When you hear the word 'blacksmith', it's easy to conjure up images of hammers, swords, armour and fire.

Of knights, damsels, dragons and witches who are all staple characters alongside the blacksmith in fantasy novels.

Well, now real-life blacksmith John Rutherford is setting the record straight on what the job demands in the 21st century and, you’ll be pleased to hear, it still involves swords, witches, fire and dragons.

"I make fantastical creatures for a living," John said, "so naturally that makes the job feel magical."

His family farm in Kiln Pit Hill is home to his metal work business Fairley Forge and has become John's personal sculpture trail.

John practises his metal work in an 18th century barn, which was in fact once owned and worked in by a blacksmith called Isaac Brown in 1880.

A Viking weather vane stands outside the door, a large stone with a sword wedged firmly in its centre stands guard on the drive, a giant wicker man waves his Northumberland flag proudly from a neighbouring field, and a sleeping dragon slumbers by the pond.

He has also designed specialist fences, railings and even tiny train-tracks for clients who wish to add some magic into their homes. By the time he was fifteen, John had built his first forge out of his family's broken tumble-dryer.

"I suppose I think of my sculptures like garden gnomes," John said, "they're just decorations on the landscape, something whimsical, which might make someone stop and smile."

So far, John has brought to life two dragons, one ginormous snake, a dragger-wielding witch, a flying phoenix and a Gruffalo - and they are all still standing, through the seasons and the elements, in various places around Tynedale.

A pair of replica Border Reiver spurs which John designed are also on display in Carlisle Castle.

"I read a lot of fantasy novels and listen Terry Pratchett audiobooks while I'm forging," John said, "so I think it's fair to say I take some inspiration for my creatures from there."

John's life, however, was not always so full of the fantastical.

After leaving school with an interest in metalwork, John began to pursue a career in the industry, and ended up working as a fabric engineer, designing variable motorway signs.

"Looking back, the job didn't suit me at all," John said. "I've always been a creative, outdoorsy person, so working in an office felt suffocating at times.

"It sounds cliché," John said, "but I just had an epiphany one day on the job that something had to change. I couldn’t continue making boxes for ever."

After leaving his job making boxes, John joined forces with Langley artist and sculptor William Payne, where he learnt how to use his creative passion and metal working skills to create art.

John describes the process of creating sculptures as being "similar to a child using pipe cleaners", and admits he often uses pipe cleaners to visually work out the shapes and dimensions of his work.

"It’s like working out a puzzle." John said. "I have to start by creating the outlines in miniature with the pipe cleaners and then I'll work out the sizes in chalk on the floor. This will help me know the lengths of metal I need to cut.

"Every piece of metal for the sculpture has to be cut individually, before you piece them together."

John then has the task of creating the sculptures in 3d, which he does by figuring out the width of his pieces and then binding materials such as wood and/or metal with metal rings.

The most important rule of the job, John says, is that you have to be prepared for disappointment, because perfecting the sculptures involves a lot of trial and error.

"I have unfinished sculptures of my own scattered all over the workshop," John said. "The most recent addition is a horse that’s too fat, which I’ll tinker with when I get a chance.

It is the nature of the job that artwork might not always work out the way you'd hoped, especially when you're working with steel, because it's not easy to bend it to your will."

The perks of the job make life as a blacksmith worth it for John though, and he's now helping to train future blacksmiths, by running regular classes and in a newly-refurbished blacksmith shop in Allendale.

"I do think Game of Thrones has something to do with the rise in interest," said John, "but I am really happy to see a bubble of resurgence, wherever the inspiration comes from."

John's work can be viewed at Dilston Physic Garden, Slaley Hall and at the Fairley Forge in Kiln Pit Hill.

To keep to up date with his latest designs, follow @Fireanvil on Facebook.