A Warwickshire businessman has completed a £70,000 export deal with a wealthy Japanese chocolate magnate.
Hughie Powell, who runs Cotswold Decorative Ironworkers (CDI), near Shipston-on-Stour, has completed a deal to provide Isao Ishimizu, owner of Japan’s most famous chocolate brand Ishiya Co, with 360ft of decorative cast iron fencing and an intricately designed pair of 25 feet wide gates.
Mr Powell said Japan was a promising market for his company, as Englishness sells well in the Far East.
He said: “In Japan there is snob value in having decorative cast iron fencing, gates and ornamental bridges made by English blacksmiths.
“The fencing has now been installed and the gates are the biggest set we have ever produced. Isao wanted something different so we used a lot of hand-made scroll work made by our young blacksmiths and a selection of antique castings which I have in stock to use as patterns.
“All the drawing and plans were done here in the office which we find preferable because we can build things to our own drawings better than an architect’s drawing which might call for difficult measurements or sizes and materials that don’t exist.”
CDI has worked alongside Ishiya Co for 15 years although the latest contract is worth more than the sum total of the rest of the work carried out for the Japanese firm.
The company, which has become famous in Japan for its Shiroi Koibito white chocolate biscuits, is based at Sapporo in Northern Japan.
Mr Powell said the work with the company had helped CDI to establish an international reputation and grow export sales – including a fence installed in Tokyo recently.
Meanwhile, CDI and its team of young Warwickshire-trained blacksmiths is now a supplier of fencing, gates and ornamental bridges to the National Trust and other institutions where knowledge of accurate historical replication is paramount.
Mr Powell said: “Isao Ishimizu has a passion for English craftsmanship. Most of our ironwork is displayed in Isao’s public theme park which consists of Disneyland style buildings and electronic fairy-tale displays, with a museum, shops and a café.
“Isao usually wants very decorative work ranging from intricate fencing - costing up to £500 a metre - to cast iron gates and bridges and other ornamental features such as sundials and rose arches.
“We also built his idea of a replication of the Iron Bridge Gorge in Shropshire. Our fencing is now all around the front of the theme park.”
He added: “We completed one contract outside Tokyo for fencing and gates to a building where wedding ceremonies are conducted.
“Another contract involved making two pairs of large showpiece gates and brick pillars for a £250 million museum which is surrounded by golf courses.
“They are a showpiece of English craftsmanship in metalwork for traffic passing through to admire.
“Our business in Japan has slowed up because of the recession and the exchange rates but whenever there is work we tend to head the list.
“The margins are good but you must understand the Japanese mindset if you are going to work for them.”