Thirty courses and we’ve not fallen out yet running these courses Billy and i ! This one was a great one, i know i probably always say that but as Vinnie Jones said in Lock Stock, ‘its been emotional’. We had four female students, Christina, Gillian, Elaine and Mandy and they made it really good fun with their input and their stories but mostly with the fact that they worked so well as a group supporting each other and exceeded their own expectations with what they made. Christina just wanted to make a smallish garden sculpture based on a heart as a memorial to her parents then ended up making a huge piece, bigger than herself which brought a tear to everyones eye when she finally finished it. Gillian made a moving garden sculpture based around fireworks and used some car springs she’d found and also raided the scrap bin at the garage next door. Elaine came up from Brighton to do the course and really enjoyed using the plasma cutter to create a landscape piece with movable elements, a bit like the scenery for a puppet show. Finally, Mandy made a sculptural frame complete with a crow and a tree to compliment a piece of mosaic art she’s planning plus a free standing cut out crow on a pole for her garden. The summer is almost here now so it might be a bit warmer in the mill for the next course, but then again.
Heads and Tales, my first solo exhibition in 13 years has just opened at Globe Arts Studios in Slaithwaite. It’s also their first sculpture exhibition so it’s quite an honour. Needless to say i’ve got everything but the kitchen sink on display, 65 pieces if you count the big multi coloured scrap head in the garden. What i like about Globe apart from the great staff obviously is the different areas of the gallery space which fitted my work really well. I could put the really heavy wall pieces on the solid walls, the lighter animal heads on the wooden screen walls and all my metalhead pieces in the glass display shelves. There’s a bit of a mixture of heads in the exhibition from the huge comical moose head through the colourful scrap animal heads to the human heads made from different scrap materials. The show runs until June 18th.
Yesterday David Mayne (Billy) and myself ran our 29th metal sculpture course and we were very pleased with the way it went, hopefully our students were too. We had two new ones and two returning students, so we must be doing something right. First up in my room was Sarah who was very unconfident about her abilities but once she learnt how to weld and plasma cut she went on to make a brilliant sheep for her garden which even wobbled a bit on it’s springy legs, adding to it’s charm. Richard had been on the course last May so was ok at welding and came with lots of plans to make garden table & bench legs, which we’ll get galvanised for him and then went on to make a comical snail too. Iris came up from Devon for the course and was just happy to work with different metals and learn the various ways you can fix them together, definitely a research trip for her. Lastly we had James back again and after being inspired by barn owls near his home he raided my cutlery trays and made his own version which was just about to leap from a garden fork. Everyone finished something to take home with them at the end of the weekend, including James, who only seemed to finish his piece with three of us standing nearby willing him on ! All our courses are full this year but email me if you want to go on our waiting list or want to be amongst the first to get next years dates when we finalise them.
I finished and sited this piece not so long ago. It was commissioned by a good customer of mine as her own retirement present. I’m guessing to her it meant a new start in life after many years being a doctor but to me it was a great challenge. I’d never made a phoenix before, so quickly scribbled out something for her and then set to work. I wanted it to have quite a bit of height and have a contrast between the stand and the bird itself. I had some old Ikea table legs which tapered nicely so i used these for the structure of the wings and made the rest from new sheet steel which i plasma cut into shape and the stand was a good way of using up all the chunky, rusty, twisted pieces i’d saved over the years. Anyway, there’s no mistaking which is her house !
After five months off we’ve recently run our latest sculpture course and even though we felt a bit rusty to start with we quickly remembered how we do them and it all went really well. Adrian was bought a place on the course for his big birthday and being fairly handy anyhow quickly made the owl bird box he thought would take him all weekend and went on to make various flowers and a dragonfly which stuck out of his car boot as he left on Sunday teatime. Victoria, who normally works with willow wanted to learn how to weld properly and make armatures, she quickly realised it wasn’t her that couldn’t weld but the welder she had. Buoyed along with this new found achievement she made a small sheep then thought what the hell and made a full size one the next day, complete with a moving head made from an old wok. Husband and wife, Tracy and Steve made an assortment of pieces for their garden including two tall abstract pieces, a walking figure, a bee and an Escher triangle. Four very happy students took their own sculptures home with them on the Sunday. My good friend and fellow sculptor at Sculpture Lounge, David Mayne and i run the courses once a month from March through to October. We’re fully booked for this year, a mixture of Covid backlog, repeat bookings, people wanting unique presents and us being just too damn popular (only kidding) so if you want to try it we can always add you to our waiting list.
