Unsung Heroes of Art

Recently I have started working a new piece, as a gift for a friend who runs an opticians in the Midlands….

It will be in time, a glasses stand, lost wax cast in stainless steel with a fabricated stainless steel stand. When complete, I hope it will exude an air of grace and elegant simplicity – it’s loosely styled around a modern take on the art deco ethos (clearly the mock up doesn’t portray the intended elegance at this stage!) with razor sharp edges and super smooth flat angular surfaces.
What has struck me during these early stages, despite the size and relative simple design, is the number of processes that as a sculptor, I have no control over but have total reliance upon. Thus far, I’ve had to employ the services of a foundry master, pattern maker and an engineer, all for a piece less than 6” tall.
In days gone by of course, more traditional sculptors would have the facilities (and skills) to complete works entirely in house, perhaps with apprentices in schools – all well and good for bronzes and works in marble or stone. I guess this is still true of some sculptors, the lucky ones will still be surrounded by the elements needed to create works from inception to completion.
However, the majority of more modern works require an entirely different set of skills, so the sculptor is more likely to rely on external service providers.
The Angel of the North (AntonyGormley) suffers sometimes from clichés and over analysis, it’s certainly a favourite of mine, for its scale if nothing else.

Ignore for the moment the piece itself, whatever your opinion of it may be. What struck me more than anything else when I went was the engineering….the weather was such that just standing up was a significant challenge and yet the piece, with it’s enormous wings (50 tons each!) was entirely un-ruffled by the British climate.

Surely, although the artist clearly deserves credit, the forgotten heroes in the piece have to be the manufacturers, Hartlepool Steel Fabrications Ltd – it’s the talent from this workshop that ensures the sculptors vision is still there for all of us to form an opinion on.

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