Hard Graft was conceived in response to the invitation to contribute to Printing Sheffield 3D, an exhibition at Catalyst festival.
A number of years ago I met the remaining ‘littler mesters’ working around Sheffield. This engagement led to a number of creative projects, one of which ‘SWARFHORSE’, a significant exposition of many artworks, in varied media, created with ‘grinder’ Brian Alcock, which were shown simultaneously at venues around Sheffield, and exhibited together at Millenium Gallery in summer 2013.
Concurrently, I resolved to cast the hands of the remaining Mesters holding their respective tools. The idea was to mould and ‘lifecast’ the hands to create plaster casts, which would form an archive. The idea behind this was/is to wait till a time when 3D scanning technology, and 3D reproduction technology could reproduce the hands in high quality, in various scales and materials, to create public art celebrating these individuals and their trades. Perhaps there will be an opportunity to create huge stone reproductions which could be sited/incorporated into future building or landscaping projects.
To this end, recently, I made enquiries as to the current state of the scanning industry. I discovered and approached Ten24, a scanning company in Sheffield. They produce 3D scan files for international clients and media giants such as FIFA and Disney Pixar. Together, we formulated a project entitled ‘Digitally Dextrous’, to employ Augmented Reality and Geomapping technology to create a virtual version of my aspiration to represent the casts on a huge scale in the Urban Realm.
When Nick Bax and Ian Gwilt presented the opportunity to create an artwork for Printing Sheffield 3D, I recalled a discussion I had years ago with the Pro VC of Social Sciences at the University of Sheffield, who was intrigued by my Mesters exploits. Our discussion was about ‘intergenerational discourse’, and possibilities to create artworks exploring the theme. Opportunity to create such didn’t occur at the time, so I am delighted to create a work in the ‘Catalyst’ and ‘Year of Making’ context. The artwork is illustrated above. The handcast here, is the right hand of Trevor Ablett, reknowned pocket knife maker, who died recently, aged 73. Trevor was in fact the ‘last’ pocket knife maker in Great Britain. His particular trade, and practice, died with him. ‘Hard graft’ evokes a tragedy, perhaps. Or maybe signals the potential, necessity indeed, for intergenerational discourse in todays Sheffield, the City of Makers.