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Showing posts from 2013

BBC Radio 2! Chris Evans Breakfast Show

Goodness, I have recently been on @achrisevans on  breakfast show as a mystery guest!  It was a really nice surprise to talk about blacksmithing and working with your hands and I think rabbited on and I spoke for well over the allocated 3 minutes! I had no idea how many people listed to his show and have had a fantastic response from listeners, friends and blacksmiths.  It was great to be able to speak up for the blacksmiths out there. Thank you Bob Dylan for making some gates from welded found objects; if you hadn't done this they wouldn't have phoned me up and talked to me on air!   I will certainly visit this exhibition and see Bob Dylan in a new light now I know we share a love  of metal!

Chapel Street, Oxford - Public Art Commission for A2 Dominion May - Sept 2013

Following on from completing the posted sculpture I have been straight into the next commission creating a wall mounted piece for a new building in Oxford. This commission has come under a Section 106 requirement of the new development of student accommodation just off Cowley Road in Oxford. The brief was to create a durable wall mounted sculpture on the main gatehouse building that is on the road front of the development.  The walls that I could use were specified by the architect and the commissioners A2 Dominion also wanted me to work with the East Oxford Primary School situated adjacent to the development. Working with my current theme of maps and journeys I thought the building could take a large scale work that was my interpretation of the River Cherwell flowing to the north of the City.  I spent a day with a class in school talking about my work and the pupils worked up sketches based on the river and maps and their recent visit to the river bank.  Part of their involvemen

JHQ Commission - 'POSTED!' The sculpture is unveiled 11th July 2013

Update - April 2018! This piece has been given a permanent home at The National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire, England and can be visited any time! many thanks to Mike Chislett and the team who fundraised and arranged this permanent home among the trees for this lovely piece of community art. The Ark School have now named their sculpture 'Posted!' and there was a big celebration at the school yesterday where the new sculpture was unveiled. I have been waiting to  post (!) photos of the finished piece but didn't want to spoil the surprise for everyone at JHQ Rheindahlen. Up close the piece sparkles in the sunlight and the copper wings of the birds add some density to the ethereal structure I was aiming for.  I love that the work is very much as drawn firstly by myself as a sketch book idea and secondly and most importantly that the children have their birds exactly as they created them. The finished piece really encompasses the ideology behind the experience

JHQ Commission 3rd June Update

After a frantic few days in the workshop, I was able to deliver the finished sculpture to South West Metal Finishing for zinc plating today.  It just fits in their tanks and will get an extra thick plating.  It was a real challenge to get all the birds happily in place on the forged arms and I have opted for 8 birds in the finished piece.  The weight was getting quite big and the sculpture would have been over crowded with ten birds.  Now they look in flight and fantastic so I am delighted! I have to select the final colour for the top section of this piece and had thought blue would look great but I really fancy something metallic or a shimmer coat on top of a blue base.  A trip to Sunbase is in order to see what they have in stock.  I only have a 10 working day slot to turn it around and still have to rivet the copper wings on after painting, wrap it up and get ready for collection! I have an offer of a photograph of the finished piece from   We will take

JHQ Commission Update 23rd May 2013

I am home and all my kit has arrived safely back in the forge, I have my lovely painted 'Melissa's Forge sign on the wall at the back of the workshop to remind me of my time at Ark School. I have great memories of my time in Germany and loved the last day when I got to work with the tiny Foundation stage children making birds from tin foil.  It is the best medium, you can do so much with it with small hands and still get the feeling of metal from it. I was given a Leavers Book in assembly on my last day, just like the other children who move on from Ark School as their parents are posted across other bases.  It is a great reminder of my time in school and I was really taken with the creative writing and poetry that was read out in assembly by the pupils who were inspired by my visit. I have the post box sculpture assembled in my workshop ready to finish next week. This last two weeks have been taken up with an interview for a public art commission - didn't get it, a bi

