This story is cross-posted from the University of Sheffield’s Alumni magazine, ‘Your University’.
Cliff Denton and Eric Stones are ‘putter-togetherers’, craftsmen skilled in the techniques and art of putting scissors together. They work at Ernest Wright and Son, a family-owned scissors manufacturing company on Broad Lane, Sheffield. They are now known worldwide, thanks to a remarkable video by local filmmaker and photographer Shaun Bloodworth, which has been the catalyst for a resurgence in interest in their amazing skills.
The video, The Putter, was commissioned by Storying Sheffield, an innovative art and community project based in the University’s School of English, which is collecting stories of the lives of Sheffield people and the city itself. One strand of the project is Steel Stories, a series of vivid portraits and narratives of the steel industry. Shaun wanted to capture the putters on film as he was interested in the “tiny little movements and millions of adjustments” they made to produce scissors. He contacted managing director Nick Wright, who was keen to get involved, despite the fact that the company was on the point of closure due to lack of demand for high-quality, traditionally hand-finished scissors.
Once Shaun had finished editing his video, he uploaded it on to his website. Then the magic happened. It went viral. “I don’t know how it grew,” he said. “Somehow it got on to the Reddit website and everyone went bonkers. The American online newspapers picked it up and the video attracted a huge audience.” Previously, on a good day, Nick would receive three online orders; the day after the film went online, he received 300. Then BBC Worldwide featured the company and the interest rocketed further – a year’s worth of orders in just one day. This momentum has continued and Nick has reinstated two staff members and now employs three apprentices, all learning the skills of a putter-togetherer from Cliff and Eric. “Touch wood, the video has saved the company,” Nick said. “We’ve shown the world that Sheffield still makes quality goods.”