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.
One of the bonuses of having a workshop at Sculpture Lounge is that you can work with other artists and one person I’ve worked with numerous times is Rebecca Appleby. Our collaborative work grew out of a mutual admiration for modern, abstract sculpture. I liked abstract sculpture but despite having the neccesary skills couldn’t find a way ‘into it’ with my own work and Rebecca had a background in abstraction but wanted a new way to express it but didn’t have the neccesary equipment so ‘Appleby Geddes’ came about. We’re both drawn to salvaged, industrial scrap metal for its character, shape and echoes of its former use and it’s these pieces that we choose to make our work from.
I don’t normally do welding workshops with children as young as 12 but Charlie was really keen and his mum Helen had been on one of our weekend sculpture courses so i thought, why not. Plus, it was his birthday too. He took to it really well, picking up MIG welding quite quickly, wasn’t scared of the noise and the sparks despite even burning his finger slightly at one point – the classic welders trick of picking up something that doesn’t look hot, but is. He also tried plasma cutting and angle grinding too. Like a typical 12 year old he had lots and lots of ideas, narrowing them down seemed to be the difficult part. In the end he settled on making a snake / giraffe / dog / scorpion hybrid and an apple tree. 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.
We had the Sculpture Lounge Christmas Show last weekend and it was a great success. Most of the in-house artists helped set up the exhibition and run it which was bolstered by three jewellers, two crafts people and three 2D artists. It was a bit cold in the mill but it didn’t deter visitors, so we had free hot drinks and also served hot port toddies to keep people warm as well as providing complimentary snacks. Sales were really good with people particularly liking the shop section of the exhibition where we had smaller items for sale. David and i made the ‘electric danger game’ where you could test your steady handed skill and maybe win the trophy. Allan Robinson won with an unbelievable time of 24.78 seconds – we had to check wether we’d forgotten to switch it on !
That’s it, the last of our courses for 2019. We’d put this additional one on due to extra demand and just got away with it as you can see by all the extra layers our students are wearing. We had sisters Cheryl and Julie and then couple Stewart and Helen who all made sculptures for their gardens. Cheryl plasma cut a leaping frog and made a set of three birds fixed to a rock she found in the car park. Julie plasma cut two robins on a fork handle and made an elephant out of scrap metal. Helen spent all her time making a tall spiral staircase with a Giacometti like figure ascending whilst Stewart made a huge metal mushroom, a frame for his house sign and a Giacometti like figure also for the top of helen’s staircase. As usual everyone was surprised by what they could achieve in a weekend and had an enjoyable time whilst david and i kept the hot drinks and biscuits flowing. Next year’s dates are on the ‘courses’ tab if you fancy having a go yourself or want to book a place on a course for someone as a unique present.
Last month we were invited to the Folk Awards ceremony at Bridgewater Hall in Manchester. It was a really good night and not just because we got to go for free and sat in the front row. Not even because Mark Radcliffe got a standing ovation for 40 years of broadcasting, was presented with a surprise trophy and then went on to give me a shout out live on radio 2 for making the trophies for twenty years now. No it was because it gave me an insight into another world i know nothing about but which is clearly happy and thriving and that’s quite an achievement nowadays.
We’ve just done our October course and i probably say this every time but it was my favourite so far. Steve came back for a second go and made another mobius strip this time as well as an obelisk for his garden. Sue only wanted to make a better dragonfly than the one she bought 15 years ago, easily succeeded with that and went on to make a fire pit and a tall garden flower. Sisters Josie and Steph were bought the course as a gift from their mum who even volunteered to look after their kids while they made metal sculptures all weekend. Steph got into her stride early on by making an elephant, quickly followed by a squirrel, duck, caterpillar, wader and a bird-table whilst Josie made a stag head candle holder, a fire pit and a stag head ornament. So you can see it was a busy weekend with everyone going beyond what they thought they were capable of making. The teas, coffees and biscuits flowed, as did the lovely atmosphere they all created. Next years dates are on the ‘courses’ section of my website.
I’ve got that much going on at the moment i forgot to mention i’d recently done the Staithes Arts Festival again. I must admit i wasn’t sure how it would pan out because it’s been organised differently this year and as a result there were less artists involved but i needn’t have worried because it was just as popular as ever. I had my usual spot in the front garden at Roraima House and took a mixture of indoor and outdoor pieces. The tiny dogs sold well as did some of the bigger outdoor pieces. One of the big birds on a block is off to a new home as too is the dog and bike. Having done every one of the festivals it’s been really nice to watch it grow over the years and meet lots of new customers in the process. Thank you to the organisers for all their efforts (often a thankless task i’m sure) and a big thank you to Jane and Jon Kilpatrick at Roraima House (obviously the best B&B in Staithes) for their hospitality.