The sculpture was commissioned by Berkeley Homes (Hampshire) Ltd for the The Plaza at Gunwharf Quays in Portsmouth. Part of a section 106 agreement several artists made proposals for a piece for the plaza that had been designed by RPS, Chandlers Ford. It was project managed by Claire Looney of Portsmouth CC with the casting done by the Bronze Age Foundry in Limehouse.
The creation in bronze of a whales tail for the plaza in front of No 1 Gunwharf Quays, Portsmouth. was partly inspired by a conversation with fellow sculptor and competitor Charlie Carter over a cup of coffee near the site. Other ideas came from working with local schools but also from the poetry and photographs in the book by Heathcote Williams Whale Nation; it also refers to the nautical heritage and history of the area and is a metaphor for the almost migratory life of sailors and the vast depth of sea beneath the hull of the boat.
The surface of the sculpture is incised with imagery taken from sixteenth century charts of Iceland by Ortelius and Apianus’s Cosmographia that is probably the worlds first atlas. I went to the Maritime Museum in Greenwich and wore cotton gloves for a closer look at these gems and having enlarged them onto paper composed and engraved them onto the wax surface of the full scale model. This practice is reminiscent of the sailors art of scrimshaw often carved on whalebone as well as the idea that the world was flat and full of dangerous monsters.
To date this is the project that took the longest time to realise having first won the competition in 2003. I began work on the full scale model using wood, steel, plaster and wax in November 2006 and had the work on the sculpture finished by May 2007. It was then moulded and over the next year a wax model was made and cast. Once all the pieces of bronze had been weded together and the surface fettled it was patinated and delivered to Gunwharf Quays.
It was finally positioned in March 2008 amidst a mele of people I had invited, members of the public, Berkeleys people and the Mayor and Mayoress of Portsmouth who opened it to the public.
This remains a truly amazing formative experience for me. The project was managed by Steve Chettle of Cleveland Arts, with funding from Northern Arts, British Steel, Skelton and Brotton PC and Marske PC.
This was the last in a series of Milestone Commissions initiated by Common Ground; and was inspired by ideas about locally distinctive features in the landscape. It was also the first time I had got involved in ‘public art’ and was a powerful initiation. I lived in a flat over a club and worked in the local steel rolling mill in nearby Skinningrove.
The residency took around twelve weeks and was completed in September 1990 and during that time I made three sculptures for a location south of Saltburn called Huntcliff, 300 feet above the North Sea and part of the Cleveland Way.
The experience involved extensive community consultation mainly through conversations with men at the works and at the club in North Skelton. It happened as a matter of course. Further inspiration came from visits to the moors and Whitby and the local library, not to mention the un-forgettable site of steel beams and strip being rolled at the then British steelworks at Redcar. Unfortunately as I write the Corus Group is the latest major casualty of the recession presumably because we can import steel cheaper from far off places like China and India despite the transport and CO2 costs.
I used special sections that had been rolled at Skinningrove such as caterpillar tracks, lift shaft runners and reinforcing fish-plates in the sculptures. All the materials and workshop facilities were provided by British Steel. Days began early with the lighting of the forge and by 9am I was really going; forging flame cut pairs of steel plates that I welded together to make three dimensional images of what I found around me. The Boiler shop where I had been given a work-space closed at 4pm giving me plenty of time to explore. A local film crew documented the work in a programme called Elements.
Years later in 1996 the Circle was completely destroyed by vandals so I returned to repair it. The sculpture actually improved during that visit and is much stronger than before being encircled with three turns of 25mm stainless steel rope that fits perfectly into the ‘fish-plate’ material on the outer edge of the ring. It has become a place where people have been married and has a certain magic about it when the charms on the sculpture rattle in the wind. Even a song has been written about the place Charm Bracelet by Barbara Helen.
The Eye of the Needle was originally made for the annual exhibition of embroidery at Ramster House and Gardens near Chiddingfold, Surrey. Being vertical the sculpture has been an axis point in the collection and at exhibitions I havearranged other sculptures around it.
I found the rope at Pounds naval scrap-yard in Portsmouth and bought it for £20; used as a 'thread' it gave me a scale to work to and as an element in the sculpture has taken many different shapes often defining territory and sometimes tied with knots; as a reminder.
I was interested in the enlargement of small-scale objects associated with the human hand; jacks, small tools, a tea infuser; and in particular finding an image for skills associated with the thumb and forefinger.
It is interesting to see the different components that went into its fabrication; the effect of galvanising shows all the joins even after they are ground flat. Except if you use stainless steel wire in your MIG welder.
