Thursday, 29 November 2018

Public Art Sculpture for The New Athelstan Museum, Malmesbury

Yesterday I delivered my sculpture to the new extension of the Athelstan Museum - known as the Julia And Hans Rausing Building in Malmesbury, Wiltshire.

This sculpture was commissioned by the Team organising the renovation of the former Moravian Church in Malmesbury

I was contacted in the summer of 2017 about the potential for a sculpture to celebrate the change of use and recognise the historic use of this lovely old landmark building in Malmesbury in North Wiltshire - my home town.

I was asked to identify a location for the sculpture and immediately wanted to use the space between the two beautiful arched stained glass windows to the roadside of the building - I also wanted people to look up at these windows as they passed the building so the height of the work was critical.

My sculptural work is known for being flowing and curvy; sensuous lines in steel that take the viewers encounter with my sculptures on a journey.  For this sculpture I decided to go in a different direction and take the form of the Moravian Star as the basis for my work - studying the geometric possibilities of making a steel sculpture that had the 26 points of a true Moravian star structure.  From this starting point I let my design develop and deconstructed the star shape while considering my blacksmithing techniques as the main means of making the work.

Plenty of people in Malmesbury are familiar with my Dad as he taught them metal work or technical drawing at Malmesbury School from the late 60's to 1990's  I thought it was a great chance for me to play homage to him and his historical forged weaponry influence on me.

The finished sculpture has a certain Medieval-weaponry feel to it while also taking the form of a Moravian Star based on a dodecahedron central structure - this element to the sculpture is what gives it a light delicate feel - and when you stand underneath it and look up through it you can see the complex structure inside.

Using different forged tapers sections in the star from flat bars hot-split or fire welded to angle iron forged to a taper the light plays on the surfaces at different angles and will change the dimensions of the work as the light changes.

The finish is a modern etched zinc grey with a dash of 24ct Gold to take your eye up and away in the sky.

The sculpture has been part of a big fundraising effort by the organisers of the renovation and restoration project of the old Moravian Church.  I would like to thank Angela and William Sykes for being confident in my ability to create a sculpture for the space and the Athelstan Museum Team for working with me on the commissioning process.

This project has been a big effort and for those who like to know how long a thing takes, I spent 71 hours on design, consultation and making a scale model and 151 hours were spent making the large scale sculpture, forging, cleaning, assembling, fabrication and finishing.  It weighs 53kgs.

I would also like to thank:
Morgan Scoble-Rees my current workshop assistant and forger of long tapers!
 ACNurden builders for their help installing the work
Wells Masonry for supplying a gorgeous piece of Bath stone


29th November 2018

Sunday, 14 October 2018

Making Rivets and other stories

I have been working on a complex handrail panel with rivet details.  The sections are forged then joined to each other with a steel rivet giving a secure traditional decorative join using the round head rivets as a feature.
I have been lucky enough to have some workshop time filmed by SocialMeansUK
Here's the short film of the tool I made and how I use it for tricky riveting jobs like this one!


Thursday, 20 September 2018

Autumn 2018 - Update

It has been a busy year so far!  I have made a large scale, split strand DNA sculpture for Winchester University Cosmic Walk.
DNA sculpture by Melissa Cole (photo credit; Mark Somerville)

I have also finished the last window panel in a Sir John Soanes designed house which depicts the history of the house and local landscape.

I am waiting to install another public art piece in Malmesbury - images to follow when the work is installed and have worked on a number of small commissions in-between.

My courses are fully booked for this year and I am also fully booked for commissions until May/June 2019

My Etsy gift shop is starting to gain interest - I am selling smaller gift items here such as linked hearts, hooks, feathers and huge nails!

My prototype garden linked hearts were recently auctioned for the Jemima Layzell Trust and raised £300 and a one day course raised £250 for Wiltshire Air Ambulance.

I have had a part time blacksmith working with  me this year and hope this will continue while he develops his skills and knowledge of our craft.

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

'Makers' Tales at Guy Goodfellow Collection, London May 2018
Melissa Cole FWCB.
Artist Blacksmith.

Melissa Cole, bronze medal holder and Fellow of The Worshipful Company of Blacksmiths, is  exhibiting her hand forged sculptures throughout May in the Guy Goodfellow Collection showroom.

Melissa’s work ranges from commissioned gates and railings to sculpture and fine art installations, combining contemporary design with forged and fabricated metal for external public spaces, private gardens and interiors.

Melissa is internationally recognised for her craftsmanship and creates “Metal work that flows and wraps around itself, taking your eyes on a journey producing pieces that are solid in make up but light and free in their aesthetic quality” -
Melissa has been featured on C4’s Grand Designs, BBC’s Escape to the Country and Radio 4 Woman’s Hour.

The Makers' Tales showcase runs from 1st May - 1st June 2018.
Guy Goodfellow Collection - Logo Stamp
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Our mailing address is:
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Monday, 26 March 2018

Heritage Crafts Association AGM London 2018

I was unable to attend this important conference supporting Heritage Crafts but images of me at work are often used in their promotional flyers and posters and i am a keen supporter of this charity.
My family went along to hear all the news and here is a link to my fabulous textile designer sister Rebecca Cole-Coker's blog report about the conference:

Friday, 28 July 2017

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

So You Want To Be A Blacksmith! Part One

I want to be a blacksmith!

How to get started if you have a burning desire to be a blacksmith

Modern blacksmiths are fantastic, they are multi-skilled and multi-talented, they often work alone through choice and because it is a hard to generate enough work to run a team and if you are restricted by your workshop space.

