Wow!!! 16 whole nights spent in Sydney at Eveleigh Works with Roberto Giordani and his son Niko and a team of blacksmiths from all over Australia making an amazing shark sculpture designed by Roberto. I was in Blacksmith heaven. I enjoyed every second.
Roberto Giordani for those of my followers that don’t know is….the son of a master blacksmith with thirty years experience and in Jan.2014 he founded the international Acadamy ARTS FACTORY, producing artworks for public and private clients. His artwork is on display in several cities around Italy and all around the world. He also teaches courses and gives demonstrations around the globe, and in return has other artists come to his workshop too.
It was amazing to see all our hard work come to fruition in just under two weeks by an average of 6-8 of us working seven days a week. We aimed to get it finished in time for the unveiling at the pre-arranged open day at the Eveleigh works railway locomotive workshops, where the public would visit and come and see blacksmiths in action. We are all hoping for our sculpture to be accepted as a piece for ‘Sculpture by the Sea,’ fingers crossed, and of course it will be for sale too !!
Eveleigh Works is a great setting to make our sculpture in such a traditional working building. It’s the Largest steam powered Locomotive workshop in the Southern Hemisphere. The entire workshop is 1800 square meters and mostly 120 years old. From 1884-1986 the workshops overhauled, repaired, modified and built new locomotives for the New South Wales Government Railways.
I really can’t imagine the working conditions back then, some of the workers even slept next to the machinery. They would clean up in a bucket of water with soap once a week. Even during our short time there some of the old timers would pop in and tell us which machine they worked on, starting at age 14 and of how terrified they were!
Thank goodness for our delightful Airbnb host Jaqi and her home ‘Art Asylum,’ quirky and perfect and nearby to everything we needed, including the workshops. We all had daily showers, though we did frequent the pub in our grubby state sometimes!!
Eveleigh Works, run by Matthew Mewburn, is a Blacksmithing School and a running Blacksmithing Business – check out their website for upcoming classes and events. Lots of people asked how I got involved. I’ve signed up for their newsletter and also follow them on Instagram and Facebook. Their classes/events get booked out really quickly and when I saw Roberto Giordani was coming all the way from Italy, I jumped on it instantly!!!
There was a few of us blacksmiths that were great tea drinkers so every morning we started our workshop day with tea. The weekend before I arrived, commenced with the cutting out of 10mm plate mild steel with gas propane torches, the shapes looking like jigsaw pieces from a puzzle, which wasn’t far from the truth since Roberto had previously made a trial cardboard maquette of the shape dimensions, which was scaled up to the appropriate size we needed, aiming for the shark to be 3.9 metres high including the stand. A central post was forged to shape under the 700 ton Massey power hammer and mounted onto a central plate on which to weld the body pieces.
The idea behind the shark resulted from a two-year study into making large fish sculptures, not usually this large, predominantly steel about Roberto’s love of the ocean culminating in a book titled ‘aMareaMare,’ a sort of love/love relationship and yet a hate of what we as people are doing poisoning our seas/sea life, especially and predominantly with plastics. We are literally killing off our sea life with what we as a nation dump in the sea. So through art Roberto is showing the majesty and elegance of the shark, yet its body is decaying, and sloughing, and suffering and falling apart and dying. Will we take any notice and act/react, only time will tell.
All the outside edges of the shark are smooth showing off its beautiful elegance but all the inside edges are breaking up. We achieved this by oxy-propane torches on the larger pieces and coke/fire on the smaller pieces to heat the edges, and using sledge hammers to create the uneven texture. This proved to be a 3-man process because the shapes were uneven and had to be balanced precariously at times on the anvil. It was also exhausting [well for me, anyway] and so we rotated sledging around given borders. When the worked piece was cold it was bent 3 dimensionally using the newly acquired 100 ton press by Roberto, which was truly magical in its performance and most certainly reduced our workload!
Roberto was incredibly attentive to our constructive suggestions and we really felt like team players. I liked that a lot. In fact I questioned Roberto a lot but inquisitively, because I wanted to understand the process and the reason behind it. I hope I didn’t drive him mad…nah..don’t think so ! Roberto’s English was pretty darn good, my Italian is non-existent. I did correct his pronunciation a lot too and apologised if he felt I was over doing it, but Roberto said he was pleased I did, though if you hear me speak, it’s not with an Aussie accent!
You will have seen from my Facebook page and my Instagram page I posted lots of photos along the way. I have to say every stage was so exciting. I loved being part of a team. The wealth of experience amongst us culminated in a lot of years. I didn’t have any industrial experience and none in sculptures of this size, as had some of the others. As a team we all gelled together beautifully, and would happily do it all over again. The public viewing was well received by all, resulting in hundreds of photos taken posing next to our shark. It gives me such a warm fuzzy feeling to have been a small part of making this wonderful shark. I so hope it ends its days in a reputable location envious by all !
For smaller items that I have made, you can check out my Etsy Store.
Or, if you’re inspired, and would like to have a lesson to learn what I did with Roberto Giordani, contact me here.