JHQ Commission Day Nine

This is the last forging day on the project, the last day for anyone who hasn't had a go at making a feather in copper, wire bird or forged feather to try their hand. I had four members of staff come and forge feathers for the bird designed by Toby, this will be just small forged feathers put together to form his bird, pretty much just like his drawing. Year 5 came and made individual copper feathers to take home, they worked really well as a class and the end results were fantastic.  Year 6 made small wire birds in the afternoon, again to take home. Today we had Jack, a pupil from Windsor school come with a professional photographer (David) to document the project.  Jack only stayed for an hour due to exams but David stayed all day capturing the processes and children at work.  This was organised by Joy Harris Service Children's Education Arts Adviser who also visited.  Joy has been involved in sorting the contract for this project working with Mike Chislett to make it

JHQ Commission Day Eight

Today I had lovely Year 2 to work with, the last class to spend their day with me.  They started off watching the demonstration and asked really great questions and stayed fully attentive for the whole demo which I was really impressed about.  With so many questions I had gone over my allotted time! We worked through with this class on a 1:1 ratio making wire birds from the selection of wire available.  Each child has around 30 minutes to do this , including getting their 'little blacksmith' uniform on of glasses,gloves and leather aprons; this is brilliant in itself mainly as the gloves and aprons are leather and dirty and smell different and the glasses are really little to fit the smallest children so everything is in the right proportion!  It took me years to find the right small glasses suitable for children!  The gloves are leather gardening gloves and I made the aprons myself so they would not be flapping around by their feet! One of the pupils I worked with had the

JHQ Commission Day Seven

Today's making time was kindly given by Head Teacher of Ark School Mr Chislett to the local German School from Hardt.  They came with 6 pupils and two teachers and one older pupil to document their day!  I love this kind of cross school/age group involvement in a community school project. Each pupil spoke a little English, my German is pretty much non-existent which is rather awkward in this situation - I wish I had learnt more languages at school!  We had a translator for the day in German/English teacher Ludovic who was able to communicate all the bits I was worried about, mainly the health and safety part! The school hadn't realised quite how hands on they would be with the metal work, it was a revelation to discover all the forging equipment in the playground and that they would be working the forge themselves. We started with a demonstration for forging, we were making one of their own designed birds so I used that design as an example of how to forge the shapes we ne

JHQ Commission Day Six

What a fantastic day we have had at Ark School!  The sun shone all day, even hot enough to warm the metal and tools without using the forge!  I was working with teacher Mrs Rickards and her Year 3 class today and brilliantly the class decided to have their whole day outside in the tented area working alongside me an using the time to get lots of creative writing, poetry, observational drawing and making done!  This is just how I love to see my visit in a school used to its full potential! We were working on the bird designed by Mr Rowles the art Learning Support Assistant based at school - I think every primary school should have one of these, and a sports LSA, there all the time to add extra-specialised learning for each pupil making arts and sports a mainstream part of learning rather than special time! (that and each teacher being given a sabbatical after seven years of full time teaching to refresh and recharge and experience life out side of education and then take those experie

Staying at JHQ and exploring the local area.

For me not being used to military life it was slightly daunting to come and stay at JHQ for a two week duration while working at ARK School. I am so used to my freedom and autonomy as an artist, military life is almost the exact opposite I imagine. I have been allocated a room in Cassels House which is available for members of the military to stay in if they have work to do at JHQ or are passing through on their way to another base.  The building is just like all the others here, solidly built in the 1950's and updated with double glazed windows and fresh coats of standard issue magnolia and steel grey paint.  I have been made to feel so welcome by the staff here and they have been so helpful, making my job easier while I am here. It all goes on in the courtyard area, people congregate here in the evenings and I love hearing about how people ended up in the military, what their jobs are and what their plans are for the future.  Being here as the base is closing down gives me a

JHQ Commission Day Five

The end of the week was really hot and sunny on the playground, working with year 4.  We managed to get some birds completed today so are only a little behind schedule. Year four had some pupils with real strength and accuracy which enabled them to push on with the work.  The bird we made was designed by Lauren and she was the last person to work the forge with me today.  We made the outline of her bird from 8 mm round bar in one piece, pushing my skills to make this manageable and workable for the children. Making a taper and forging a scroll for the eye was straight forward,  making over lapping loops for the tail feathers which could then be hammered flat and scrunched up into a more 3D shape was slightly more tricky but it worked.  Lauren got the final job of hammering the metal on the edge of the anvil to make 'teeth' for the beak. The copper wings were hammered out carefully with scroll punched details on each and it is now ready for me to finish up rivet together when

