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.
Well, we’ve just run our 23rd course and this one had a very friendly / crazy vibe about it. Our students were four old school friends (two of them were returning students) so there was lots of catching up but also an underlying competitive streak in the ambitious stakes. Tim brought along his old boiler and lots of other bits and actually used them this time rather than taking them home again. He made a huge fish for his newly acquired garden pond which only just fitted in his car at the end of the weekend. Cat owns a tug boat in Whitby harbour so decided on a crows nest style fire pit with the boats name ‘Def Qon 1’ around the rim in junk lettering. Robert, initially made a machine gun from some old tools then went all out on a skull figurehead with a compartment inside for lights and candles. Lastly Seth made a 3m high garden light with cut out shapes courtesy of his kids that will be illuminated by a LED rope light. We’re all booked up for the rest of this year’s courses but if you want to be among the first to know when we get next years dates organised just drop me an email.
We’ve just completed our 22nd course, we seem to be running these constantly at the moment but we need to keep reminding ourselves it’s because we’ve had a covid backlog and not because we’re so fabulously popular, well maybe ? Anyway, it was four men this time, all fairly competent but with not much creativity between them so it was our job to coax it out of them. It was definitely in there, as you can see from the results. Nick wanted to make a log holder to stand next to his fire and it needed to be fairly precise ! So, after it took three of us to bend some flat bar round a beer barrel he was off and made a really nice piece of work by the end of the weekend. Richard wanted to make a plant holder for his garden so after lots of plasma cutting he started welding together what became a quite enormous piece of garden sculpture. Robert came all the way from Farnham to make a steampunk style clock. He had half an idea and two clocks so it was nice to see him play it by ear and come up with a unique piece of wall art or another way of putting it – the worlds heaviest clock. James just wanted to make a tortoise or a hare for his garden and settled on making a running hare from various scrap pieces of metal. Finding and selecting the right pieces was a bit tricky at first but he soon got his eye in and made a lovely garden sculpture. We’re full for the rest of the year but you can go on our waiting list because at this rate we’ll have to slot an extra course or two in at some point.
Last week i mended a clock for a customer and when i dropped it off this old piece of mine was in her garden. I’d not seen it since 2001 when it sold in Huddersfield Art Gallery so it was nice to see it again. I’d meant it as an indoor piece so it was no wonder the base of the seat had rusted through but the rest of it was in pretty good condition considering it had been outside for all that time. Anyway i’ve repaired it now so it’ll shed the rain and shouldn’t rust through again. It was odd working on something again after such a long time but good to see i’d actually improved in the way i make my sculptures too.
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.