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A Bit About Me!

Graduating in 1993 with a BA (Hons) in Art Education Studies from The University of Wales, Melissa embarked on a successful full time career working with her chosen medium of sculpture made predominantly using traditional forging techniques. 

Trained as a traditional blacksmith by her father Hector Cole MBE FWCB, Melissa started making bespoke domestic iron work for private homes and hotels; curtain poles, window furniture, lighting, gates and railings are still made to order.  Awarded a Setting Up Grant from ACE in 2001 allowed Melissa to get new equipment for her own forge in Savernake Forest.  Her forge is now in the Pewsey Vale.

In 2007 Melissa was awarded a prestigious 'Bronze Medal' from The Worshipful Company of Blacksmiths in recognition of the blacksmithing skills seen in her public and private work and the successful forging-in-schools projects. This makes Melissa a Fellow of The Worshipful Company of Blacksmiths and she is regarded as a Master Blacksmith and Liveryman of The Worshipful Company Of Blacksmiths by redemption and has Freedom of The City Of London.

Smaller sculptural work is created from re-forged antique wrought iron, sourced from restoration projects across the country. Larger work is made from other metals, steel, stainless steel and copper using a combination of traditional and contemporary making techniques.

Following the success of Chippenham Community Art Project which Melissa devised and raised funds for, she was commissioned by Dolby Laboratories Inc. to create a large projecting wall sculpture for their European H.Q. in Wootton Bassett. This important commission enabled Melissa to develop her sculpture work alongside the commissioned pieces and schools work.

Specializing in giving young people the opportunity to create their own work on the forge, she has visited over 35 school and community groups across the south of England. Various projects that Melissa has worked on have been funded by Arts Council England, The National Lottery, Barclays New Futures, The Ironmongers Company and The Golsoncott Foundation.

Forging with steel and antique wrought iron:

Most of Melissa's work is forged in a traditional coal forge from mild steel, a readily available and relatively easy metal to work with. This can be finished with zinc; galvanising or hot zinc spraying to prevent rust and then a top coat which can inject a splash of unexpected colour and even metallic sparkle – this is a recognisable aspect of her forge work! The use colour on architectural metal work – gates and railings often lifts a simple design and makes a statement throughout the year. Metal doesn't always look its best in black as it flattens all the hammer work which is a distinct feature of Melissa's work.

Some of the smaller garden sculptures are re-forged from antique wrought iron sourced from restoration projects in old buildings and churches around the country. Wrought iron has a low carbon content which makes it softer to work on the anvil but more unpredictable. The iron has a grain similar to wood and asking the metal to make forms against its natural grain and pushing her technical skills.

Wrought iron is worked at a higher temperature than steel and does not corrode in the same way as steel. The finished work can be treated with zinc or painted. Where possible the work can be waxed and allowed to develop a patinated surface that shows the natural quality of the iron. These works can be shown inside or out.

Bronze: Having some work cast from original forged pieces; taking a mould from the forgings allows for the exact reproduction of each hammer blow. The bronze work Melissa has done is with artist Nick Davis at his foundry where she is directly involved in all the complex casting processes, including the fettling and patination.  The series of figurative works 'Ladylovelywings' are a limited edition cast in bronze.

Please contact Melissa if you would like to visit or to discuss commissioning a sculpture or work for your house or garden. Working with clients to create pieces that fulfil their requirements and challenge design and making skills id an enjoyable aspect of Melissa's work. 

If you are new to the commissioning process, Melissa can give you some advice and guidance. Usually larger projects or purchases are paid in instalments which often helps both parties!