JHQ Commission Day Four

Today I was joined by six pupils and their teacher from Windsor School based at JHQ.  A couple of these pupils had previously attended Ark School so it was great for them to return for a day. They were a fantastic bunch, they got totally into making copper feathers using repousse techniques and although they have done some cold metal work in school, the forge was a new experience for them. We were working on one of the birds designed by a member of staff; all the children and staff at Ark School designed a bird, the favourite 20 were chosen by all the pupils after the drawings were displayed on the big wall in the hall, from these I choose 10 designs I thought would work up well in metal.  The school devised a great way to share ownership of an art project by using this selection process. The dove we were forging today is nearly complete, a few lines to finish and some joining to be done at home for me.

JHQ Commission Day 3

I had an amazing day making wire birds with Year 1 pupils, it was really lovely for me to work with the younger children on this project, not something I usually get time for when working in schools.  Fantastic help was provided by Mrs C and Mr R and Yr 1 LSA so each child had 1:1 help.  I love the way the children  choose which wire they think is suitable and then even if they don't think they are 'big' enough to do it, they get really stuck in and start creating!  They amaze themselves and gain in confidence as they make, it makes me really enjoy teaching! I owe this wire working skill to  who worked with some school groups at Puthall Park Sculpture Show in 2004 and 2006.  I think she has the best wire work sculptures out there and was a joy to watch working. Take a peek at these marvellous creations from yesterday! At the end of the project there will be an amazing flock of wire birds hanging in the school hall for everyone to see.  I

JHQ Commission Day Two

My tools and I have safely arrived at The Ark School JHQ Rheindahlen.  We have a lovely working area set aside in the school playground using two old garages as dry workshop and storage space. Day one went really well working with year six pupils on their lovely designed bird with a big scrolled head detail.  The after school session involved a demo for the teachers so they could understand what their classes would be able to experience over the next two weeks. Today I worked with year five on their Phoenix style bird, they made a cracking job of the copper repousse wings and forged body and tail parts.  We had a visit from the Garrison H & S inspector too.  After school was a group of six teachers and LSA staff who each made a copper or forged feather. The play ground now has lovely chalk bird drawings all over it! I love the sign that Ark Schools very own artist Mr Rowles painted for my forging area!

Travels With My Anvil - JHQ Commission

I have just loaded up my small Victorian bellows forge and little anvil plus approx half a ton of hand tools into a van that is now scurrying over to Germany.  Organising and sorting through my workshop to find the right tools to take to JHQ Monchengladbach for this project has taken far longer than I ever thought. I have slight panic attacks about those precious tools going missing in transit but know I have another chapter for my children's story book which i ought to get on and write soon! The project for The Ark School at JHQ British combined Forces base at Rheindahlen is to commemorate the past 59 years of life on the camp and to give those people still residing there something positive to look forwards to as their futures are uncertain.  In particular The children at The Ark School will be the focus for this project and they have already provided me with fantastic drawings of birds for our sculpture.  While I am on site for the next two weeks, we will be forging birds f

Spinning Plates & Other Stories

This week has a been a joy in many ways, plenty of snow to tramp through in the woods and around the farm and photograph.  I have also been preparing proposals and giving quotes for a number of jobs and am in that very challenging situation that many artist makers find them selves; tendering for commissions that have overlapping time frames and not knowing if you are going to get any of them or all of them. It is probably one of the most difficult aspects of what I do.  I get a potential commission in my mind and am inspired and thinking through how I would do it, then another one is in my mind too and it's all getting really exciting and I am also thinking through the current commission that has yet to secure funding.  Suddenly the wall planner looks like a jumble of coloured lines in wipe-off ink and the smaller commissions get squeezed out and there just aren't enough hours or days to get through it all and panic sets in!  Then I sit back and realise that chances are t

Jan 2013

I am off to teach a beginners blacksmithing course at West Dean College this weekend.  You can find out more at I am teaching private courses too from my own lovely forge at the end of each month; bookings being taken for February and March and then I hope to be making BIRDS!!!