It is nothing new to compare our lives to a journey through a needles eye. So unbelievably specific. All the thoughts and actions you have, going through one channel, an elliptical Circle to travel through; and one littered with metaphors. Camels and rich men, eyes and doorways lurk in the icon.
The sculpture is described in the Eastleigh BC planning application for three uplighters as ‘an important piece of public art in a prominent and prestigious location’. It was financed by Holiday Inns for the Rose Bowl cricket ground at Botley in Southampton, project managed by Gerry Wall at Eastleigh BC, and fabricated by Roscoes Engineering, now A&F in Farnham.
I had already started making large scale objects out of sheet steel; a practice I had first developed for the roundabout at Telford; so was asked to think along the same lines for an entrance piece for the Rose Bowl.
After seeing my drawings that incorporated, stumps, flying bales and a cricket bat the committee asked me to establish what the biggest set of bowled stumps I could make within budget would be! Luckily I already had two 750mm diameter mild steel hemispheres that could become a cricket ball so I scaled up from there. The diameter of the tube for the stumps came out at around 400mm and was 6meters tall.
This was going to be too big for me to handle at my workshop so I asked Roscoes if they could fabricate the sculpture while I made details such as the top of the stumps at my own workshop and asked local engineers to turn the bales by lathe out of a 250mm diameter aluminium billet.
The work went through a series of stages, documented here, from fabrication and transport to specialist paint finishes at Hitech in Eastleigh where the finishing touches were painted by Alan Rooney who also did the Drummond M7 in Alton for me.
The final positioning on site on massive foundations took place early in 2004 and when I realised that there was some packing material left on the bales the local fire brigade kindly lent a hand removing it as an exercise!
As well as spending happy hours drinking the best Beer in Britain, CAMRA 2008, I have ompleted several jobs for the brewery. The proprietor Graham Trott asked me to do 'something for the Railway Arms in Alton' in 2002 and liked my idea of a loco emerging from the facade of the building.
The two meter long, galvanised, stove enamelled and painted model of a Drummond M7 locomotive above the porch was inspired by Rene Magritte's Time Transfixed, where a train is emerging from a fireplace. The object falls somewhere between sculpture and signage and is based upon the type of loco that worked the lines in the region.
It has become a favourite with the Altonians and the visitors who come in the RAT (real ale train) that runs between Alresford and Alton on the Watercress Line. As well as the little engine I made two steel figures for the post and flower basket holder that are carrying a cask of Stairway to Heaven - one of the great beers made by the brewery.
The seats were a particular challenge because the ground was not level in any direction and are made out of galvanised steel and tanalised timber. In the back beer garden I designed and shared the manufacture of railings that are based upon a level crossing gate; an idea that further develops the railway theme. At the brewery in Four Marks is a sign for their off-sales shop where my suggestion for Off the Rails was taken on.
I hope one day to make a guards Brake van for the new room at the back of the pub disappearing into the wall !
Fortitude, named by the client, was a memorial piece commissioned to celebrate the life of her late husband who died tragically alongside one of her grand-daughters in a road accident. For nearly ten years she had been wondering what to do with his ashes and asked me to make some kind of container for them.
We discussed ideas and I met several of her children to discuss ideas for the piece that would live in the garden of her new house. Meetings continued, mainly with her throughout the whole process during which I made drawings, models and full scale ply-wood models that we looked at in various locations in her garden. This led to the modelling of the full size piece in my studio using a steel template bulked out with crank clay and finished with porcelain, a material that I found was highly receptive for modelling. Underlying the whole process was a strong sense of collaboration with the client and that all aspects of my abilities as a sculptor were coming to fruition in the creation of what became a meaningful and purposeful artwork.
When the piece was ready to cast we went together to the foundry, the London Bronze Co near Farnham and standing in full protective foundry clothing she poured some of her husbands ashes into the molten bronze that would become the sculpture. This we agreed was an innovative and molecular way of ‘holding’ his ashes within the sculpture and better than making a container in which they would be stored.
Another journey took us to the London workshop of the foundry where Derek Bayley, a master of patination showed us options for the final finish of the completed piece.
The final conclusion was that as well as being ‘better than therapy’, with inspiration from my client I had created an object that deserved to be called Sculpture with a capital S.
The project started with an interview in London with Stuart Barlow of the International firm of architects Geoffrey Reid Associates on behalf of JS Developments and Castle City Estates Ltd for an Artwork at Telford Forge Retail Park in 1998.
