Our 21st course and i know i probably say this every time but another great one. This weekend’s course was a sort of family affair with brother and sister Aidan and Alison and Aidan’s two children Ben and Adrienne. What was interesting this time was that they pretty much brought all their own materials with them too. First up was Aidan, he used a fencepost from his garden, an old gas cylinder, bits of steel he’d dredged from the river and some bits from a WW1 battlefield to create a stylised, abstract bird bath. I think we can safely say it was a unique piece of sculpture. Adrienne wanted to create some pieces for her garden on a sea theme so she made an octopus and a jellyfish from lots of different pieces including a fruit bowl, bike chains and pulley wheels. Ben was keen to make a fire pit on a ‘Lord of the Rings’ theme with a detachable monster head which could be replaced with a cooking grill for when matters turned culinary. Finally Alison wanted to make a large Mexican golf champion – as you do ! She’d brought a huge collection of metal bits ranging from a frying pan to barrel hoops and golf trophies. We worked right up to the wire this time to get everything done then bundled it all into various vehicles at the end of the weekend so everyone could take their sculptures home with them.
Well, we popped up again just recently. We were asked if we’d like to open up the shop again now that non-essential retail can open again and we thought, yes, why not. We’ve got a new sign because the old one blew away after being scratched off by the strings of Christmas fairy lights outside and a slight change of artists too. So far it seems to be steady away unlike the bonanza when we opened up at Christmas but it’s still good fun playing at shopkeepers for a while. There seems to be a need for people to just call in and have a chat as much as look at what new pieces of art we’ve got for sale. We’ll be open until the end of may then it’ll be time to go back to our various studios and make some more art to sell.
We’ve just finished our first course for this year, it’s good to be back and what great pieces our first bunch of students made. First up, Sarah made a huge dragonfly for the side of her garden pond then because she’d worked so consistently, went on to make a couple of small birds to fix to her pergola. John, an ex-engineer from David Brown tractors made, well, two tractors but out of a real mix of found objects and engineering parts. It was nice to see him slowly shed his engineering background and become more creative. Andrew started off making a chair then went off on a tangent creating an abstract piece that gave the illusion of floating steel balls tethered to a girder – and made a lot of noise in the process ! Finally James, a coded welder (he kept that quiet !) immediately saw the potential of just launching into making something without having to do all the paperwork beforehand and unleashed his hidden creative side. He made two giant performing worms for his garden, one singing, the other playing the guitar, going into more and more detail as the course progressed. All four students had never tried anything like this before (obviously one could already weld amazingly) and all four took home a unique piece they’d made themselves, with a bit of help from Billy and me. We’ve got four places left for the whole of this year if you fancy having a go ?
Last week i was back in a school for the first time in ages and had a great time. I was at Birkby Infants School and the kids were as enthusiastic as ever because let’s face it, who doesn’t enjoy making art. The project was to re-do the big wall display in the main hall on the theme of ‘family’. They drew pictures of family members then we made them up into 3D versions using plastic, cardboard and sticky tape which we then covered in plaster bandage and painted. It was a mad week but the display looked great as a series of totem poles featuring self portraits, mums, dads, brothers, sisters, aunties and even cats, dogs and babies.
I recently did a commission where the customer wanted a horse head to go on an existing plinth. Having never done a horse head before and not knowing exactly how it would turn out i said i’d make two versions and they could choose which one they liked best. That way i could do a more traditional version using round bar but also an experimental version using twisted scrap metal. I wasn’t even sure if this second version would work out at all but it was a great learning curve and gave me an insight into a new way of working. The customer, (well his wife actually), chose the more traditional version so i’ve still got an abstract looking horses head but it’s definitely the pre-cursor to more work like this.
I’m taking part in a pop up shop alongside 19 other artists Holmfirth’s old Tourist Information Centre in the run up to Christmas and a bit beyond. Margaret Dale from ‘Keep Holmfirth Special’ asked me if i’d organise it, i’m guessing because i pretty much know every artists in Holmfirth. The remit was twofold – to try and get some exposure for local artists this year and to help brighten up the High Street. We had to jump through quite a few hoops with the council to get permission but with the amazing help of Martin & Lindsay Norman we opened on Thursday and so far the response has been extremely good. We’ve had lot’s of sales but one over riding piece of feedback is that people have really missed coming out to look at art and to socialise. It’s good fun playing at shopkeepers for a while knowing that come early January we’ll be heading back to our respective studios. Opening times are 10 until 4 every day up to Christmas Eve and then we’ll play it by ear up to January 9th when it goes back to being an empty shop again.
I normally only do welding workshops with adults on our weekend sculpture courses but i had worked with 12 year old Charlie earlier this year, so when i was asked if Jack could do a session for his birthday i thought, why not. He does make a lot of stuff at home, including wooden Christmas reindeers but he’d never worked with steel and he’d certainly never welded before – or used a plasma cutter either ! He took to it really well, picking up MIG welding quite quickly and wasn’t scared of the noise and the sparks even with the plasma cutting and angle grinding. Jack made a new house nameplate from found objects. It was a great afternoon and lovely to see someone so young clearly at ease with the equipment and materials, i’m sure he had a great birthday.
