Category Archives: Commissions

Rake Ribbed Caracal

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Rake Ribbed Caracal

I was lucky enough to see a caracal when I was in South Africa a few years ago so I was really excited when I was asked to make one.

It was very important to get the head right, as I think felines can be especially difficult to capture.  I had a pair of very large split pins that worked well for the eyes and I used pliers, coathooks and  other curving items to get the muzzle and cheekbones.

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Rake Ribbed Caracal

I used steel cable for the characteristic tufts on the ears and bow saw blades for other fur-like texture in places. The legs and paws used up a very large number of bull-nosed and other types of pliers as they helped define the toes.

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Rake Ribbed Caracal

I was very pleased with the movement in the piece and was careful to get the overall balance so that the front paw is just off the ground. The power in the hindquarters and shoulders are conveyed with large items such as horseshoes, clamps and spanners. On one side I even managed to incorporate a large bolt from a door.

I am very grateful to my clients for allowing me to borrow the piece back so that it can be shown at The Natural Eye, the annual exhibition of the Society of Wildlife Artists which is at the Mall Galleries from Thursday 30 October until Sunday 9th November 2014.

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Rake Ribbed Caracal

 

 

Blade Raven

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I enjoyed making this commission as I think corvids are very striking and lend themselves to being made out of old tools. When I make a piece I tend not to think about the item itself, as far as I’m concerned they are shapes and forms.

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The bill on a Raven is extraordinarily large and the combine ‘finger’ was a perfect start. I shaped it slightly at the tip and added an old hand made nail for the lower part and steel cable for the characteristic bristle on the top.

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The title of the piece, Blade Raven, was obvious when I realised how many blades were in the sculpture. Circular sawblades for the shaggy feathers, shear blades for the wings and tail, a sickle in the wing complete with the remnants of a ‘Spear and Jackson’ label and rotavator blades on the body among others. To add to the shaggy neck I used a small garden fork but also had an old dinner fork and a carving fork from an ancient collection of cutlery that I had been given.

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Rock Partridge

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This piece was a commission for a gift for a family member with a house in France named after the bird. It was quite an undertaking to create a piece in sheet steel on such a relatively small scale.

Rock Partridge

The problem with birds is that often a great deal of their recognisable features is in the plumage colours. I do not paint my sculptures so I have to be quite creative to refer to patterns and colours when using steel. For this piece I used the grille from an old white transit van bonnet to suggest the barring on the chest. in order to get a good dark stripe I had to create a space behind the grille to give the depth of shadow. It worked out quite well. In addition when working with painted steel you have to take care to ensure that the welds are kept to a minimum or the paint burns off.

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An example of a sculpture on which I made use of colour is the Southern Ground Hornbill. This piece was made with scrap items that had already got red paint on them (spanners, pliers and a spokeshave) so provided the striking red pouch on the bird.

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Southern Ground Hornbill

 

Sole Great Auk

Sole Great Auk - Harriet Mead
Sole Great Auk

I was commissioned to make a life sized Great Auk for a client. I had to look on the internet for pictures of stuffed specimens and found biometrics on line as well. The specimens were very reliant on the skills of the taxidermist so I ended up basing my version of a Great Auk on an oversized Guillemot for the eye position and general feel of the bird.

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Sole Great Auk

I tried to capture the essence of the bird and was really pleased with the find of a ‘tramp’ or metal sole in my scrap pile. Designed to protect the base of the foot the ‘tramp’ was attached by a strap to the boot and used when doing a lot of digging I believe. The ‘tramp’ forms the back of the bird and allowed me to use a quality pun in the title of the piece ‘Sole Great Auk’.

Sole Great Auk - Harriet Mead
Sole Great Auk

I think it came out surprisingly well considering I had such variable reference and the bird itself is rather ungainly. The ridges on the beak were defined by the use of an old drawer handle and secateurs made up the bulk of the bill.

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Sole Great Auk

Ring Spanner Frog

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Ring Spanner Frog

Last week I completed the 4ft 6 inches high Hedge-Trimmer Giraffe that took many weeks and lots of scrap. Here’s Ring Spanner Frog which at 6 inches long was a much smaller proposition but it still took very careful work to achieve the ‘essence’ of frog. Small scale pieces are very unforgiving; the wrong item can ruin the sculpture as there are fewer components to suggest the anatomy. In addition it is quite tricky to weld on a small scale as the welds can be too big and thin items can melt away.

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Ring Spanner Frog

The eye sockets are made of ring spanners with ball bearings for eyes and the legs are handles of pliers and links from chains with screws and horseshoe nails for the toes. I particularly like the bit of bicycle spanner and a bottle opener that give the trademark froggy hunched back.

Hedge-trimmer Giraffe

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Hedge-trimmer Giraffe

This piece is a commission that I completed for a client who has several of my pieces. At only 4ft 6  high it is not life sized but is still quite substantial.  I used bow saws as a good basis for the neck and a large car spring as a rib cage. The pattern of the markings are depicted using blades from a combine harvester. Giraffes have an extraordinary structure and I was particularly struck by their shoulder blade and angular chest. I used a couple of G-clamps for the top of the shoulder and a garden fork for the chest. At times I felt unconvinced by the bizarre proportions but as it progressed my instincts were right and the piece came together.

