Jonathan Hodgson combines his skills not only as a great artist but applies these talents to creating functional and custom arrows and some of which are art pieces.
His custom-made arrows are created to suit the archer’s bow, draw length and draw weight in lbs, and the type of archery they do, and personal preferences for colours and styles, etc.
His art arrows are built with Form in mind more than Function.
They still work, but they’re made more for display and as an expression of his art and craft, with inspiration from various historic or fantasy cultures, and so look good on the wall or a custom-built stand.
He also repairs and restores arrows for archers and collectors, in traditional and modern materials.
The materials he uses for the shafts are mainly woods: including cedar, Scots pine, spruce, and ash in particular.. but I also now uses cherry, maple, iroko, hazel, walnut, and others for some arrows. He hand carves and shapes the neck of each arrow, so that it grips the string tightly for use, and will occasionally reinforce it with a sliver of horn or similar material if it’s for a powerful bow.
Any artwork, embellishments, motifs, designs, archer initials, numbers for competition etc are drawn on by hand in Indian ink and/ or acrylic paint which was amazing to see in the flesh.
Feathers tend to be a goose, turkey, and gull-wing quills, which I shape by hand to varying degrees and lengths to suit. Feathers are lightly glued into position, before being spiral bound in a choice of threads from traditional to modern: namely silk, linen, metallic cotton, and kevlar, or a blend of the above in various colors.
The points are normally steel or brass machined and matched in weight to balance the arrow for use, and designed for easy removal from targets.
More elaborate or historic arrows will have hand-forged iron points, in broadhead, barbed, or armor-piercing bodkin styles. Alternatively, he now also uses hand-knapped points from semi-precious stones, including rose quartz, crystal, obsidian and opalite etc.
The finished arrow is normally protected with layers of varnish lacquer, wax, or oil. Where possible, and say he is mindful to use processes and materials which are as eco friendly, and sustainable as possible.
Jonathan’s interest in archery and arrow-making started in his childhood.
He explained …
I grew up in Tatworth near Chard, in Somerset. Soon after I was born my parents had bought part of a large old historic former farmhouse along with an acre of rough overgrown orchard land.
My brother Tim and I loved to spend as much time as we could in what felt like this vast wilderness, and we would often make ‘bow staves’ from sticks, bamboo canes, and the plastic handles of fishing nets…and then the arrows from bamboo canes with cereal box card fletchings… and then mad roof slate points, broken into triangles and taped onto the ends.. a crude attempt at an arrow, but an arrow nonetheless!
I was always fascinated by the legends of Robin Hood, the Tolkien mythology, and medieval history, and my eye was always drawn to the archers, their bows and arrows in movies and books generally!
I’ve always had several specific passions in life, alongside archery: martial arts, animal welfare, drawing, painting, writing and creative arts, bushcraft, camping and survival skills, and love for nature and wildlife surrounding us in Somerset.
These things all seem different yet very complementary.
My interest in archery and the great outdoors was always there throughout my childhood, and as a 6th Form Design Technology Student in 2002, I built a proper 3 piece takedown archery kit; a recurve bow, including 6 wooden arrows.
These were my first ‘real’ functional arrows and looked like the kind you could buy in sports shops. Soon after this time, I got more seriously into the pastime and soon joined Windwhistle Company of Archers, based in South Somerset near Cricket St Thomas.
Their ethos being focused on more traditional/historical kits, using mainly wood rather than plastics really appealed to me, and as the arrows you could buy ready-made were usually expensive and not very interesting to me, I decided to build my own.
So with the guidance and advice of some great lifelong experienced archers, including the late, great Bob Gray, I started the journey that would lead me to become a professional Fletcher, which to this day I continue from my Art Studio at The Millhouse Arts Centre in Ilminster.
It would be remiss of me not to mention my late mentor, Jim Perry, an elite military veteran, outdoors expert, and pro-Fencing Coach, based in Burnham on Sea, who really guided and inspired me to follow my dreams on all fronts, and believe in myself.
I just feel lucky every time I see a deer, fox, bird of prey, or badger etc..and firmly believe all these animals should be properly protected from those who would misguidedly or selfishly harm them. I do have some respect for the bow shooting, true hunters of the world, for example, the San, the Sami etc….but I have no time for the sport/trophy wannabe hunters we see here.
I truly believe our county is the best part of the country in which to live, and one reason is the diversity of flora and fauna, of which all of us who dwell in Somerset, are temporary custodians. We should therefore respect, treasure, protect and celebrate it; and every time we step out into our local wilderness remember we are the guests, and fortunate to be a part of it.