This week i was featured on Scrap Kings. They’d contacted me towards the end of last year about filming me making a large piece of sculpture to accompany the other features in their programme about demolition and recycling. They filmed me making a large head out of twisted scrap pieces i’d found in Bamforths scrap yard in Milnsbridge. It was an experimental piece so i’d no idea how it was going to turn out or even if it would turn out at all. Anyway, after a whole day of filming they’d got enough footage to start the segment with. I did some filming myself in the workshop as the piece progressed, then they came back to do some final shots. I was pleasantly surprised with the end result, i didn’t come across as too much of an idiot and it wasn’t just a fluff piece tacked on the end of a programme. As ever you learn a lot from doing these things and even more from hindsight but it was definitely worth doing.
We’ve just completed our 19th course and i know i always seem to say this but it was as good fun as ever. This time it was married couple Hazel & Andrew in Billy’s workshop enjoying the process of making various cut out garden ornaments. They tried plasma cutting, angle grinding and mig welding throughout the weekend. In my room was Bob and Becky. Bob had been given a place on the course as a christmas present and had driven up from Devon to be with us. He made a unique garden lantern from various pieces of junk metal and a range of flowers from spoons to accompany it in his garden. Becky had finally found a metal sculpture course after looking for quite a while so was determined to make a stag for her garden. With her small maquette coming in at almost a metre high we were a little worried about wether the bigger version would fit in her car. Thankfully it just fitted and no one was more relieved than her husband. None of our students had welded before, all just wanted to have a go and see what they could come up with – they certainly achieved that. Dates for the first half of next year are on the courses tab of my website if you fancy having a go yourself.
You know when you say you can make something and just launch into it then start thinking er, will it be really heavy and more to the point will it actually fit out of the door ? Well, that was me this week making this commission for Cookridge House in Leeds. I had to be really accurate which doesn’t come easily but luckily i know people who are. Anyway it did fit out the door and soon will be on it’s way to the galvanisers. I really feel the need to make something small now.
We’ve just done our eighteenth course and what was nice about this one was the fact that each of our students did something very different. In my room i had mother and son, Faith and Ed with some predictable family rivalry going on. Faith made what i think is probably the largest piece anyone has made so far on one of our courses, fully getting into her stride once she put her glasses on and could actually see what she was doing. Ed made a comic pineapple character based on a tattoo he had. In Billy’s room Ian made our first water feature from a some fire extinguishers and a serving dish i’d fished out of a skip. Savva had only done a clay course before but we didn’t hold that against him once he’d realised just how good metal is and made a junk metal sea horse standing on a rock. I really enjoy doing the courses, mainly because i like working with my longtime friend and fellow sculptor David Mayne. We both like seeing our students surprise themselves with what they’re capable of making so if you fancy a go, we’ve just released the first half of next years dates.
No its not a post about how good looking we are, it’s about the beauty of being located at Sculpture Lounge. With there being 17 different artists there and each of us having different skills, what’s really useful to me is being able to swap them. So, when i wanted to make a mould of a giant urn i called on fellow studio holder Mr Sticky aka Martin Norman. With his vast knowledge of mould making we soon had the mould made which meant James could have his giant ball back. Then, when Martin had finalised his plans for the greatest craft fair stand in the world he asked me to do the welded steel framework. Simple.
We’ve just done another weekend sculpture course and it’s been as much fun as usual despite having to add in the extra covid precautions. Our students always surprise themselves with what they’re capable of making during the weekend but i think we had the biggest surprise this time as no one has ever made a crown before and a huge one at that ! Tim had done a tiny bit of welding before and brought loads of materials with him and actually used none of it apart from one small bearing race. He’d no idea why he wanted to make a huge crown, it just seemed like a good idea at the time and will no doubt form a unique focal point in his garden. Seth went for quantity, finishing off a new house number, a garden bird on a perch and some animal additions to some bench ends he brought. Ange made a big Christmas tree display stand which will be the envy of all the other shops in Slaithwaite come wintertime and lastly, Phil made two unique garden chairs with stainless steel inserts. I run the courses with fellow sculptor David Mayne (many thanks must go to him as usual) and we make sure that everyone has an enjoyable experience learning how to make their own piece of metal sculpture which they then take away with them at the end of the weekend. The rest of our courses are sold out for this year but we’ll be listing next years dates very soon.
One of the commissions that’s seen me through lockdown is this one from Pippa Ashworth. She asked me to make a new garden gate for her and being an artist herself came up with some sketch ideas based on some of my previous gates and railings. I did my usual big layout drawing on big sheets of paper with a big pen, then got to work once she was happy with the design. It was a really nice job to work on, partly because she was so easy to work with and partly because she wanted it to have a ‘loose’ feel which definitely suits my style of working.
Our first sculpture course of the year thanks to Covid 19, in fact we’re the first sculpture course this year at Sculpture Lounge. It’s good to be back though and with a massive risk assessment form we got through the weekend as smoothly as ever. Missing out the tour of the mill this time meant more time for making sculpture and all four students went home with pieces they’d made themselves. Jonathan made a tall, abstract garden bird and learnt a few new skills to add to his newly found sculptors repetoire. Lynn had been on a clay course previously but we didn’t hold that against her so it was great to see her get to grips with steel and this time and make an abstract garden piece, a guinea fowl and two flowers. Leilah makes willow sculptures and she brought her unused welder along so she could learn how to make armatures for her own work. Finally we had returning student Steve who seemed to launch himself into the mass production of enormous garden obelisks, making five in total which he managed to squeeze into his small van at the end of the weekend. Thanks to Billy (David Mayne) as ever for running the course with me and to Sculpture Lounge for letting us start courses again in these weird times.