about the process?

From design to delivery of the finished flower stands it was around three months. Once the design is selected, I draw out the project to scale; this is used as a reference as I create the piece. As we start to create the piece, the design tends to develop, and I enjoy watching how the design can evolve from the original drawing. It was important to the brief that the two flower stands were of identical design but a mirror image of each other which did cause some head-scratching days in the forge!

What inspired you to get into blacksmithing?

Growing up I was brought up around blacksmithing. Our family holidays were spent at blacksmithing conventions and living beside the family forge I was always around that environment. 

Although I was always interested in art and developing this love with projects in the forge, I never took an interest in pursuing blacksmithing as a career. Instead, I went to university where I studied fashion marketing. From here I did an internship with a jewellery company, where I was involved in the design department. As part of developing designs, we would create sample pieces, some of which I would create in the forge to then be sent away for mass production. This opened an opportunity for me into blacksmithing where I realised I could create small homeware pieces. When graduation day came, I decided to take the opportunity to join my father in the family business and develop my own interpretation of blacksmithing, something I am still so pleased I decided to pursue 10 years later.

What’s your favourite element of the flower stand design? And why?

My favourite element of the design is the use of different media. The addition of the copper and glass detail adds an interesting contrast in colour and texture. I feel the blue glass windows partially enhance the mainframe of the flower stands, drawing your eye towards the spiralling uprights.

Do come and see the stands at the Cathedral, which have been decked out by our flower arrangers and look superb! Keep your eyes peeled for another exciting delivery – our new Altar and Amble, kindly paid for by the Friends of St Nicholas.

Click here to find out how you can become a Friend of St Nicholas.

Ashlee recently appeared on BBC Two’s ‘Great Coastal Railway Journeys’, presented by Michael Portillo, where she was interviewed with her father Stephen.

Click here to watch the episode on BBC iPlayer.

Click here to visit the Rasp Lifestyle website.