A Northumberland man has made a name for himself in his local community with his talent for unique metal designs, after a life-changing injury forced him out of the military.
Cameron Aylwin, 26, lives in Pegswood near Morpeth with his dog Ralph. After enlisting in the army when he was just 17, Cameron joined the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers as a blacksmith, a job which took him around the world servicing equipment of the Army.
His welding skills quickly caught the attention of his fellow students – before long they were asking for his help in sending home Valentine’s Day gifts, from which his now iconic sculpture – a metal rose – was born.
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But in February 2020, disaster strikes Cameron. While in Germany on an army expedition to teach skiing, he was involved in an accident that left him with a broken leg.
As a result of the injury, which turned out to be a tibial plateau fracture, Cameron developed arthritis in his legs and had to be medically discharged from the military.
Considering what followed February 2020, the accident could not have come at a worse time. Cameron says he became a ‘recluse’ when Covid hit and the country subsequently went into lockdown, unable to even get out of bed due to his injury, and it took a toll on his health mental.
Finding himself suddenly isolated and aimless, Cameron turned to the skills he learned in the military to see him through one of the toughest times of his life.
For only an hour or two each day, he started doing his own metal work from his garage, which he says “got him back on track.”
After rediscovering his love of metalworking, Cameron was inspired to carve out a new career – starting his own metal design company, Aylwin Designs.
After he started selling his signature red rose sculpture, Cameron was quick to receive requests from customers.
From creating ornate roses for wedding favors to bespoke metal flowers designed to last forever on headstones, Cameron quickly became famous in his local community for his unique work.
He quickly designed variations of the rose to make candle holders, coat hooks and tables – and then companies came knocking, asking Cameron to design everything from shop signs to restaurant furniture.
Going from the military to being his own boss was a big learning curve, Cameron admits. “I had to learn a lot about myself,” he says. “Instead of being told where to be at what time, how to dress, what to do – doing it myself was a big change.”
But Cameron says running his own business has allowed him to “thrive” in being able to adapt to the ups and downs of his arthritis, which unfortunately continues to spread through his body.
“You would think of a 76-year-old man with a Zimmer frame – but it can affect anyone,” Cameron says of the condition. “You have to learn what you can do per day and not be a hindrance to your own body.”
“Doing a little once in a while, building my business up to where it is today, made me stronger in a way,” he adds.
Using what he learned in the military to start Aylwin Designs also helped him make the difficult adjustment from the military to civilian life. “I’m using my skills to do something I love now,” he says. “I really cherish my time doing this.”
Cameron now has his own studio on farmland in rural Northumberland, and his business is in full swing.
In addition to selling her designs on Etsy, her work can be seen on the walls of several Morpeth businesses – including a sign and tables for a new steakhouse in town, Firehouse No. 1, which is slated to open this spring – and he has a regular stall at Tynemouth Market.
Cameron also creates designs for charity, having raised £345 for the British Legion making metal poppies, and he is currently creating a sculpture which he plans to raffle off to raise funds for Ukraine.
He is expected to be officially discharged from the military in August and hopes to continue expanding his business with more amazing designs.
“It gave me new life,” Cameron says of his business. “I couldn’t see myself doing anything else.”
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