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.
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.