Some people find their niche, while others create one. In this instalment of the Weekend Name Drop, meet Sophie and Justin Stockbridge.

Name: Sophie & Justin Stockbridge 

Creative field: Armourers, Medieval Combat

Location: New Plymouth, New Zealand

Best known for: New Zealand’s only full-time armourers; fighting in the World Champs in France, Spain, Poland and Prague, receiving Bronze and Gold; founders of the Steel Thorns heavy combat group

Sophie Stockbridge in full armour

My connection: I taught with Sophie’s mother at St Patrick’s Primary School in Taumarunui. Through Mrs. Moore, both Sophie and Justin contributed to at least one of St Patrick’s galas, demonstrating their fire-breathing expertise. Some of Justin’s armour made it into Mrs. Moore’s classes as props for students’ artwork. Years later, my son was briefly involved with a local medieval fighting club, supported by Sophie and Justin. Since those days, I’ve stayed connected with them on Facebook and was most impressed by their appearance on the BBC.

Justin Stockbridge leading the Steel Thorns at Harcourt Park, Upper Hutt

Inspiration for this writer: If there is a common thread running through my Weekend Name Drop posts besides celebrating creativity, it is acknowledging people who have found a passion and are making it work, not only for themselves, but for others. Breathing fire at a primary school gala marked Sophie and Justin as unique individuals, to put it mildly, but I now recognise their devotion and tenacity in pursuing their passion, building a business and even building a movement along with like-minded individuals in New Zealand. Their artistry, skill and competitiveness underscore their ability to inspire others. These are international sports figures, folks, who didn’t just step into a niche already well funded and supported, but have carved their own as pioneers and innovators. And they look pretty bad-ass doing it.

Why you should check them out and share with others:
 Sophie’s and Justin’s progress has been covered, not only by the BBC, but by the Dominion Post, the Taranaki Daily News, and by The Stratford Press. Their armoury business, All Fired Up, continues to grow, supplying armour for national and international clients. While the period from AD900 to 1700 is re-enacted in New Zealand, the Stockbridges specialise in the period from 1300 to 1500 and they are growing their band of Steel Thorns. Sophie tells me, “We have enjoyed some success as a team and we have supplied matching armour which makes them hard to tell apart so we have less ego, and we look fantastic.” This year, they will join an international team in Japan to fight in front of a 5000 member audience in the Tokyo Towers with 20,000 people watching online. Going forward, the Steel Thorns have a national tournament on 11 February 2017 in Levin, an international on 18 Feb 2017 in the Gold Coast with some of the team intending to compete in the 2017 world champs in Denmark in May. Mark your calendars and watch this space.

Sample of work:

The Steel Thorns

Here’s that BBC documentary, Iron Maidens, featuring Sophie:

Find out more: All Fired Up Armouries, FacebookYouTube, Steel Thorns

The Weekend Name Drop is a weekly feature on this blog, promoting people I have encountered who are doing creative things.

Antony Millen is a Canadian living and writing in New Zealand. He is the author of three novels: Redeeming Brother Murrihy, Te Kauhanga and The Chain.

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