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.
I’ve just finished a run of sculpture workshops in Kirklees libraries and they’ve been really good fun. There’s something almost quite naughty about making sculpture in a library which is what i like about doing them, that and the fact that i get to see lots of different libraries, some i didn’t even know existed. I started in Dewsbury then Heckmondwike, Kirkburton, Skelmanthorpe, Slaithwaite and finally Honley. The staff at all the libraries were really supportive and quite a few of them joined in by making a piece too. Each workshop ran for 90 minutes and we made sculpture from all sorts of bits of junk plastic, bubble wrap, cardboard and wire, then we covered them in various colours of electrical tape. Everyone managed to make a piece in the time, some even managed two or three. We had ninjas, sheep, cars, mermaids, birds, i pads, dragons, robots and loads of others i can’t even remember.
I did a family drop in workshop at The Piece Hall in Halifax today and blimey was it busy. The sunny weather brought everyone out and in about six hours i worked with 106 kids making mostly robots and iron men but the odd super hero and a couple of snails. We used wire and plastic tubing i’d fished out of skips, plastic packaging and electrical tape to colour our creations. We actually ran out of materials a couple of times so thank goodness Wickes was nearby so i could re-stock. I’m doing some Kirklees library sculpture workshops over the next few weeks working in a similar way, here’s the link if you fancy coming along -https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/kirkleeslibraries
We’ve literally just finished our thirteenth course and we’ve all had a great time. As usual our students were surprised by what they were capable of making over the weekend. Aaron used up my last wok to make a flying bug and the sword i’d had for years to make a tall (wobbly) bird then made a quick nut and bolt man at the last minute. His dad Neil spent ages perfecting his chain figure light holder then dashed out a flower and a guitar playing frog. Elaine came along with some sketches of a tall, stylised bird and then brought them to life as a sculpture for her garden. Dan made a large, unique troll, from a kettle and lots of other bits of junk, a present for his girlfriend. We’re booked up for our last dates of this year but we’ll be sorting next years dates soon. So, if you fancy having a go at making a metal sculpture or you want to gift someone else the experience keep an eye out over the next few weeks.
It’s been a busy couple of weeks setting up my work for Holmfirth artweek because i’ve exhibited in four places this year. First up was the Civic Hall, where ‘Huff’ (pictured) didn’t sell again, secondly was Sculpture Lounge, thirdly i was in the garden at Somerton Art Space and fourthly i exhibited my collaborative pieces with Rebecca Appleby at Devour. Despite ‘Huff’ not going to a new home i did sell three other pieces at the Civic Hall and lots of the small cats and dogs on the market. At Sculpture Lounge we had the usual mix of 15 resident artists together with 6 invited artists, Nathan the ‘Plumber Drummer’ providing the musical entertainment on preview night, Renegade doing the music for our Chill Out Sunday, a bar, shop and mini cafe. Meanwhile outside, the beautiful weather provided lots of visitors at Somerton, such a nice setting for my outdoor pieces and the amazing wild flower walk at Devour was a great first outing for our joint abstract sculptures.
We’ve just finished our twelfth course and this one was a bit easier for Billy and me. We only had two students, David, an ex-engineer and Jake, an interior design graduate on the course so they were both very capable and had both done some welding before. It wasn’t quite a case of sitting about in armchairs watching the two of them get on with making some artwork, there were of course the tea & biscuit fuelled ideas stage, materials sourcing and then the welding and plasma cutting reminders. David made an excellent sign post with a weird bird on top for his garden and a mini kangaroo whilst Jake a deers head wall piece and a small sausage dog. Both of them surprised themselves with what they could achieve and we won’t tell you exactly what Jake’s dad said when he came to collect him at the end and saw the deer head but let’s just say it began with F. There’s one place left on our next course in July if you’re interested in joining us.
I’ve just finished making a huge piece of public art with David Mayne for our friend and fellow studio holder, Rebecca Appleby. Rebecca normally works in ceramics so she asked us to make the piece for her which is going to be sited opposite Kirkstall Leisure Centre in Leeds. The piece is the result of consultation work with local groups and is based on a broken, abstracted water wheel shape which reflects the areas former industrial heritage. For various reasons we ended up having to make the piece in seven days which was quite a challenge considering the scale of it and the great British weather but we managed it and both feel we need to make some teeny tiny pieces now for a change.