Metal Sculpture

I recently went up to Holmbridge in Yorkshire to take part in a metal sculpture course run by sculptors David Mayne and Mick Kirkby Geddes. The course was held in their two studios, both at the Sculpture Lounge – an impressive building filled with the working studios of sculptors and artists of all kinds.

The course was part of a fantastic funding award from Fresh Air Sculpture Show which I received over 2 years ago but now, after lots of pandemic related delays I finally got to do this. The funding was to help with my development in the sculptural field, enabling me to explore new materials and processes. I had chosen metal sculpture as an area to explore after making larger scale ceramic sculptures and I had begun to envisage what they might look like in metal.

At the start of the two-day course, we had the chance to get to grips with the equipment, practicing on pieces of junk and sheet metal to learn how to use a MIG welder and then a plasma cutter, and angle grinder. As a test piece I welded together a rather quirky small thing using pieces cut from a fire extinguisher and a yellow cement mixer, along with other mystery metal scrap. I also made some small ‘utensil’ pieces using the plasma cuter.

For my main sculptural piece, I had come to the weekend with lots of ideas of things to try and make, and had boiled it down to a few ideas in sketches. The idea was to incorporate themes of flint rocks, the overlapping of hills in a landscape and weeds and grasses in the fields. I also drew inspiration for the textures on the surfaces from sources as disparate as embroidery stitching, medieval cheese graters and the charred metal of a space capsule after returning to earth.

With the helpful guidance of David, the ideas were brought to life.

I made use of sheet metal that had a rusty patina to create a tilted and joined screen that was inspired by flints and by the outline of hills in the distance. I cut the pieces using the plasma cutter and then welted them together at an angle. I also used the plasma cutter to create scored marks, dots and lines in the surface to make a more textured look to the panels. I also cut shapes in sheet metal to create the seed heads and then welded them to steel poles. These were to stand in front of the panels to look like tall grasses and wild plants.

Here’s a video of parts of the piece being welded

The sculptural pieces I brought home are just part of my learning processes, but I love the shadows and shapes they’re making in the garden.

I want to say a big thank you to Fresh Air Sculpture and Steppes Travel for the funding award to undertake this research workshop. Also a huge thank you to David Mayne and Mick Kirkby Geddes for the fantastic tuition and for making the whole thing so enjoyable.

I loved working with metal on a large scale and it was a fantastic opportunity to extend my interest in metal as a material. I have been exploring how ceramics and metal could interact on a small scale, particularly in my collaboration with jeweller Amanda Doherty. I don’t think I’m going to suddenly switch direction into metal from clay, (though I can’t say it didn’t cross my mind for a moment there!). But metal may come into my work in other ways. And I am sure that the ideas and processes I explored over the weekend will filter through in unexpected ways into my work in the future.

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