Memorial to a dear friend.
Today was the day I installed the memorial made to the memory of a dear friend. Michael (Mike) Heward had been the Best man at my marriage to Sue. His wife, Denise, had been Sue's Maid of Honour. My friendship to both Mike and Denise started when I started teaching in 1980, along with Denise.Sue's friendship with them began in 1982, when she joined us teaching at the same school. Together with other colleagues both Sue and I became members of a very close knit group of friends who saw each other every day and often socialised together in the evenings and weekends. When Denise asked me to make a sculpture, as a memorial to Mike, that would allow her to place his ashes in close proximity, I had no hesitation in agreeing.
I pondered for a while as to what form the sculpture might take. It seemed essential that it should, in some way, reflect something of the friend I knew. Mike was a quiet, intelligent man whose company I enjoyed immensely. We spent many hours 'putting the world to rights' and I always valued his opinions, for they were always 'on point'. Despite knowing his political affiliations, Mike was a very private man who rarely talked of his personal feelings despite being a very caring and sensitive man.
Denise had made it clear that she was happy for me to decide upon the form that the sculpture might take. This meant that there were a great many considerations to be made. Should the sculpture be figurative or abstract ? What materials should be used to make the sculpture and what should the final work be made of ? What I was sure about was that the work needed to be robust enough to withstand all climactic conditions as it was to be sited in the garden which Mike and Denise had created together.
I visited Denise to see where she was going to place the sculpture. She was in the process of reconfiguring a section of the garden around an ornamental pond that she and Mike had created. The area was close to the house and could be seen from the living room through the glazed double doors, as well as from the outside patio. Denise explained that she wanted the landscape materials to harmonise with the sculpture and the pedestal upon which it would stand. The visit gave me a clear idea of the scale of the sculpture and so I just needed to determine an appropriate form.
Given that the sculpture had to relate to Mike I compiled a list of relevant information. There was a vast amount of details that I listed and could have used but I eventually whittled them down to the fact that he was a Yorkshireman, born in Heckmondwike, and was a keen Huddersfield Town FC supporter. The letter 'H' for Heward (his surname) Heckmondwike, and Huddersfield seemed an obvious connection that I could use as the basis of the form of the sculpture. I determined to insert the letter within a circular disk to represent the circle of life (Mike was not a religious man). Huddersfield Town play in blue and white and I wondered whether I might be able to incorporate their colours into the sculpture.
After making a few sketched ideas of the 'H' within a circle I decided that the traditional dry stone walling seen commonly in Yorkshire could also be employed. To this end I made a full size model.
I shared the photograph of the model with Denise and explained how I had arrived at the form. She was delighted with it and so I began to refine the idea. This required consideration of all sides of the sculpture. I wanted the separate stone structure to be visible on all sides but wanted to make the 'H' more obvious. To this end I determined to include a bronze frame around the perimeter of the front and back of the sculpture. This would also allow for a blue patination of the bronze that could contrast with a light coloured Portland stone suggesting the colours of Huddrsfield Town.
The model with a simulated bronze frame was completed prior to mould making.
The sculptural form made the mould-making relatively simple, allowing for a simple two piece silicone rubber mould with a Jesmonite and glass fibre jacket.
The silicone mould, once opened, was filled with Jesmonite Bronze for the frame and with Jesmonie Portland Stone for the main body of the form. This was reinforced with 2 layers of Quadaxial matting and then the two halves were joined together and the seam reinforced with another pour of Portland Stone.
Once set the outer jacket was removed and the silicone rubber 'peeled away' to reveal the weatherproof sculpture. The bronze frame was abraded with 000 steel wool and then patinated with acid to provide a weathered blue patination.
At this point I again provided Denise with photographs of the sculpture and provided an itemised invoice for the cost of materials. We discussed the requirements for the pedestal and once again she asked me to source what I thought best.
Having exhibited work at Chilstone I determined to source a pedestal from them. I took the top section of the pedestal with me and asked for the two other sections to be delivered to Denise. They were very professional and the pedestal was delivered within the week in order that it could be put in place prior to my delivery of the sculpture.
Once I had the top section of the pedestal in the studio I was able to drill it to take the stainless steel threaded rods to be used to secure the sculpture. These were aligned with the holes in the bottom of the sculpture. Once this was completed expanding rigid polyurethane foam was poured into the sculpture to fill the void and this was then drilled again to create snug spaces for the long stainless steel rods.
Circumstances caused a little delay in the delivery of the sculpture but when the time came I had three pairs of helping hands for the installation. We travelled with the packaged sculpture and the pedestal top. The fixing of the sculpture to the top of the pedestal on site went smoothly. We then carried them, securely fixed, to the pedestal base, avoiding damage to the white Yorkshire roses and lavender that Denise had planted around the site.
Denise and I were both delighted with the result. She has created a beautiful setting for the memorial sculpture. I had agreed to make the work for the cost of materials only but Denise was kind enough to present me with a cheque for which I was most grateful.