Last year i re-vamped the railings of Bengal Spice who are next door to Da Vinci’s on Dunford Road in Holmfirth. Those railings made Da Vinci’s existing ones look really poor by comparison, mainly because they were falling apart so they asked me if i’d make them some new ones. There was nothing worth keeping apart from the frames and the handrails so Steve and Tom just said ‘do whatever you want’, so i did. I drew out a design of the various food and drinks they sell on big sheets of cardboard and started to bend steel to the same shape to form the new railings. It was a really lovely project to work on, partly because Steve and Tom were really easy to work with but also because i could just have lots of fun with it. I’m also lucky to have some good friends who helped me every now and then with moving and siting them etc, in particular the very capable and hands on Martin Norman.
A recent project i’ve been working on are four new letters for Dewsbury market. Charlotte North from Emmeline North Design asked me to work on the project making four new letters with added guidance from Rebecca Appleby. The brief came about because Dewsbury market is going to close next year for a two year re-vamp and in the meantime a temporary market using shipping containers will be set up. This will incorporate a drinking area near a pub and Charlotte came up with the idea of having a big Dewsbury sign, a bit like the Hollywood sign after finding some old Superdry shop letters in a reclaim yard. As there are only four common letters in Dewsbury and Superdry, i was asked to make the other four based on designs the three of us worked out. I’ve really enjoyed working on this scale and having to be quite accurate for a change and it’ll be great to see the letters in place next spring.
We’ve just run our final course of 2021, from now on it gets a bit cold at Sculpture Lounge until March time when we pick up with the courses again. It was a full on weekend and all our students took home pieces of sculpture they’d made themselves. First up in my room was Rosemary who played it cautious on day one and made a garden flower but then launched into a 2 metre tall abstract garden sculpture on day two. She didn’t quite finish in time but luckily has her own welder so she can finish it at home. Robert came for a return visit and made a balancing insect and a heron from some of his own scrap metal and various bits of mine. Kerry came with some ideas based on a rowan tree and made a large garden sculpture after spending what seemed like most of the first day plasma cutting the leaves out. Husband Barry cut up Billy’s old cement mixer and made a floral themed fire pit from it. Luckily they came in two cars on the second day. I run the courses with my good friend and fellow sculptor David Mayne and they’re always great fun to do. At the moment we’re concentrating on catching up with our own work but we will sort out next years dates soon.
That’s another weekend sculpture course completed and four happy people taking their pieces home with them. None of our students had welded before and only two of them had ideas about what they wanted to make, which was fine – we don’t mind playing it by ear. After all, i’ve kind of made a career out of it. Anyway, first up is Kate and she’d been beach combing for all sorts of strange and twisted pieces of rusty metal which she combined into a sculptural garden piece / wind chime. Kate number 2 made an abstract circular garden sculpture that moved with the wind and a water timer for her kitchen. Adam got the hang of welding quite quickly so launched into making an ambitious stags head which may or may not be allowed in the house, we haven’t heard back yet. Finally Andrew worked quite methodically , choosing the perfect pieces of scrap steel and made a gecko for the side of his pond from drawer handles and cutlery.
It was the Arts Festival recently in Holmfirth and one of the most popular events is ‘Art in the Woods’. This year though there wasn’t much of a wood to have the trail round because a lot of the woods had been harvested so the trail was at New Mill Community Garden instead. It’s a great location and one that many people (myself included) may not have been aware of. After the initial site visit i decided to make some massive vegetables to go in the the garden area and foolishly decided i’d make them in wood. To make matters more complicated i decided to base their design on the work of British painter Euan Uglow whose angular fruit pictures i really liked. So, a huge pile of scrap wood, two full days, lots of head scratching and 1000 screws later i’d made a pumpkin and a marrow. Hepworth Junior School helped me paint them and we only got a bit of gloss paint on the playground (and the kids). The event attracted around 500 people over the festival to what is a truly special place, made more so by the people who run it.
