Hearing Voices – sculpture for Weaver Hall Museum


In 2014, I was commissioned by the Weaver Hall Museum to design and make a sculpture to be installed in front of their building on the busy London Road. The aim of this commission was to draw public attention to the museum and at the same time represent its history and the museum’s collection.

The museum itself is a former workhouse. It shaped the lives of those who came to live and work here and it is their voices that the museum aims to make heard by today’s audience.

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the old workhouse lock and key

Workhouse Bed

Iron beds in the Northwich Workhouse on London Rd were similar to these

So, where to start?

The brief required a work of art with ‘impact’ and ‘kerb appeal’.

Early ideas started to take shape in the form of sketches, small card macquettes and photomontages to consider scale, position, potential forms, colour in relation to the context, etc.

Weaver Hall early ideas

slender forms

 

Folded forms
I was working on shapes whilst thinking about pages of history; the mothers and fathers turning into tired old people and their unfortunate children who lived and worked here – their personal identities and family relationships lost to the workhouse system. Blank canvases, ghosts, bones, haunting voices calling out to have their story heard…..

Weaver Hall model 1IMG_1715

 

model 2, Weaver Hall Museum

Eventually, following consultation with the client and interested friends of the museum, we settled on this idea. Two ‘figures’, one cold and hardened, the other softer, revealing inner layers.

IMG_1731 weaver hall model

 

Next, experimentation for the mosaic surfacing….

 

136_0660Then, scaling up and making templates for the mild steel figure in the sculpture – for which I was grateful to receive expert help from Rob at Nuttall Packaging in Trafford Park.
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I checked it out on site to see how the scale worked:

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and then it was time to get busy making the other figure in the studio:

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I built up several layers of glass reinforced cement onto the armature, having first fixed a layer of ‘expa-met’ – expanded metal mesh inside the grid mesh that was welded to the frame. Finally, I worked ‘ancient graffiti’ images into the neat top layer, directly copied from the contributions provided by museum visitors.

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 Here are some of the drawings contributed that you can pick out on in the finished work:

 

The ‘Northwich Voices’ sculpture was installed on a gloriously sunny 4th September 2014.

 

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