The response to our piece on Charles Elliott was remarkable, so we decided to revisit Elliott of London and delve a little deeper into how they make their sculptures
There seems to never be a dull day at Elliott of London Sculpture studios. There is a constant hive of artistic flair moving throughout the workshop working on stock sculptures and commissioned pieces – the boundaries seem non-existent for this team.
Displays of sculptures around the studio really brings the Chiltern Hills based studio to life, adding character and flair – and Absolutely Hertfordshire was keen on going behind the scenes to see how they are made.
The Sail Sphere
The first thing that catches the eye as we enter is one of the team working on one of the Sail Sphere sculptures that they produce.
The journey to get this to the finished piece is incredible, made entirely of 6mm mild steel sail shaped pieces in a variety of different sizes, this sphere is available in many different diameters.
The 6mm mild steel sheet is cut into hundreds of sail pieces, each one lifeless and flat, they are all then popped into the furnace to heat up the metal, so that it becomes fully mailable for hand texturing, which is all done using the “dinosaur” aged 1920’s Power Hammer. The noise is indescribable and it makes the studio shudder.
Once textured they are all put to cool in the old barrels full of water. They then use custom moulds, which they have made for each size, to ensure the sphere is rounded and circular. Each single sail piece in then welded together carefully to form the sphere, which is done in two halves to make certain of the end shape.
Once the two halves are together and fully welded up, it is off to the galvanisers. The hot zinc galvanising process protects the spheres from their own metallic damage and is guaranteed rust free for 30 years plus.
Now they are ready for the hand painting – a proven favourite finish is the stunning Verdigris & Gold. The internal Chantilly Gold finish used is such a beautiful colour and it encourages the spheres to “self-illuminate” during the day with the sun’s reflection – each sail piece is carefully lathered in this rich gold paste ready for the outer patination to start. The choice of colouring may seem slightly odd, but the finish is incredible: the Verdigris wax is almost a lime green in colour when first applied, then as the layers go on it becomes instantly aged but fresh and enhances the sharp lines, yet softens the sculpture. The final piece to the spheres is the light gold dusting, which is also hand painted on to the outside – it seems to capture the natural light in & from all angles.
Illumination kits are also available for all the spheres Elliott of London produce. They are placed in the “floating tube” and illuminate the spheres internally – this looks especially spectacular in the Verdigris & Gold finishes. The spheres are designed for an array of clientele for gardens, homes and even public art uses.
Another sculpture that wows is the very life like fox sculpture, which is essentially life-size. The making of these foxes is far from the same as the spheres, but they are yet again entirely handmade.
The fox sculpture simply starts out as single lengths of untouched mild steel bar which is 8mm or 6mm thick. A sketch for the fox is drawn out in a sketch book and is then scaled up on to a very large board providing the team the correct scales and outlines to work from. Each piece of mild steel bar is hand bent with no heat and just an old set of “dogs” (a dog leg is a very strong bar of metal with tongs that they use to work against the metal to hand bend it all piece by piece).
Once the 8mm outline is made the fox is stood up and it can start to be in filled using 6mm mild steel bar and the use of Elliott of London’s “organic flow” method. They slowly build up each leg adding definition, movement and athleticism using small flowing pieces of bar, moving up towards the body adding in muscles, confirmation and life! The head is always the last piece finished on any of Elliott of London’s work – they seem to add the finishing touches of character and animalistic feel with the heads of all of the animal sculptures with the faces. Last but not least, with a rustic patina finish, the tip of the fox’s tail and chest is added in white to give him personality and add to his life like qualities.
The Horse Head
The methods used within this workshop AND studio seem limitless, as perched up on plinths stand three very different horse head sculptures. One of these is 2m high plus the height of its plinth, and they all have a hair-raising presence about them all based on a very proud regal looking war horse.
These stunning creations are made using hundreds of small almost moon shaped pieces, cut from 6mm mild steel and placed very carefully together. The pieces are all carefully touching one another, flowing up and down the horse’s head using slight bend and curve in places to give the finished sculpture life and character. Although they are all made from the same mould, they all seem so very different with a different personality in each one.
The ears, eyes and nostrils are made from 6mm mild teel bar that the team hand bend to get the perfect shape for each horse. These are available in array of different finishes, and the three here are all different.
The Rustic Patina Horse Head is a stunning golden brown rusty colour that just beams on its own in the sunshine. Standing proudly next to this is the 2m Hot Zinc Galvanised Horse head which is outstanding in it silvery grey finish, and last but most definitely not least is the Bronze Horse Head – although the same rules and methods apply for this sculpture, it has been made by Charles entirely of bronze pieces. He has then used some of the oldest sculpting methods to achieve its glorious Verdigris finish – every angle is different with this horse head as the patination almost oozes over the sculpture, leaving you with the most desirable effect.
Trio of Thoroughbred Horses
The showstopper sculpture that is being worked on is a Trio of Thoroughbred Horses for a client. The stallion and foal are finished and they are absolutely breath-taking, the Broodmare (the mother) sculpture that is going to be accompanying them in their new home is really taking shape.
These sculptures have been purposely designed and created as commission pieces for a client and they started off as a very vague simple idea. First comes the conversation, the ideas flow and the artistic brain starts working – the sizes, styles, stances, methods and finish are all discussed straight away.
It’s then straight to the sketch book where Charles will sketch out whatever it is that the clients have expressed onto paper. Ideas will fly backwards and forwards on the designs of the sketches Charles provides, and it’s then time to get making.
The studio is home to what we can only describe as a large metal foot plate: this is where the sculptures will be drawn up into full scale before the fun of creating them begins.
With so many options, methods and finishes the Elliott of London team see no boundaries on what they can and want to create, they fully welcome all commissions, ideas and enquiries.
The lead times on some of these sculptures is astonishing and now we’ve seen it first-hand we fully understand why. The care this team take is worth every minute for their clients.