Major commissions include:
2018 DNA sculpture for Winchester University Cosmic Garden and Moravian Star sculpture for the new Athelstan Museum Building in Malmesbury, Wiltshire.
2014 Cherwell College, Student Accommodation, Osney Lane Oxford. Two decorative screening panels to entrance wall based on brain neurons. 
2014 Selected artist for Ridgeway Farm Public Art, Purton, Wiltshire for Taylor Wimpey
2013    River Route wall mounted installation representing the River Cherwell 24m wrapped around the exterior of the gatehouse building, Chapel Street, Oxford for A2Dominion. 
2013 JHQ Monchengladbach, Germany.  'Posted!' Sculpture project to commemorate the closing of the UK MOD base working with The Ark School, Windsor School, residents, staff and German schools.
2012    ‘Driftway Imprint’ Bronze and steel sculpture at The Slade, Oxford for Oxford City Council.
2011 Selected artist, Wootton and Drysandford community centre project.
2010 Knowle House entrance gates in white.
2009 Rabley Contemporary Drawing Centre, entrance gates and side panels.
2009 Stockcross House, Newbury, double garden gates and panels in red.
2008 Westbury Chantry Court commission, double vehicle gates and railings.
2006 Greatham Primary School, Hampshire. National Lottery artist in residence.
2002 'Jubilation' 4 m stainless steel sculpture. Private commission, Wiltshire
2001 Chippenham Town Bridge Competition. Winner of an international competition to design new railings for the main town bridge over the River Avon.
1997 'Sound Waves' Wall-mounted entrance piece for Dolby Laboratories European Head Quarters, Wootton Bassett, Wiltshire.
Publications, Press and Television
BBC Escape To The Country 2015 and 2017
Garden Design Journal January 2010
BBC 1 Countryfile Sunday 21st June 2009
Feature on Melissa at work. 
Grand Designs Channel 4 March 2009
Rabley Barn Gates Commission 
BBC Radio Four Woman’s Hour
First aired in 2007 and repeated since, Melissa was talking about her role as a blacksmith in society today and the positive challenges of female blacksmiths. Producer Isobel Eaton spent a morning at her forge and tried her hand at blacksmithing. /var/folders/mm/y79d992s5l11h08209t4tn280000gn/T/ Listen again
Wiltshire Life Magazine March 2019 – shortlisted for Wiltshire Life Arts and Culture Award 2020, April 2005, February 2004. 
Chroma, August 2004. 
Western Daily Press, West Country Life Supplement, June 2004. 
Artist Blacksmith, Autumn 2002. 
Period Living & Traditional Homes, April 2000. 
Cotswold Life Magazine, March 1999. 
Times Educational Supplement, April 1999.


Popular posts from this blog

Ridgeway Farm Art Project Launch 13.07.2019

Thank you for your hospitality and interaction today at the Summer Fair - I enjoyed talking about the project with you and you made some lovely wings!

This is the poster about the launch of the exciting art project coming to the new Taylor Wimpey development near Purton in North Wiltshire.

I will be at the Ridgeway Farm Academy CE School ROOTS PTA Summer Fair talking about the project - come and make a pair of wings from an old map and write down what you hope to see come from the project - if you live on Ridgeway Farm or in the wider Purton community - this project is for you and your public open space.

The is the start of a community consultation period where I will be working with the local community assessing the spaces and watching how they are interacted with by both human residents and the wildlife.  I want to get to know the space and invite residents to join me in some 'Walk n Talk' sessions around the old farm, exploring the spaces and discovering a little more abo…

My Amazing Dad Hector Cole Awarded an MBE 1st January 2015

I thought it would be a good idea to post here about the great news that my father Hector Cole has been awarded an MBE for Services to Heritage Crafts in the 2015 New Year's Honours!

He is really thrilled to get recognition for the 45 years of dedicated work specifically for his arrow-smithing and also within the broad spectrum of iron-working but, as many people will know, there is a lot more behind the award than is ever printed in the press.  I would like to share some of this information with you.

My sister Rebecca first brought up the idea of nominating Dad for an award, she thought he would be a great candidate for an honour and started to look into it.  There is a lot of work behind the scenes to make it happen and we were too late for that year so put it on the back burner. 

In 2014 I saw a tweet from asking if anyone knew a suitable crafts person to nominate for an honour.  I immediately tweeted back suggesting my Dad, Hector and it snowballed from …

Ridgeway Farm Art Project #5 February 2020

Ridgeway Farm Art ProjectNewsletter #5 February 2020

Here is a sneak preview of The Map for Ridgeway Farm residents that is work in progress on my drawing board.  
I have some illustrations from residents, photographs and drawings from Ridgeway Farm Academy Cherry Trees class to add to the border and reverse side as well as a story about the site written by another resident. 
 If you would like to contribute it's not too late - just get in touch!

Thursday 9th April 2020 from 1.45 - 4pm Easter Holiday - Free Workshop.
Wildlife Wonder Photography afternoon with Iain Green and Melissa Cole as part of the on-going Ridgeway Farm Art Project.
Bookings are being taken for up to 10 parent/grandparent/guardian and child places(age up to 16 need to bring an adult with them!) 

Art and photography students and amateurs welcome to bring their own cameras and learn from Iain.

Please share with friends that might be interested! Want to know more? Please message me melissa@me…