Today on my blog I am going to do something a bit different.
I write a lot of stuff, from blogs to pitches to comedy sketches and I work with a lot of fascinating people, one of my favourite clients is a guy called Alex Agricola the director of Black Raven Armoury and since I had some time to kill and we fancied a natter I thought I’d bend his ear a little.
Alex is an armourer. Yep, you read that right, he makes armour.
Oddly these days folks seem to know more about crypto-currency than they do about the art of leather craft and Alex is a brave bastion of time-honoured skills and hard-fought knowledge and also he makes some seriously beautiful things.
INTHEVENTOFIRE – So Alex, why did you become an armourer?
That’s a big question, but I suppose I’ve wanted to get involved in armour ever since I was a little boy. From the age of seven or eight I remember being fascinated with the history and the skills involved in making armour of all kinds. As a child, I went to drama school and my world was props, sets and costumes.
INTHEVENTOFIRE – Drama School eh? Tell us more… Anything we might have seen you in?
Alex – Well I could tell you but… No seriously, I attended the Italia Conti Stage School and my early years were spent in casting calls and popping up the background anywhere they needed some kids. Don’t tell everyone, but I’m in Ultravox’s Vienna Video and Pink Floyd’s The Wall, amongst other shall we say less cool appearances.
INTHEVENTOFIRE …and where does the name Black Raven Armoury come from?
Ah, that’s a good one and I think the answer is about the same age. It all goes back to a day trip to the Tower of London. My parents had decided to take their little history geek to see the treasures and the torture chambers and all the grisly stuff. But All I remember was the amazing swords and suits of armour… and the Ravens, of course. These huge black birds just sitting around liked they owned the place… which of course, they kind of do. So, years later when I had to choose a name for my company I knew there could only be one.
INTHEVENTOFIRE – Having worked with you I know how hard it is for you to talk about the film and TV stuff you’ve done… Non-disclosure agreements are a nightmare in your field. Without giving too much away, where might we have seen your work before?
Alex – The TV and Film world is the worst. It’s one of the hardest areas to break into and therefore one of the most coveted jobs. The companies who win these contracts have to do all they can to protect them. Which means although a show is likely to feature works by many makers, they’ll each have been forced into silence about what they made and for whom. Also when you supply something for a production company they don’t always tell you what show it was for. I always have a giggle when I see one of my pieces in a show I didn’t know it was in. I also do a lot of work with games designers and you’ll also have seen Black Raven design on book covers. The attention to detail in both of these fields has grown exponentially recently and they have transcended mere graphics.
INTHEVENTOFIRE – Can you elaborate?
Alex – Sure, my design were recently used in the Square Mega-hit Final Fantasy 14 and also in the Triple-A release Gods of War. The artists in the game first capture the designs and then digitally render them into the game world. They do the same with book covers. Fans of David Gemmel, for example, will be well acquainted with my work as it features on the covers of some of his books.
INTHEVENTOFIRE – A lot of what you do is obviously perfect for re-enactment, LARPing, cosplay and other similar events. Have you dabbled in these pursuits yourself?
Yes, being a drama brat, I had all those years of theatrical training and I lived for games. Naturally, when I found out there was a way I could do both… I said sign me up. I haven’t had time lately which is sad, but if I ever get a free weekend I’ll be back.
INTHEVENTOFIRE – we’ve seen a huge rise in Themed weddings and similar events is this something you’re involved in?
Alex – Absolutely, my order book is literally full of special commissions, many of which are for weddings and similar styled events. I think the rise of a show like Game Of Thrones and Vikings, in particular, has brought the art of the armourer into the public domain. At the moment I’m actually being forced to turn down a good deal of these commissions because I just don’t have the time.
Q5- INTHEVENTOFIRE Speaking of Game of Thrones are you a fan, or is watching it more of a busman’s holiday?
Oh I’m a huge fan. I love the fact that the costume team aren’t trying to be historically accurate. In the re-enactment world, and to a degree the LARP scene, there will always be those who hiss and fuss over every minute detail and I think that just detracts from everyone’s enjoyment.
Q 6 – INTHEVENTOFIRE – Have we seen of your armour on Game of Thrones?
Alex – I couldn’t possibly comment, but I will say that if you’ve watched anything with a historical or fantasy leaning over the last ten years there’s a good chance you’ll have seen something of mine somewhere on the screen.
Q7- INTHEVENTOFIRE – If you weren’t making armour what would you be doing?
Alex – That’s a good question, throughout my career I’ve always enjoyed the marketing aspect of the business too and I’ve built a solid social media following for Black Raven and all from scratch. Our posts generate huge engagement, thousands of likes, comments and shares. It’s really satisfying to know that there are people out there who are behind what we do. I suppose if they banned leather working tomorrow I’d become a Social Media Marketer and I do offer a consultancy service to other firms in the maker world. And of course I’m still an actor and I even still have an agent.
INTHEVENTOFIRE – When can I get my own Black raven Armour? And as a final question do you have a favourite piece you’ve made.
Alex – I don’t even have one of my own at the moment and I love all the pieces we make because there’s so much love in the process. From the countless blisters and nicks my hands have received, to the mad ideas like running one of the sets over in a Ford Fiesta to try and get a proper battle-worn finish on it. I suppose if pressed I’d say right now my favourite is the Bjorn set. I am proud of the way it’s turned out and I think it looks great.
INTHEVENTOFIRE – Thank you very much for speaking to us.