As ever, my life has been hectic with things related to my business, the studio and of course home life – I knew I hadn’t written a blog post for a while; well Christmas was the last one I remembered. What I hadn’t realised was that I never posted anything about the second Metal Ages sculpture, and that was well, AGES ago!
Back at the end of September, we finally got the opportunity to install the final sculpture at Erewash Museum in Ilkeston. I say ‘we’ – that would be me with the camera and occasionally passing a drill or screwdriver, and Gavin & Mark doing the lifting, carrying, digging, drilling….
This one is a rather large sculpture. It’s over two metres high, and about two and a half metres wide. It is made up of 7,000 nuts, which represents the size of the workforce when Stanton Ironworks was in it’s heyday. It has four ‘vines’ growing from the ground, which represent the four main foundries that could be found in the Ilkeston area back in the 1900’s. Across the middle is a shank, used for pouring molten metal in a foundry. The centre of this holds a glass disk, which like the ‘Old Men & Pipes‘ sculpture at King George Gallery is inspired by the ‘fire in the sky’ that was ever present when Stanton was a busy place, and also representing new beginnings.
Those of you who know me personally will know that there’s been quite a lot of stuff going on in my personal life lately (that may be a bit of an understatement), which has prevented me from spending much time in the studio or on projects.But, as the Metal Age project is on a deadline, I’ve had to pick up the ball again get stuck in.I managed to get along to another one of the Walking for Health sessions, although I didn’t take any photos on the last one, it was far too cold to take the gloves off! And couple of Saturdays ago, we ran the glass inclusions workshop at the Erewash Musuem, it was the first sunny day of the year so we didn’t get lots and lots of visitors – I think people were taking advantage of the first chance to get in the garden. We met a friendly family, where grandad, like a lot of people in Ilkeston, had worked at Stanton at one time; it was great, he had a lot of stories to tell.Gavin and I are now working on the plans for the two sculptures, and for what else will be going in the exhibition. We’ve also been planning the next workshops at King George Gallery in March – we will be working with students from local schools and colleges in the day, and having open drop-in sessions on the Tuesday evenings.I’m still playing catch up, so this is a bit of a post-and-run, but I thought I would show you a few photographs of our site visit – current owners, St Gobain, allowed us access to locked up buildings and the old Stanhope Plant – it was fascinating.I took this photograph after Gavin commented that if you looked down at (extremely thick) layer of black dust on the floor, it was undisturbed apart from our footprints. It was like virgin snow….
Black Virgin SnowSomething fascinated me about the chains and hooks that we found lying in trolleys around the place. Not sure this conveys the sheer scale of everything (giant light bulbs, giant oil cans, giant sack trolleys – I felt like one of the Borrowers at times!) – I just liked the pattern of this one: Dusty Chains
And this last photograph, was just a poignant reminder of the busy times that were once Stanton Ironworks – obviously a countdown until the last day in May 2007, that the last pipe rolled out of the plant – it was written on the inside of the one of the maintenance teams lockers.
The Last Post
Last Wednesday, yes, one of those days after we’d already had a considerable snow fall, myself and Gavin went on a walk with the support and guidance of a couple of the Walking for Health leaders, and some of the group members.Starting at Armstrongs Mill which is near to one of the former train station sites (Ilkeston Junction), we meandered along the canal path, down to Bennerley Viaduct – this is a historically important structure is Grade II Listed and is on the Buildings at Risk Register. Unusual for it’s time, it is a wrought iron lattice work structure, when most viaducts were brick built – because of former coal mining in the area, it was subject to a lot of subsidence and it meant the structure was lighter. If you want to read more about the Viaduct, click here – it will take you to the Wikipedia page about it, which is as good a start as any. Happy history hunting.Despite the cold air, and crunchy snow underfoot, it was a lovely day for the walk, and the light was simply beautiful. I opted to take my little camera with me for ease; I do wish I had taken my dSLR as my pocket camera tended to mess up on light settings, but hopefully you can get the idea of how lovely it looked:
Bennerley ViaductWell, I didn’t actually use the black and white setting here! The light was not quite as dramatic and stormy as it looks, but if I lighten the image any more, it loses all definition.It was fascinating for me; despite having lived in the area for most of my life, I don’t know that side of Ilkeston all that well, and lost my bearings a couple of times – it was good when I saw recognisable landmarks (to me) such as the Awsworth by-pass.The walk ended with a cuppa and tea-cake in Armstrongs Mill and a good chat with the walking group. Hopefully we’ll pick up some interesting memories about Stanton, and Cotmanhay, the railways, and so on, but mostly it was a pleasure to make contact with new people; certainly the walk inspired me to want to start sketching again (something I don’t do nearly enough of these days); now I actually know how to get down to the viaduct, I will return to with the bigger camera and the sketchbook – this might inspire a whole new body of work!
Last Saturday saw the first workshop from myself and Gavid Darby as part of The Metal Age project. We spent a day at Erewash Museum in Ilkeston hoping to talk to people about working in the local steel industry or memories of railways, etc.
Gavin had a go at doing some manhole rubbings, which was a bit too cold to brave for my liking, so I stayed indoors and invited people to “Design Your Own Manhole Cover”.
After sharing a few images of some of the amazing manhole cover designs that you can see, as well as the more mundane, and of course a few of the very prolific Stanton Ironworks designs ( (there’s another blog post I can write already), I gave visitors a template and we made a few of our own designs.
Here’s a few that were made on the day; it’s a fun method that’s not too difficult to learn – the key is in finding the right tools to emboss with really! We advertised it as being suitable for all ages, and a couple of the designs here were done by younger children, as well as adults (who seemed to enjoy it as much as the kids!).
The technique has inspired me to hopefully produce a larger piece that if it turns out well, could feature in the Metal Age Exhibition.