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Hedge-trimmer Giraffe

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Hedge-trimmer Giraffe (detail)

The lovely long eye lashes are bow saw blade and the ears are part of secateurs and chainsaw blade for the fluffy inside. There are a lot of long spanners, strap hinges and horse shoes in the piece to create a strong structure.

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Hedge-trimmer Giraffe

Sickle blades and parts of bow saws create the barrel of the body with a very sturdy strap hinge along the spine. The tail is part of a poker and tines from a pitchfork with auger bits as the fluffy hair on the end. At first I was reluctant to add the patterning on the body and neck as it interrupted the flow of the structure and covered some of the detail but on balance I’m happy with the blades as they suggest the distinctive colouration without being too fussy.

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Hedge-trimmer Giraffe

Patch the Terrier

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Patch

I was asked to make a sculpture of a particular dog for a client. Patch is a fox terrier who should have flopped over ears but hers decided to ping up. It gives her a charm all of her own but meant it was actually a rather tricky sculpture to get right as the ears seemed very large. As the client had commissioned it as a surprise joint birthday present for friends it was impossible for me to meet Patch in person so I had to rely on photographs and looking at her conventionally eared daughter Pickle who belongs to my client.

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Patch

The sculpture actually took a long time as I got bogged down in the detail and had to slim down the face to capture the distinctive muzzle of the breed. One ear is based around a small builder’s trowel and the other has part of a rotavater blade among other things. I managed to allude to the splodge on her body, hence the name Patch, by using cogs from egg whisks. The characteristic stance and feeling of her being ‘ready for anything’ worked well and is typical terrier. Some may say that my attention to detail went a little too far as I could not resist putting the strategically placed nut at the base of the tail.

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Patch

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Patch the Fox Terrier

Final Sculpture of 2012

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Trowel Tortoise

Trowel Tortoise was finished on New Year’s Eve so I was working right up until the end of the year. I never really know how I am going to start a piece but with the tortoise I knew that I would have to solve the shell first before working on any other aspect. This is unusual because I would tend to start a piece with the head as this dictates the proportions of the whole creature. For the tortoise with such a defining and unbending feature as the shell it was very important that I got that right before embarking on anything else.

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Trowel Tortoise

When you really start looking at the subject you realise all kinds of subtleties in shape and the tortoise was no exception. The shell is more of a dome than most people would think and the underside proved as important as the top. The main structure was created from two shield shaped hinges and a few blades from agricultural harvesters. The oval lip on which the whole piece is built is made of two horseshoes with upholstery springs interlocked around it.

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Trowel Tortoise

At one stage the shell was much more open and this worked up to point. Much as I enjoy leaving negative spaces within the pieces the shell needed more visual heaviness to work with the solid legs. The lovely scaley texture on the legs is chainsaw blades and of course his plastron is a trowel. I worked very hard to get the pointed lip and almond shaped eyes on the surprisingly square head. He took longer than I expected but I was very pleased with the result.

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Trowel Tortoise

Irish Moiled Cow

In 2012 I was commissioned to make a life sized Irish Moiled Cow for a museum in Dungannon, Northern Ireland. The sculpture is the biggest ‘found object’ sculpture that I have made to date and proved quite a challenge. Nicknamed Stanley due to the brand stamp on an old plane blade that I used on the forehead it used a serious amount of my stock of old tools and agricultural scrap.

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Irish Moiled Cow

Some of the items that I particularly enjoyed placing were the adjustable spanners for teets, old scoop from a set of grocers scales and shovels for the udder and the auger bits for the tail. There are all kinds of blades within the work which seemed very appropriate as cows cut/eat so much grass. Among others there were sickles, scythes, mower blades, saw blades, a brushcutter blade, reciprocal blades from combine harvesters and sheers.

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Irish Moiled Cow

The main bulk of the belly was made using the prongs from a very old hay tedder that may even have been a horse drawn one. A friend of a friend was dismantling it so my sharp eyed friend asked if he could give it to me. It proved utterly invaluable in depicting the cow and emphasizing the  bulk of the body. Many people would have tried to fill in the body work but I think your eye does it for you. I often think of cows as being a giant hammock of belly slung between two points and the sculpture reflects that. The hint of the rib cage is portrayed with a pair of old beet forks. Rather than beet forks from east Anglia it would have been lovely to have used potato forks from Northern Ireland. I did look in to sourcing scrap from around Dungannon but it proved impractical. I hope to be able to make another piece for the museum in the future so making a smaller piece in a borrowed workshop on site would be a perfect way to do so.

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Loading the Irish Moiled Cow

The sculpture had to get to Northern Ireland from Norfolk so I enlisted the help of friends who had access to an impressive and very new looking loader to get it into the hire van. I am so grateful to all my long suffering network of friends who come to my aid when these pieces need moving.