There is a growing interest in our craft through modern media highlighting specific aspects according to what is fashionable at the moment.  This could be the moment for blade making as promoted by TV shows like Forged In Steel and the likes of Game Of Thrones/Lord Of The Rings. 

A new breed of blacksmiths are emerging, some through the great colleges and courses in blacksmithing that we have in Hereford, Warwick and Dorset, some through the need to leave city jobs and make a new life with a new craft skill.  I welcome these blacksmiths with open arms – we need more blacksmiths!

The UK has some great blacksmiths but it doesn’t incorporate their ironwork into its built environment as much as other European countries do.  There are many more blacksmiths in Europe because the architecture there lends itself to the use of decorative ironwork as integral features rather than add-ons.

All this is good if you have an interest in blacksmithing, you are probably already aware of the pieces blacksmiths have made that are around you, this might be what has inspired you to become a blacksmith!

Where do you start if you want to be a blacksmith?

Do some art and/or Design Technology and/or engineering at school or as an evening class or hobby if you have left school – it will help – you do need to be able to represent a line in metal in some way on a board or piece of paper.  This is the starting point of anything you will make even if it is a straight line like on a blade – you need to know the tang shape and section style!

Go and see blacksmiths working at local county shows like Bath and West, Yorkshire Show, New Forest Show, Royal Welsh, Edenbridge and Oxted.  There are blacksmithing (and sometimes farriery) competitions and live forging displays that you can watch and meet the blacksmiths there.   You can also participate in the competitions when you are ready!

Do a one day course with a blacksmith to see if you like it, it might not be the romantic ideal it is often perceived to be!  It is hot, noisy, dirty and hard work even though it is also fun and fantastic to make an actual thing with your hands at the end of the day!

Visit your local forge and ask if you can firstly watch the blacksmith, see what is involved and see if you think you will like it then, if they are the right person, ask if they need some help.

When approaching a blacksmith to ask if you can help out in the forge, explain why you want to do this and what skills you have, the list below could be useful stuff;

Are you strong and fit?
Have you any experience in a workshop?
Are you practical?
Are you reliable?
Can you draw?   
Can you weld?  What type of welding? 
List all your practical skills
Tell them why they should let you in their workspace

A lot of blacksmiths work alone and like it that way, don’t be put off just because the first one you approach doesn’t want to share their space and time with you 24/7!

Other skills you will need to be a blacksmith;

Business skills will be essential.
You need to be able to run your business and do most of these things yourself or earn enough money to pay someone else to do them for you.

Book keeping
Prepare quotes for work
Provide drawings for clients
Manage a website and other social media
Market your work to the buying public - face to face or via online media
Computer skills suitable for running your business - like Word and Excel for quotes and invoices.
Photogaphy – you need to keep a portfolio of images of work you have made that shows it to its best.

These are all things you can learn if you don’t know them when you start.

If you can do a welding course DO IT!
Learn to use a MIG, TIG and ARC and GAS weld at your local agricultural/technical college.  This is a really important skill for a modern blacksmith.

What kind of blacksmith do you want to be?

Do you want to be a general blacksmith doing all sorts of work from forging and fabricating metal items for homes and gardens, taking what ever come in and you can do.  Lots of blacksmiths start this way and specialise later as they find their niche in the market.

Do you want to make the same things that have been designed and made by others before you or do you want to make all new designs of you own?

What do you want to specialise in?  You could have an interest in tools for other crafts makers, blades or scissors; stone, leather and glass workers all need tools.

Are you into blade making?  This is a specialist field with a growing interest and market.  Do you want to make re-enactment and TV/film quality work?

Do you like archaeology?  You could make reproduction work for museums and collectors and combine your hobbies?

Do you want to make sculptural work to sell through galleries?

Do you want to work with architects and town planners and shape the look of our streets and townscapes?

Are you interested in gardening and want to specialize in works for gardens and outside spaces.  Develop links with garden designers and garden centres.

Do you want to recreate historical ironwork – restoration and renovation is a specialised field now that requires extra training.

Most blacksmiths are commissioned to make bespoke work – this means it is designed to fit a specific space and do a specific job.  To do this you need to negotiate with lots of different people from clients to planning officers, council development officers, architects, structural engineers, landscape designers, builders, galvanizers and paint specialists and more!  You need to know when building regulations apply to the work you do and provide health and safety information, paint finish information and guarantees when asked.

Many larger commissions run over the allotted time frame, this can throw out the rest of your working schedule and upset other clients that are waiting for you to make their product.  Managing this aspect of your work will be one of the hardest things and takes great skill and management.  You won’t always get it right but you will only be as good as your reputation.  There is still a lot of word of mouth recommendation within the blacksmithing world.

A lot of blacksmiths will have a ‘bread and butter’ thing that they do to keep the wolf from the door.  It might be a small repeat item that they make and sell online or at shows or it might be a big item that they repeat make that has lower overheads than one off commissioned work.  This is a good business model, the item might change over the years but it is a good thing to have to fall back on should commissioned work dry up, run over time or fall through.

Good luck for your future blacksmithing adventure – let me know if this has been useful!
 © Melissa Cole 2017

Useful resources;

Worshipful Company of Blacksmiths
Heritage Crafts Association
British Artist Blacksmiths Association   
Hereford College   
Plumpton College   
Scotland’s Rural College Oatridge Campus
Myerscough College, Preston    Somerset.  Private courses