A Work of Art: Poise and Tension III

Find contemporary paintings, drawings, sculptures, ceramics, printmaking, textiles and more at the RBSA Gallery in Birmingham

One of our most exciting young artists is Jacob Chandler, a sculptor with a bright future ahead of him.

His work is exciting and ambitious. Here, he tells ART BLOG how Poise and Tension III came into being with help from The Metal Works R&D team in Telford…

All my sculptures ache to be larger than life.

I want them to be statements and while they can be this as tabletop pieces, it is nothing compared to the drama of large-scale sculpture.

I produced the maquette for Poise and Tension III, and due to the scale, machinery and technical skill required, it wasn’t an undertaking I could tackle on my own.

I had experience working with a few fabrication and metal cutting companies but past experiences had left me wary, until I stumbled upon The Metal Works R&D.

From their website, I could see that they weren’t your average steel fabricators. Their bespoke architectural work spoke for itself.

Presenting ideas

I took the maquette in, expecting the quote to make the dream fade almost as quickly as it had arisen. I was also keen to have a look at their operation, to see if it could be a fit for the future.

This obviously wasn’t a typical build, but the challenge was clearly something the design director felt he wanted to undertake; his enthusiasm was contagious.

I was shown around their stainless steel workshops, where an immense staircase was being fabricated. I felt like a kid in a candy store amongst the metal, machinery and the sparks. I left with a huge amount of excitement and the promise of a quote.

A few hours later Gary phoned back and made an offer I couldn’t refuse, they would make the piece in exchange for me working for them.

Getting started

Alongside working at The Metal Works, I had to do the 2D CAD for the piece, and it was drilled into me that I had to make this perfect… a few degrees out on any angle and the piece wouldn’t go together.

I was put on the saw as one of my first jobs and after a few bars had been cut the foreman came over and pointed out that some pieces were 1mm out, and this wasn’t up to scratch.

Once the CAD was complete, Lasershape in Nottingham agreed to provide the corten and laser cutting services free of charge.

They were all keen to see this piece realised and shared my vision. I was panicking a little as by the time the laser cut pieces arrived we were three weeks into my work and with a competition deadline looming I thought there was no way I could get the piece done in time.

Assembly started and about an hour and a quite a lot of stressing later I had only a few pieces of this immense 3D jigsaw loosely put together.

At this point, one of the office staff came out and said I had put the piece together incorrectly- by butting the joints together the whole sculpture would be thrown out of proportion.

I gave up for the night and went home. The next morning, I went back to The Metal Works to battle on but when I arrived I saw the piece was already being put together and progress was clear.

Making progress

Working the rest of the day with the foreman we ploughed through the piece. It was a lot more brutal than I expected: the composition of corten steel is far harder than the mild steel that I was used to working with.

By the end of the day I had relaxed a little on the encroaching deadline. I knew the finishing would take a while but I was calculating for my work speed, not theirs.

poise_and_tension_iii_chandler_jacob_artist_sculptor_sculpture (3)

Once the fabrication was complete, I started on the finishing, and progress was incredibly slow. It turned out that there was a hard carbon coating on the surface of the metal. The head of production told me the only way to make any headway was to get the piece sandblasted, so off it went.

Final touches

When it returned, I cracked on with the linishing to remove the visible weld; again, my work was inferior to those who worked at the company and one of the other fabricators soon took a guiding hand.

The process of welding and linishing was repeated until all pits and signs of fabrication were removed and the piece was perfect.

Poise and Tension III was completed with the aid of some chemical rusting. There was time to enter the competition and it has been a dramatic statement piece ever since.

I learned so much and my work developed significantly under their tutelage. The Metal Works imbued me with the need for precision. I now get frustrated when my skill is beneath my vision and have come to the complete acceptance that sometimes you have to bow to people with superior skills, let go of a little control and allow them to help create your vision.

Jacob Chandler

 

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