The brief was to signpost the different shops and products that could be purchased on site. The idea evolved into a single large scale composition of everyday objects arranged like an early Sainsbury shop window display; hence the milk-jug, butter, cheese and stacked cans. There are also renditions of a mobile phone, an anvil, toothpaste, an arm chair an electric plug, model aircraft and an aerosol can.
It was at this point that I completely changed my method of working using 3mm sheet producing large, hollow objects that were eventually galvanised instead of making objects with the hammer and heat of a forge. Funny really as the site used to be an area famous for its forges.
With advice from Philomena Davidson Davis I met up with the clients on several occasions in my back garden in Alton when we would discuss progress. I would arrange the latest batch of objects made at my workshop and stack, lean and otherwise try to create a complete form that would ‘work’ from viewers sitting in the seats of orbiting cars, lorries and buses.
The project influenced my way of working for several years and led me to make several sculptures such as the Sharpener, Chew and Peelings for Susi Gwyn, using similar techniques.
I fitted the work on a freezing winters night amidst torrential rain and flurries of sleet with the help of stone mason and friend James Tonner .I returned several years later to see that the galvanised surfaces had weathered from silver to grey and got some positive feedback from shoppers in the café at Sainsburys.
The ducks were commissioned by Taylor Woodrow (Stephen Appleton), for a Designated Play Area within their new development at Spire View in Salisbury. Mandy Hounsome landscape architect at RPS Design in Bristol designed the overall scheme and Salisbury City Council parks officer Reg Williams oversaw progress. The project was completed in the winter of 2006.
It was the first project I had made in the new studio at the bottom of my garden away from the freezing cold barn where I had worked for years in all seasons. It was also the first project that gave me the opportunity to work in bronze and I relished working on the wax models ready for the lost wax process at Bronze Age.
In the background was the Whales Tail frustratingly delayed at every possible turn. This project however flowed well and was a great boost to morale.
Initially I made an adult duck and a duckling out of clay and cast plaster moulds that I used to create wax versions for the foundry. I used an emus egg for the heart-shaped love-nest that forms the centre point of the scheme. The casting work was carried out very efficiently and I did all the finishing and patinating when the bronzes came back from the foundry. I also welded stainless steel studding to the underside of the ducks to secure them to the pre cast concrete pads onto which the ducks would be chemically grouted.
The idea proposed by RPS was to make visible the culverted Summerlock Stream that flows beneath the development. The river-stone pebble landscaping reflects that flow of water and the four ducks, eight ducklings and nest were commissioned as the artwork for the environment.
I was also asked to write some words for a plaque that went with the work...
Summerlock Stream flows under your feet. The ducks, seats and stones in the play area are for you.
Ask your children 'Can you find the Golden Duckling and see the smiling one? How many can you see and which one would you like to be?'
The sculpture was part of the Portsmouth Millenium Gateway Project that was managed by Ron Tate Head of Planning at the City Council and funded by Onyx Environmental. The original brief requested that an artist should design a bird roost to replace land that had been absorbed in one of the Onyx waste disposal areas to accommodate migrating seabirds and Brent geese. Consent for Planning Permission was given by the City council, the Environment Agency, MAFF and DETR. Many others were also involved.
It is visible from the M275 on the left hand side going into the city along with the Sails of the South and additions to the bridge and is located in Tipner Lake near the greyhound stadium and Pounds Yard.
The Jack itself weighs around 600kg and is 3300mm long. It was made at FLM, in Ashton-u-Lyne, Greater Manchester out of mild steel and was zinc sprayed and laquered nearby. The plastic floats were manufactured much nearer to Portsmouth at IEP in Liphook out of 10mm sheet welded into an internally boxed structure able to take the weight of the flags. The installation work was organised by Steve Tebb of the Marine Engineering Dept. The installation by Baker Trait went well, early in 2001 with them driving the pile six meters into the mud of the deep channel in the lake.
It looks like a coastal marker of some sort but slowly people have begun to recognise that it is in fact a jack; one of the little metal stars from the child’s game that originated years ago as knuckle stones.
The rationale behind the piece was important and has several elements. It refers to sailors, navigation, the stars and birds amongst other things. The steel flags with their stars refer to the city crest and it may even relate to Noah and his doves. Or was it the fact that Irish monks followed skeins of geese to find northern lands or is it a monument to artist Sgt Jack Guterman DFC of 617 squadron and his crew?
Damage to the float that rises and falls with the tides on the pile is attributed to 'break-aways'; boats from Pounds ship breakers yard that have the habit of floating off. It has recently been repaired with the float now full of expanded polystyrene foam and the fourth flag that had been missing for years welded back on to the structure.
