Mr Watt, Grumpy Man of Metal, is an exhibition by blacksmith artist Jon Mills, currently running until 31st August 2013 at Enginuity Design & Technology Centre, one of the ten Ironbridge Gorge Museums in Shropshire. The exhibition features fun and whimsical sculptures showing the many adventures of Mr Watt, Grumpy Man of Metal, the central character in a series of illustrated books that appeal to both young and old alike. Jon has written a short article on his blog about the exhibition which includes some nice images of the metalworks in situ.
Mr Watt lives in a curious metal world and makes many unusual metal objects, such as a crab’s bicycle, a flying machine and a new kind of trumpet. Other sculptures on display include the runaway train from the book On the Wrong Track; the parson and his church from Under Wear and Tear; the witch from A Brush with Evil and the astro-barrow from Space… the Final Front Door. The artist has created a short video (2011) showing Mr Watt being made at his Brighton-based workshop. Filming and soundtrack by Arthur Mills.
Gillian Crumpton, Curatorial Officer at the Museum commented: “Jon’s work is technically outstanding and visually fascinating. We are sure that visitors will love looking at the many sculptures and following Mr Watt’s adventures.” To view sample pages form the book of Mr Watt’s adventures, CLICK HERE. I found this exhibition to be a complete delight when I visited it last month. The quality of craftmanship in Jon’s work is exquisite and a closer inspection is highly recommended. The metal vignettes do have an air of quirkiness about them and reminded me of some of the creations by film-maker Tim Burton.
Mr Watt, Grumpy Man of Metal’s creator, Jon Mills, was born in Birmingham in 1959 into a family of metalworkers and studied 3-Dimensional Design BA (Hons) at Wolverhampton before helping to found Brighton’s Red Herring Studios in 1983. In the mid 1980s he honed his skills at brazing, forging, laser-cutting and welding and exhibited work at One Off, Ron Arad’s London workshop and gallery.
In 1988, Jon created a music machine for a Terry Jones/Monty Python film, Erik the Viking (1989). You can view the original music machine sketch on the artist’s blog, CLICK HERE as well as the finished item, CLICK HERE.
In recent years, Jon has been involved in major architectural commissions, inventing exciting structures that engage with their surroundings whether in cities or in the countryside. His output is extraordinarily diverse and charmingly subversive. He makes dangerous toys and automata, dysfunctional furniture and an amazing range of sculpture with themes that are witty, whimsical, and sometimes darkly Gothic. Jon’s vast body of work has been shown extensively in Great Britain as well as in the USA, Europe and Japan.
Mills is very much a hands-on maker, preferring to produce one-off designs. Occasionally clients have ordered repeats on a similar theme, but Mills has tended to resist mass or batch production, opting instead for a more spontaneous approach – the evolving of ideas through the making process, be it cupboard or bridge. He has undertaken numerous residencies in schools, normally in conjunction with a specific commission, often incorporating elements of the children’s work into the finished piece.
(Quote taken from Artist’s own website, CLICK HERE)
Enginuity is the perfect setting for Jon’s work to be exhibited. It is a fabulous and fun environment that brings together history and technology. Different zones – Energy, Green and Design – encourage visitors to interact with exhibits which enhances their understanding of the science, technology, engineering and mathematics behind objects, past and present. This ‘hands-on’ approach works extremely well and creates a vibrant, educational space that has a cross-generational appeal.
Create ‘Sticky Critters’ at Enginuity – Easter Holidays, 29th March-14th April 2013
In my view, the educational facilities at Enginuity are quite some of the best I have seen offered by any Museum. They include a vast warehouse style area with plenty of space for you and your family to get creative. When I visited last month, the workshop area was full of objects, old and new, to help inspire your artistic endeavours.
During the Easter school holidays this year, Enginuity are hosting a great fun family event. Use your imagination to design and create fun ‘sticky critters’ from craft materials inspired by the suction capabilities of an octopus, then discover how long they can cling to an upright glass surface. Paper, card, plastic and other materials will be used to make the designs based on frogs, geckos and octopus or any other creature of your own invention. The drop-in Nature’s Engineers family workshops will be held from Friday 29th March until Sunday 14th April, between 10.30am and 3.45pm. Activities will vary from day-to-day and some additional costs will apply.
Museums at Night (Thursday 16 – Saturday 18 May 2013) – Julian Wild’s sculptures
Recently, The Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust, Shropshire beat-off stiff competition in the national Connect10 Competition, to secure international artist Julian Wild to work with the Ironbridge Gorge Museums during the Museums at Night event in May. The Connect10 Competition is supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England.
Museums at Night (Thursday 16 – Saturday 18 May 2013) is a national initiative by Culture 24 that encourages museums to remain open after hours for one night a year, allowing as many people as possible to visit their local museums. Across the country the public have been voting to send ten different artists to ten varied museums to work on a variety of inspirational projects.
Anna Brennand, Deputy Chief Executive Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust commented; “We are really grateful to everyone that voted for us in this competition, it is wonderful to know that in their busy lives our supporters found the time to vote for us. We are thrilled to be welcoming an artist of Julian Wild’s calibre to Enginuity in May and hope that everyone will come along to help him make an amazing sculpture from glow-in-the-dark pipes during the Museum at Night event”. The Museum will publish full details of the event in the coming weeks on www.ironbridge.org.uk.
Julian Wild’s sculptures are often based on the history of a site and resemble three-dimensional doodles. His vision for the sculpture at Enginuity is that members of the local community will help him create a giant work of art, inspired by structures in the Gorge, from pipes.
Ironbridge – 2012 Most Highly Recommended UNESCO World Heritage Site in the UK According to TripAdvisor®
On Come Step Back in Time, over the coming weeks, I am delighted to be able to share with you a series of fascinating feature articles that I have written about The Ironbridge World Heritage Site, its museums and world-class collections. Ironbridge Gorge has been voted the 2012 most highly recommended UNESCO World Heritage Site in the UK according to the TripAdvisor® traveller community. It also takes second place in the world behind the Historic Ensemble of the Potala Palace, Lhasa, China and ahead of the Egyptian Pyramids and India’s Taj Mahal. It was not hard to see why Ironbridge had received this accolade. When I visited last month I found it to be truly worthy of its status as a national heritage treasure.
- Enginuity is open 10am to 5pm and is one of the ten Ironbridge Gorge Museums;
- A great value Annual Passport Ticket allowing entry into all ten museums, valid for twelve months and unlimited return visits, costs £23.25 per adult, £18.75 for the 60 plus, £15.25 for students and children and £64 for a family of two adults and all their children aged up to 18 years in full-time education (terms and conditions apply); under 5s free;
- Individual museum entry tickets are also available;
- Activities and workshops vary day-to-day and some carry an extra charge in addition to the museum admission fee.