Icon chevron Back to Exhibitions

Gabriel Showell-Nicholas

Open movement ironware

My work explores the nature of displacement in forged metal.

The composition of steel changes at high temperatures, acquiring a clay-like plasticity.

When space is forged in, the surrounding mass flows outwards.

Due to infinite variables in free-hand forging, each movement of material is unique.

Open movement ironware exhibits a range of functional items displaying exclusive individuality.

Open movement ironware

I first started to forge vessels less than a year ago, inspired by the work of Stephen Yusko.

It was around the same time I became driven to explore forging on a more intuitive/tactile level.

I began to examine exactly how metal moves and came to realise that hot metal moves similarly to clay: It keeps its shape when left alone and squashes when under pressure. It was by studying ceramicists that I developed the process which became the backbone of my practice.

Clay can be moved with hands, however hot steel cannot, so I made small tools to manipulate the clay which replicated the tools used in the forge.

‘Why would a blacksmith bother mucking around with clay?’ You may ask… Unlike steel, clay is convenient and easy to work with. Testing possibilities in clay is quick, energy efficient and cheap, and proved to be a highly beneficial secondary medium in learning about forging.

Influenced by the writings of David Pye (theorising woodworker) and the Japanese philosophy of wabi-sabi, I began to forge more considered pieces and refine my own style of making.

David Pye uses the term “free workmanship” to describe an aesthetic value of handcrafted objects opposing industrial manufacturing. Free workmanship is characterised by marks left by the creators’ tools and techniques which are indexes of individuality. The philosophy of wabi-sabi similarly emphasises individuality through imperfection, transience and simplicity; it values objects that are humble and unpretentious and celebrates the natural world and the passage of time.

Simplicity in design and a pragmatic approach to forging are at the heart of this diverse selection of ironware.