I work with David Mayne regularly on our weekend sculpture courses but recently we’ve worked together on some outdoor sculpture for Cannon Hall near Barnsley, South Yorkshire. They had a monster trail for which we made a cage that had to look like the monster had escaped from it, which marks the start of the trail. It was quite strange making something fairly delicate and precise then battering it in places so it looked like something had escaped after a struggle. The second piece we made was a 4m high pear tree sited in the walled garden and acts as a fundraiser in that you can purchase a brass pear with your name engraved on to help support Cannon Hall.
Last weekend we (David Mayne and i) ran our 25th sculpture course, we both like running them because having done loads of schools workshops over the years, these have a very different vibe. The participants are always keen to make sculpture, they just need to be shown how to weld first. With that mastered we then guide them in their endeavours to create their own piece(s) of sculpture which we then stuff into their car boots at the end of the weekend. Julie was our budding blacksmith, being in the process of setting up her own forge she just needed to learn how to MIG weld and then be creative with it and that’s exactly what she did by making her own unique ‘windy’ inspired weathervane. Sue and David came up from near Margate to ‘have a go’ and went home with a life-size runner and some abstract birdfeeders. Lisa was there as a ‘big birthday’ present and already being an illustrator wasn’t short of ideas, so embracing the 3rd dimension and eventually mastering MIG welding she produced a small exhibitions worth of pieces. We’re fully booked up for our remaining two courses this year and now have a waiting list but we do promise to sort out next years dates soon.
An all female course was this latest one. We had four ladies who weren’t sure they could make anything more than just a flower for their gardens but easily made that and went on to make much more. Helen came up from the West Midlands with plans to make a giant Lily which looked great and then started making experimental light fittings from twisted cutlery. Margaret was local and after making her flower made a garden snail similar to one her sister had bought (no sibling rivalry there then) and then a shopping list holder. Becky came from Hebden Bridge and after looking at the exhibition upstairs got inspired to make a wall piece from strips of mesh, some seed pods and a large crucifix for her garden (she’s not religious, she just happens to have a graveyard for a garden). Finally, Diane drove 3 hours down from the North East and made a set of flowers, one that spins like a windmill and a butterfly. All this work was bundled into their cars at the end of the weekend for them to show off to their families. As usual we (fellow sculptor David Mayne and i) had a great time running the course and now need to crack on with our own work before the next course comes around in a months time.
We’ve just had this years Holmfirth artweek and it was a fringe only event this year because it was too problematic to use the Civic Hall and have the main exhibition. It was good to actually have some sort of event though, even if it was just the fringe. At sculpture lounge we had ‘open studios’ as our artweek fringe and it was quite busy, proving that people are ready to venture out again after lockdown. I totally underestimated how long it would take me to clean my studio and almost broke my hoover in trying to clear up five years worth of dust. What i did find though, was lots of old work which i put out on a bargain table and sold all of it plus quite a few other pieces too. Open studios is the only time most of the mill is open to visitors so it’s a great opportunity to see where and how artists work so thank you to those people who called in.
I installed four of my sculptures in Katie’s garden on St Johns Road in Buxton this morning for part of the ‘Up here sculpture trail’. It was very nice of her to let me take over her garden for a few weeks and have what will undoubtedly be a lot of people staring at her house and garden from the adjacent parkland. I chose some of the bigger pieces i’ve done recently because they needed to have a bit of presence and they’re all from this twisted scrap metal series i’ve been intermittently working on recently. The pieces are the first large head which was featured on tv’s ‘Scrap Kings’, the second coloured scrap metal head, the horse head and bright yellow large urn. What the people of Buxton will make of them, i’ve no idea but it’s a great event to have been asked to take part in which runs until the 26th July.