To become a blacksmith or a jeweler when you’re about 20-years-old might not be the most obvious career choice. But for people like Kjell Eecloo (21), Koen Fonteyne (25) and Julie Vermeersch (22), it’s business as usual. Each one of these young professionals is passionate about their handcraft and has the skills to produce or restore things. In the twinkles of these young eyes, you see the love for their handicraft.
I’m sure you’ve already heard it. The sound of horse hooves in the city centre of Bruges, Ghent and even in Vienna. Those hooves are all made by a blacksmith. Two years ago, Kjell Eecloo (21) also chose to become a blacksmith. When he was 19-years-old, Kjell was one of the youngest blacksmiths in Belgium. His love for the horses even goes back to his childhood. ‘When sitting in the car as a child, I was always looking for horses in the fields. I just loved them, even though we didn’t have horses in our house.’ Young adults who choose a handcraft, are a rare find. ‘Sometimes my job is very intense but the love you get back from those animals is beautiful’, says Kjell.
Handmade guitar passion
Just outside the city centre of Antwerp, in a neighborhood called Hoboken, Koen Fonteyne (25) and Stijn Kenens (39) opened their guitar studio. Overlooking the trees outside their window and without the sound of cars passing by, both can work peacefully on the guitars that are waiting for them to be repaired or made. Koen says that their story started in the UK. ‘We met each other on a study trip to Newark and our way of thinking matched immediately.’ As a 6-year-old child, Koen already played the guitar because his father did. As a 19-year-old man, Koen really wanted to work with his hands. ‘Before I registered to study guitar repair and construction, my parents didn’t agree with it. When they heard this job had job security, they were convinced.’ Now Koen makes guitars with Stijn, trying to make people happy: ‘The first moment someone plays on your handmade guitar gives such a warm feeling. The smile you give people is just wonderful.’
Little jewels in a small room
In a small building next to her house, Julie Vermeersch (22), has an attic where she makes her jewelry. With her degree of jeweler-goldsmith, she makes earrings, rings and necklaces. ‘I didn’t know what to do when I graduated as a teacher in primary school. So I chose to study jeweler-goldsmith in Kortrijk although my parents didn’t agree in the beginning. When they saw I was doing well in school, their mind quickly changed’, says Julie. Even at such a young age she already made a masterpiece: ‘For me final work, I had to make something around an embossed form. For this work, my grandmother gave me some gold and I made a necklace out of this, together with other materials. Knowing that a part of my grandmother’s gold is reworked in that necklace, gives me goosebumps.’
Text and photo: © Bert Van Kersschaever