After a lovely night staying at The Broomhill Art Hotel we awoke to the sound of heavy rain outside! Fortunately after a hearty breakfast the clouds lifted and we could continue the installation. First we bailed out some water from the hole to help us work on the base. Then I checked if the base was still level. It was perfect, so I attached the steel support sleeves and main props in a collapsed position. With the help of Paul the groundsman we fitted the aluminium tube lattice inside the sleeve supports and I attached all seven zimmer frames using pre-made brackets.
Then it was time to raise the structure! I had designed the sculpture to pivot at the base so that we could lift it to a 70 degree angle from the ground, before swinging the two main props into position to support it. This went smoothly with the help of Paul and Rinus. We then bolted the props to the base and attached two side props. Then we just needed to fill the hole with earth again. Unfortunately the mini digger had been taken away so we had to do it all by hand! After a mammoth effort by Paul, my parents and myself we had the base covered with earth and logs. The end result looks as I had wished, with the structure appearing to rise up from the earth into the sky.
I would like to thank the following people for their help with this project; Rinus and Aniet Van de Sande for their hospitality and for creating such an amazing venue to exhibit art. Fred Farleigh and Paul for their help to install the sculpture. My parents Keith and Dorothy Dixon for being excellent helpers and for all their on going positive support. And lastly my wife Louise for her endless support and motivation.
Prior to the installation, I had asked Rinus, joint owner and curator at Broomhill, to arrange the excavation of a hole in which to place the steel base. The base is 2×2 metres and has 1.5 metre props rising up from it which support the sculpture. Therefore to make sure we could conceal the base and make the sculpture appear to emerge from the ground we needed to dig a big hole! Rinus kindly took care of this and booked a mini digger.
When we arrived we viewed the site Rinus had chosen for the sculpture. It is in a beautiful location surrounded by trees, and next to a pretty stream. It has a tranquil atmosphere which compliments the work. Unfortunately the water table is high as the land is all reclaimed marsh. So the hole was about 30cm deep in water! I had planned to create some concrete footings so we decided to bail out the hole to see if we could set some quick drying cement in the bottom.
The hole proved to be filling up too quick to create cement footings, but the bottom was firm so I opted to raise the base up slightly on blocks and paving slabs. I assembled the base and decided to wait until the following day to start attaching the props just in case we had to correct the levels due to settlement over night. We made our way up to the Broomhill Art Hotel where Rinus and his wife Aniet were kindly letting us stay for the night.
Here are some images of my test assembly at home. It was a nervous time as I had no certainty how the structure would behave, and it had to be erected only metres from my house! As it turned out my design and construction worked well and the weight was well balanced. I have since widened the base and added some side props. I have also reinforced the inside of the aluminium tubes where they exit the sleeve supports at the base. Everything is now in pieces and tomorrow it will all be taken to Broomhill for installation. I am excited to see how it looks in location!
My head has been feeling much like the metal in this vice of late. Ever since getting the confirmation that I had been selected the pressure has been on. As my mother says ‘you work best under pressure’ and I do like the challenge. I work a nine to five job, so the sculpture has to be made in my spare time. Over the last two and a half months I have spent every evening and day off working away in my shed workshop and now my body is feeling the effects! All hobbies, socializing and life beyond art has been temporarily lost. But I hope it will be worth it. I have done so much construction of component parts, the photos don’t really show the overall picture. But things are coming together.I wanted to attach the Zimmer frames to the aluminium tubes without compromising strength with drill holes. So I have shaped twenty eight individual aluminium brackets, fourteen to clamp around the tubes and fourteen to join the zimmer frames to each other.It is ironic really, that the part of this sculpture which has taken most of my time to construct, will be hidden in the ground. The base pictured here is missing some additional side supports which I have since made. It plays a crucial role to hold everything in the air, so it has been time well spent. It has numerous plates and attachments welded to it, numerous holes and parts bolted together. Everything is designed so that I can deconstruct it, transport it, and re-assemble it at Broomhill.
One of my many jobs has been to deconstruct each Zimmer frame and to replace all the fixings with stainless steel. The Zimmer frames are not designed to be left outside and they use mild steel threaded inserts and screws which were already showing signs of rusting. I have replaced all of these with stainless steel allen bolts and nylok nuts.
The first Zimmer frame is loosely attached, giving an impression of how it will look. I have opted for cross bracing between the aluminium tubes to help support the structure. The finished piece will have seven Zimmer frames on it, rising up into the air at a seventy degree angle from the ground (much steeper than in these pictures).
I have spent some time constructing supports for the Aluminium tubes to hold them at a 70 degree angle. I have had to design the supports to be adjustable to correct any unevenness of ground and pivotable so as to be able to construct the sculpture at ground level, before raising it upwards. I have up sized the materials and fixings considerably along the way as I have discovered the engineering challenge of holding the sculpture up. Hopefully most of the base will be concealed once the sculpture has been installed at Broomhill. The base is still being modified and added to as things take shape. I am now turning my attention to the aluminium tubes and methods to reinforce them.
After publicising my sculpture on social media, my friend contacted me with this image. Coincidentally, she too had discovered Zimmer frames at the recycling centre. She had also felt the emotions that I had felt, upon this discovery. She had taken this photograph to document the experience. Thank you for this Holly Russell.