9 September 2019

Tony with installed sculptureWHY A SYCAMORE SEED SCULPTURE?

Thanks goes to Helen Rose, Specialist Nurse Organ Donation who commissioned us, and who immediately informed us about Yeovil’s long association with the helicopter industry. She was aware of how we utilise poignant and appropriate metaphors linked to nature to describe organ donation. Sycamore seeds are often known as helicopters because of the way they spiral down to earth, their movement similar to helicopter blades. We visited the hospital to view potential sites for an artwork and decided an indoor sculpture was the most appropriate. We came up with two concepts for an indoor sculpture in various finishes. When we presented our proposals to the organ donation steering group a verdigris version of a single sycamore seed was chosen.

02-Sculpture-with-Joe-Helen-Karen-TonyDESIGN AND ARTWORK

Having collected and ‘squirreled’ away many inspirational items from nature over the years, I was able to search out a few sycamore seeds and with a magnifying glass analyse the structure. I sketched out my first designs, then redrew a number of times, simplifying and stylising the structure before computer rendering the finished art. I chose a decorative Art Nouveau style to depict the patterning in the ‘blade’ of the seed, thickening out veins to include relevant wording.

03-My-collection-of-items-from-natureORGAN DONATION WORDING

The whole purpose of creating this sculpture was to provide an eye-catching and dramatic reminder of the importance of organ donation, and also to act as an uplifting memorial to organ donors. The wall artwork behind the sculpture features the thoughts of donor families and recipients. We also included a few words about the relevance of the sycamore seed to Yeovil and the project title, ‘the Gift of Life’. The seed sculpture itself contains uplifting words of encouragement for donors and recipients.


The metal chosen to construct the seed was copper as this is known to naturally turn verdigris over many years. It took time to research ways to complete the sculpture and more importantly who was going to construct it! We commissioned and worked closely with a specialist waterjet cutters and metal fabricators to cut, weld and finish the 5mm thick copper seed, and the stainless steel plinth structure to our design.

Our computer rendered artwork for the ‘blade’ of the sycamore seed was loaded directly into their CAD software to be cut out precisely with their waterjet cutter. This process was amazing to see but as it took some hours to complete we only travelled over to witness the final stage!

05-Waterjet-cutting-the-'blade'SPINNING THE SEEDS

In order to create the 400mm diameter sphere at the base of the seed sculpture, two sheets of 5mm copper were first cut into circular shapes and then formed around a solid steel hemisphere in a highly skilled traditional process called spinning. We commissioned a specialist metal spinner and were there to record the process as part of documenting on how the sculpture was made. The process entailed heavy machinery, using a blow torch to heat the metal then plunging into water; very similar processes to a blacksmith’s foundry – and very exciting to watch!


07-Spinning-the-seed-stage2FIXING THE BLADE TO THE SEED

This stage was completed in the metal fabricators workshop and what a talented team they are! They welded the components together and then finished the sycamore seed so that all seams were invisible.

08-Fixing-the-'blade'-to-the-seedAPPLYING THE VERDIGRIS

Verdigris is the natural patina formed when copper is weathered and exposed to air over time. But, this very beautiful finish can be attained sooner by the expert usage of particular chemicals.

In the weeks leading up to the construction of the sculpture, Tony spent time experimenting on small sections of copper with a variety of chemicals and techniques to attain just the right finish. This meant that when the structure of the copper sycamore seed was complete he was confident that he could create the verdigris patination with precision. The sculpture was then finished with a clear satin acrylic sealer before being fitted (temporarily) to its stainless steel circular base.

09-Patination-of-the-sculptureINSTALLATION OF THE SCULPTURE

Installing artwork in a busy working hospital always has its problems. We resolve these problems by working at a time of day when there are less comings and goings, and this usually is in the evening and throughout the night. Unfortunately we needed to do some noisy drilling and knew this was essential to be completed before 8pm! All went very smoothly, the whole process planned expertly alongside our very knowledgeable and highly skilled installer, who we have worked with for years.

10-Installation-wrapped-in-cling-filmUNVELING THE SYCAMORE SEED SCULPTURE

The first week of September is Organ Donation Week, where there are many events held in hospitals around the UK that primarily brings to attention the importance of organ donation. A number of families were invited to an unveiling event held in the Yeovil District Hospital at 3pm on Tuesday 3 September. These families had all lost a loved family member and chose to selflessly donate their organs in order to bring a new life for others. The Clinical Lead for Organ Donation, Jo Tyrrell, gave an emotive speech at the official unveiling of the sculpture, followed by a further informative speech by Chief Executive, Jonathan Higman.