The entrance to Winnall Moor was the first project I completed for The Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust working closely with Martin de Retuerto, who manages the site.
I began the work during the spring of 2009 making a monumental carved wooden entrance archway into Winnall Moors. It was fitted with great precision by Jess Pain and Robin who do all the development work on the site the same summer. The whole project is lottery funded.
The timber for the archway was milled from a massive wind-blown oak that fell at another WLT reserve, Blashford lakes near Ringwood. Locally sourced it has clocked up a very small carbon footprint during its delivery and transformation into the new entrance to WM.
The images on both sides of the columns that support the lintel were initially derived from patterns found on shards of medieval tiles found on the site of St Gertrudes chapel on the moor. Later I sourced imagery from tiles seen in Winchester cathedral and designed some specially to reflect flora and fauna within the reserve. Always looking ‘for the other side of the coin‘, I used the other side of the entrance to make a new entrance to Winchester that would be visible to people as they left!
White & Etherington’s timber mill in Alresford cut all the beams for me and I did all the carving work in one of their sheds during the spring. The letters that spell out Winnall Moor and Winchester were designed from medieval script and cut out of stainless steel sheet at my workshop. They were then countersunk into the top main beam using chemical fixings.
The screens were inspired by the work of C R Macintosh, Scottish architect and favourite designer of Bob and Karen Booker who commissioned the work. The preliminary stages involved discussions with the Bookers that led to a series of drawings based mainly upon the metalwork for the Glasgow school of Art. I 'borrowed' and adapted elements that I found in his work and brought them together in a new design for a laterally supported frame-work that separates the two halves of their garden. I used a mixture of techniques that brought together laser cutting, stained glass and the tapering of steel bars. The final piece was painted in parts with other elements left as a natural Zinc coating. The stained glass projects colour onto the surface of their garden and has been declared by them to be a complete success much admired by their friends and enjoyed by them on a daily basis.
The bridge over Priory stream was commissioned by Barratt Homes Mercia as their contribution to the Vale of White Horse District Council’s Public Art policy.
The project was managed by Abigail Brown at the Vale of the White Horse district council and the bridge was designed by RPS in Milton Keynes; built by CTS Bridges Ltd in Huddersfield and craned into position by Fergal Contracts of Witney. The p.r. work was undertaken by Hannah Elwell of Unsworth Sugden, Leicester.
The steel and wooden bridge provides residents of the new Riverside Collection development and local people a direct route to Abbey Meadows Park and the Abbey Grounds. It is 22 meters long and weighs 18 tonnes and incorporates ten bronze panels; cast by Newpro Foundry that are inserted into the uprights of the balustrade under the handrail.
The design for both bridge and bronze panels was inspired by one of the towns treasures now on loan to the Ashmoleon museum in Oxford. The Tenth Century Sword that was found during the mid 19th century in the river nearby provided me with the initial idea for a curved structure and the imagery for the panels; it came as a genuine Eureka moment that was readily accepted by all involved. It is one of the most exciting things to be asked to come up with an idea for an artwork and to walk away from a meeting with virtually nothing in mind and to come across something whilst walking in the area that takes root and becomes the start of something big!
The brief was to collaborate in the design of the bridge across the mill stream with RPS and to incorporate the artwork into the balustrades at either side. I decided to propose bronze panels that were inspired by motifs on the silver handle of the sword and carved the designs out of wax before taking the patterns to the foundry. The deigns were both foliate and figurative some depicting acanthus leaves and composite beasts and others showing images of the Evangelists. A series of lino-cuts and prints taken from the original artworks is available; see contact page.
After planning permission was finally granted the manufacturing of all the elements went to plan and became ready for installation simultaneously. Later children from St Edmunds school were involved in the project through a day of drawings, lino cuts and a torrentially wet site visit after a happy pic-nic in the grounds.
The bridge was opened in July 2008 by the mayor of Abingdon and members of all the different firms that had been involved.
The Piano was modelled on a circa 1920 Bosendorfer grand which was made in Vienna from meticulous measurements taken from a real one at Lloyd and Keyworths in Farnham. It was made for the Artvaults exhibition run by a Space in Southampton.
The building, the medieval Weighhouse where it was exhibited was bombed during the WWII blitz on the city and remains roofless.
I wanted to make an object that symbolised the survival of culture against all odds. Something that whilst dumb would react, through rust, to its environment.
There is a stillness about it, almost as if a pianist is about to start a recital but as you get closer you realise that it has a wave instead of keys and will never make a sound.