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Blacksmiths team up for Norfolk art

PUBLISHED: 07:30 05 October 2009 | UPDATED: 11:26 08 July 2010

Blacksmiths at Fransham Forge have been involved in making a sculpture of a stock fish rack.

Blacksmiths at Fransham Forge have been involved in making a sculpture of a stock fish rack.

Dominic Chessum

From plain old plaice to fantastical seahorses, starfish and rays, blacksmiths from across the UK and Europe came together at Fransham Forge on Saturday to play their part in creating a new, rather fishy, piece of public art.

From plain old plaice to fantastical seahorses, starfish and rays, blacksmiths from across the UK and Europe came together at Fransham Forge on Saturday to play their part in creating a new, rather fishy, piece of public art.

Within months, Kings Lynn's South Quay will once again have fish racks standing on the quayside littered with fish glinting in the sun.

But unlike in centuries past, when the racks would have been made of wood and the fish hung on them to dry, the two new racks will be made of metal- as will the fish.

The piece of inventive art has been months in the creation with hundreds of blacksmiths and hundreds more children playing a part in its production.

It was started at Lynn's Hanse Festival earlier this year, as the town celebrated its links with the medieval Hanseatic League.

Nigel Barnett, who runs Fransham Forge and is the man behind the project, said: "We were asked by the borough council to do a piece of public artwork to sit on South Quay.

"I could have done it as a private commission but I wanted to make it as part of the festival.

"The idea was to show people what you can make out of metal and to get young people involved in blacksmithing."

During the festival an 80ft-long tent was set up on the quayside and a team of blacksmiths helped bring children's creative ideas to reality in metal by creating fish and sea creatures from the youngsters' designs.

Children were also able to have a go at metal-bashing, thanks to a special portable forge Mr Barnett owns.

Following the festival, the sculpture was taken to Ironbridge, near Telford, where more blacksmiths added more underwater creatures before it was brought back to Norfolk.

"It has probably had input from more than 300 children and between 200 and 300 blacksmiths," continued Mr Barnett.

"It has all been done in conjunction with the British Artist Blacksmiths Association and has been a multi-national project."

On Saturday, local blacksmiths along with some from nations including France, Germany and Scotland sent sparks flying as they added more fish to the racks and Mr Barnett hopes the artwork will now be finished within weeks.

When finished, one of the stock racks will be topped with a specially forged metal seagull who will stare down at passers-by.

Drying food on racks is one of the oldest known methods of preservation. Before modern refrigeration and freezing was available, it meant that when large catches were made, fish which could not immediately be sold at market could be shipped elsewhere and also preserved for the stormy weather when it might not be possible to put to sea for a period of time.

Stock fish racks are still used the world over today but the sculptural racks to be placed on South Quay will be there only to remind people of the town's fishing heritage.

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