60 Seconds of Skill is a moment to reflect, a minute from the ads to take a break and watch Craftspeople from the UK make some beautiful objects. Often these items are made in the same way that they have been made for hundreds if not thousands of years. They remind us that History is Alive.
We talked to Adam Jenkins from Now Strike Archery, a Bowyer and Archery instructor based near Chelmsford. We discuss Archery, Arrows and how the challenges of the Pandemic brought with it new opportunities.
Adam Jenkins crafts an arrow': 60 Second of Skill' extended cut:
How long does it take to make an Arrow from start to finish?
It varies depending on the arrow and can be as short as 10 minutes and much longer! We don’t hand plane the shafts for every arrow so that saves some time however the one for 60 Seconds of Skill took about an hour from start to finish not including the head.
You can’t have an Arrow without a Bow; how did you learn the skills to make a Bow as well as the Arrows?
I learnt quite some time ago when I moved from modern archery to traditional and as I had a limited budget, it was cheaper to learn to make arrows! I started with assembling arrows and over the years I furthered my knowledge with a lot of research and practice. Bow making is a quite different skill and you need to break a few in the process at the cost of learning! I would say I am mostly self-taught with again a lot of research and practice in between and I now make bows for re-enactment, target archery and historic replicas.
Are these skills practiced by a lot of people or are they in danger of becoming lost?
Surprisingly there are more people making traditional bows now than ever, the skills were perhaps once guarded in secrecy by those who practiced it as archery has been a staple sport throughout history and into our modern times. Now with the internet it is easier to communicate with other bow makers both professional and amateur to share knowledge and help keep these skills alive. Out of every skill involved, arrowhead smithing is the most endangered and very few people practice true arrow fletching.
How can people go about getting started in Arrow making or Bow Making?
For those wanting a head start we offer craft courses in every part of the process to give you a solid foundation and to make you an ambassador of this traditional craft.
Can you tell us more about your business, where did it all start?
Now Strike Archery Ltd started nearly 9 years ago and we focused purely on the English Longbow and have since become a leading centre of excellence for both the craft and skill. We evolved primarily from event work before we started offering the craft courses and everything else developed from there! We realised very early on that it was the experience we were really promoting no matter the product and have focussed on that element ever since.
Tell us more about Experience days, what kind of activities can people get involved in?
We make a lot of bows & arrows and use them to inspire others into the sport in addition to teaching history for various schools around the country. Our experiences range from Taster sessions for those who want to have a go at traditional archery, to Master Classes which are based on progression and all the way through to fully immersive Medieval experiences where we guide you through the 14th/15th Century! The latter is great fun to teach as not only does it involve a full day of our wonderful bows but everything else that medieval life can throw at you including the food, the money, the games and of course the battles.
How has the pandemic affected your business? What changes have you had to make?
The pandemic allowed us to focus heavily on our online retail which we significantly expanded producing “do it yourself” style kits for both bow making and arrow making. This was really popular and actually kept us going when all other income had been lost. We were able to reopen our outdoor activities in July 2020 and gradually phased in our indoor courses etc when we were allowed. It has meant that we have taken the normal steps in extra disinfectant of equipment, the use of masks where appropriate and a reduction in availability per session. We also invested in a video equipment with thanks to a local grant, so we are in the process of digitising some of our courses and an expansion of our YouTube channel.
As people are allowed to go and do outdoor activities again, how can Archery help peoples mental and physical wellbeing?
Archery is fantastic for wellbeing, it is a physical sport which uses very specific upper body shoulder and back muscles and it also includes a good amount of walking depending on the distance you are shooting, after all when you run out of arrows you have to collect them! From a mental point of view, it includes wonderful aspects such as focus, self-progression and discipline, self-esteem, relaxation and of course a fantastic social side as well. It is strangely therapeutic to watch those arrows fly and incredibly rewarding to hit that target. To top it off what I love most about the sport is how inclusive it is, it doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from, with the right bow in your hands you can shoot with everyone else.
What plans do you have for the future?
The last 12 months although challenging did give us the opportunity to come together with likeminded people and we have since merged to form The Past Presents Ltd. Our new company plans to expand the current range of experiences to include our heavy historic artillery, sword schools and crossbows to name but a few. We are working with exciting venues around the country to deliver and promote all of these traditional skills. Our education provisions for primary is constantly expanding too and we plan to have a number of teams working national wide to help bring history to life for the next generation.
You can find out more about Adam's traditional arrow making courses here. Head over to our YouTube Channel to watch Adam crafting a traditional arrow in an extended cut of his ’60 Seconds of Skill’.