Tuesday, 30 April 2013

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!

Thursday, 25 April 2013

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 for their sculpture and making wire and foil birds with the youngest children.


I thought a lot about the language used whilst I was at JHQ and the physical implications of the closure of the base and relocation of the residents over the years.

I was very taken with the map of the world in school and postcards sent back to school from children that have moved on. 

Nearly everyone I talked to, children and adults used the word POST in their conversation; it was of course in reference to the place they would be stationed next or before JHQ but it also resonates in a different way for me.  I see it in some way as a migration, the ‘flock’ of people stationed at JHQ moving on in a positive and direct way.

I want to leave a little piece of British-ness behind in the work and capture the international nature of the role of JHQ over the last half century.  I also want to recognize the vital role of old fashioned letters and postcards as the means by which people communicated with each other – 'blueys' being a fantastic example and which may become a colour link.

The physical act of writing on paper and posting in a box a letter that will be transported by people across the world is still a special thing.  It was also a crucial form of communication when JHQ was first built.


© Melissa Cole February 2013

I want to make a sculpture that uses a Royal Mail post box as its base, from the letter-box mouth will be steel lines in a flowing pattern linking birds in flight together, swooping and playing above the box.

The children would design the birds and I will devise a way of making the whole thing work.  With the forge on site we would work on the birds and smaller linking steel work.  The main structural work would be done at my workshop.

The possibility of using the actual ER post box from the base would be fantastic and it also makes it easier to have a free-standing piece that has a big visual impact.  I think it would be relatively straight forward to install the post box.  I would need to make an internal structure to support and fix the art work to.  I would love to have the JHQ official closure date as the ‘Last Post’ mark on the box.

More updates on my time at JHQ over the next couple of weeks will follow.