This Summer I went to two Open Days at the Flameworks Creative Arts Facility (Twitter) in Plymouth. My student ambassador from Saturday Arts Club at PCA, Luke Axworthy, is a metalsmith who does work there and I hoped I might see him at work but unfortunately he wasn’t there on the days I visited, although I did get to see his very neat work space!
On the first day, I had a quick look around the building. There were artists working on jewellery, ceramics, metal and painting. We spoke to Louise Rabey (Etsy) who was working on a watercolour illustration of ‘two Nidorans nuzzling in the sun‘ (click to view that on her Instagram page). She showed us her portfolio and we realised that J had bought one of her pictures at the last DevCon. Her artwork is brightly coloured but softly drawn and cute and she draws animals and fan art of things like Pokemon, Disney characters and Undertale. She had a friend with her who was really nice and talked to us about doing professional cosplay as Daryl from The Walking Dead. Louise shares a studio space with Luke, Lorna Davey (another brilliant artist who I met at the PCA Graduate Show) and another artist who I unfortunately didn’t meet.
Downstairs, I watched Piers Edsall (Twitter) helping a young girl with blacksmithing and she looked like she was having a lot of fun so I asked if I could try too. I went in with my brother J and Piers gave us gloves, aprons and goggles to wear. He explained how we would be working with very hot equipment – so hot that if we touched it our fingers would fall off before we had a chance to feel it! He showed us the tools and anvil that we would be using then gave us both a hammer each and metal rods.
Piers put the metal rods in the forge and heated them until they were red-hot. Then he explained how to hammer the rods around the tip of the anvil to make them curved. It was satisfying to hit the metal into shape but it was also very noisy! We also had to bend the rods to make a wavy shape. Piers was really friendly and we saw one of his kraken creations which J loved because he’s really into monsters. Piers is going to be building a huge sculpture soon and I hope we get to see it. He also talked to my brother about a ‘Little Smiths’ course that they hope to run at Flameworks which sounds really interesting.
On our second visit we took my friend along and she got to have a go at the blacksmithing too, while I watched from behind a safety screen. Afterwards all three of us got to do some pottery making at a pottery wheel with Christina Peters. It was really fun but tougher than I expected because you have to put a lot of weight onto the clay. The pictures above show mine and J’s pots ready for firing. Christina talked us through the whole process while she created a sample pot. She was really good at explaining about the different types of clay and how to work the wheel. She’s extremely enthusiastic and I could tell she loves her work. She also talked to me about how she was making mugs for the cafe Rumpuscosy next door to the Radiant Gallery.
We also met Jill Coughman who was gathering ideas for a new piece. Her studio is bursting with paintings including a huge artwork of mermaids. Downstairs I watched Lesley Peate polishing some tiny pieces of copper jewellery. There was so much to see and I enjoyed walking around a lot and I recommend that anyone interested should visit on their next open day. 🙂