This time last year we undertook an epic journey, driving our 93 Fiat Panda (which had previously been off the road for some time) from Manchester to Saint Petersburg and back. Along the way it was great to see the changes in architectural styles, going up through Sweden and Finland, in to Russia, then back through the Baltics and Northern Europe.
Obviously we have a special interest in decorative metalwork (for which Saint Petersburg certainly did not disappoint), especially weathervanes. Though there were some great examples on the whole trip (some of which I may get round to posting on here one day), especially on the Russian Orthodox churches, one place really stood out for weathervanes and that was Gdansk.
We only spent 2 nights in Gdansk but it is definitely on the list of places we would love to revisit and spend more time. Its historic centre was virtually levelled during the Second World War and faced with the choice of recreating the original town or starting afresh the decision was made to rebuild, based on historic photos, documents and plans. They did make some changes to make the buildings more practical, indeed the roads now have bigger public garden spaces between them. By drawing rooms level in neighbouring buildings more practical flats were created and on top of all of these reconstructions are dated weathervanes!
Weathervane fitted to medieval crane in Gdansk
On the docks one of the most recognisable landmarks of Gdansk is the medieval crane, and it has this iconic weathervane on top. It is unusual in Gdansk as most of the weathervanes are the more traditional banner types, seen in the image below.
Traditional banner style weathervanes in Gdansk
I think this is a great way to recognise the dates that the buildings were completed, a weathervane is in my opinion the perfect way to top off a new building in style.
Look what somebody brought to our workshop today!! A 1930’s Morgan three wheeler. Beautiful car, the owner has had it since the late sixties. Our four wheeled Morgan design has been quite popular recently; the photo above is the latest addition to our gallery – a small swinging sign mounted above a garage in Cheshire. I took loads of photos of this amazing car today, with the intention of creating a design for a weathervane or sign as soon as I get time. I’m not sure how it will look with only three wheels so I took photos from every angle – I definitely want the engine at the front to be clearly visible, but then not being able to see the full length of the car might look odd. Will have to see what works best!
I came across several of these fantastic Obelisks in the gardens of Capesthorne Hall in Cheshire. It’s so elegant and unique without being over the top. A really beautiful and effective design – it reminds me of a Roman pillar or something. And here’s a photo sent in by a customer of their Obelisk weathervane. There’s a fox on top but we could use any design. You can buy so many standard looking cheap Obelisks in any garden centre – we wanted to be a little different so went for the hexagonal shape which curves gently into the weathervane top. Obelisks are a great way to add a bit of height and decoration to your garden, and we think the more unique and personal the better.
This beautiful stately home in Cheshire is where we spent our weekend. Despite being a really busy event, it was far from being our most successful show, but we have taken a few orders and will be working on some new bespoke metalwork designs over the next few days. We exhibited our classic car weathervanes here over summer where we were rained on all day, so was nice to be inside a heated marquee. Orders include an Alsation House Sign, a miniature swinging sign with our black fox logo design, and another bespoke house name plate with the design yet to be decided. I managed to have a quick look around the grounds this weekend, I’m glad I did because there is some fantastic Ironwork. These gates are a bit over the top for my personal taste – there can’t be many houses grand enough to suit them, but the amount of work that must have gone into them is very impressive.
I also managed to make a lot of progress with some of the hand painted farm and business signs we’re working on at the moment – the paint dried much quicker here than it has been doing in our freezing cold workshop!
I’ve recently re discovered a couple of books I had when I was at college studying animation. They’re by a Victorian photographer called Eadweard Muybridge, who studied the movement of people and animals. They consist of a series of photographs of animals in every stage of motion and are a fantastic resource for my design work, really glad I found them again! I have been working on a design for a bespoke pub sign involving a horse and cart, and I want to have a hops & barley design going around the Horse & Cart. There is still quite a lot of work still to do but we’re really excited to see it finished -think it could become one of our favourites. I’ve also used these books this week to produce designs for an elephant weathervane.
Black Fox have been up in Edinburgh this week. I noticed a lot of weathervanes, all in this banner style. They all looked like cast iron and like they had been there for a very long time. Many of them don’t have cardinal points (NSEW). Couldn’t get a decent photo myself as the zoom on my camera isn’t good enough but heres some images i found on the Scottish Ironwork website (edit 2019, no longer online).
This week I am going to work on designs for our own banner weathervane, following this traditional idea but adding elements of our own distinctive style.
Black Fox are keen to expand our range of Art Deco inspired metalwork. Inspired by the classic design of the Morgan car, we began experimenting with this distinctive style. Beginning in Paris in the 1920’s, the Art Deco movement spread worldwide throughout the 1930’s and into the 40’s, influencing all areas of design from graphics to architecture. The geometric elements of this style clearly take inspiration from Cubism and Futurism, while I think also retaining the elegance of Art Nouveau.
It is this combination of elegance with decorative geometric shapes that I think makes Art Deco metalwork so stylish. Here’s a few images that I feel have influenced Black Fox’s range of weathervanes, hanging basket brackets, window boxes and swinging signs. Please check out the Art Deco designs in our online shop.
In particular if you look at the stamp image above, you can see how this classic sun motif inspired us to design and create our Art Deco hanging basket bracket.
Black Fox is currently selling through ‘Not on the High Street’ as well as our own online shop. We are now looking for small independent retailers who may be interested in stocking our metalcraft products, for example florists, garden centres and gift shops. If anyone is interested in arranging a meeting to view a small selection of our weathervanes, house signs and hanging basket brackets in person, please ring 0161 681 4293 or send us an email – firstname.lastname@example.org. We are always happy to hear from you!
We are looking forward to our trip to Edinburgh this week, and hope to be able to make contact with small businesses who share our passion for beautiful metalwork designs!
“Hundreds of carved figures and pieces of old scrap perform an incredible choreography to haunting music and synchronised light, telling the funny and tragic stories of the human spirit as it struggles against the relentless circles of life and death.”
I went to this exhibition in Glasgow several years ago, it was one of the most important things that inspired me to get into metalwork. Its a kinetic theatre performance of mechanical sculptures made from scrap metal based on stories and myths from old Russia. Here is a link to the official website. The artist is Eduard Bersudsky, absolute genius. He has also created a giant mechanical clock in the Edinburgh museum, in the same style and theme as this but on a much larger scale.
At black fox we’re really interested in working with scrap metal, i think we could produce some really interesting garden sculptures. Phiz found an abandoned bike wheel yesterday, maybe this could be the start of something!