Artist galvanised by steel challenge

Ancon Galvanize project partners, l-r:  Mir Jansen, vice-chairman of Galvanize; Annabelle Wilson, marketing manager at Ancon Building Products; Clare Starkie, curator of the Metalwork Gallery at Museums Sheffield; Paul Fisher, production and project manager at Ancon Building Products and artist David Appleyard
Ancon Galvanize project partners, l-r: Mir Jansen, vice-chairman of Galvanize; Annabelle Wilson, marketing manager at Ancon Building Products; Clare Starkie, curator of the Metalwork Gallery at Museums Sheffield; Paul Fisher, production and project manager at Ancon Building Products and artist David Appleyard
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Ancon Building Products has joined forces with local designer David Appleyard to create a unique seat for Sheffield’s Millennium Gallery to mark the centenary of the discovery of stainless steel.

The two were brought together by Galvanise, the Sheffield-based festival of contemporary metal.

Ancon can trace its history back to 1882 and is one of Sheffield’s longest established steel fabrication businesses, specialising in more recent years in making innovative products for the construction industry.

David, meanwhile, has a studio at Yorkshire Artspace.

During the spring, he worked with Museums Sheffield to gain inspiration for the design of the new seat, hosting two sessions in the Millennium Gallery’s Metalwork Collection where he talked with visitors about their favourite objects.

Between May and October, David worked closely with Ancon production engineer, Paul Fisher, to create the piece at Ancon’s manufacturing facility.

In addition to providing the materials, Ancon also helped David to learn a new way of working.

“Normally my work develops in conjunction with research I do on the context for my artworks or designed products,” said David.

“As ideas develop into drawings I start to discuss methods of realising a project with a range of manufacturers. This time I had to work the other way round, the concept developed directly alongside visits to Ancon and by developing a clearer understanding about their in-house expertise and production capabilities.

“What we produced was very much a collaboration. Paul Fisher’s amazing knowledge of the properties of stainless steel proved invaluable in making the design work.”

Paul Fisher also found the experience rewarding,

“For me, this was a big change from my normal work supplying large construction sites,” said Paul.

“I am usually charged with responding to clients’ specific requirements, whereas here I was fortunate to be able to have a direct influence on the finished design.

“This project made me think differently about stainless steel. Ancon’s products are structural, so normally hidden. I don’t worry about ‘aesthetics’ and ‘form’, things that product designers tend to focus on. I really enjoyed working with David and discussing how products can function well and look beautiful.”

The stainless steel bench will be located in the Millennium Gallery’s entrance.

Galvanize also plans to exhibit a replica of the piece at several international design shows during 2014 to promote the festival to a wider audience.

Galvanise chairman and immediate past Master Cutler, Neil MacDonald, said: “As well as having a responsibility to preserve and nurture traditional skills in Sheffield we also need to pioneer new ways to use the skills we have here to design and manufacture new products.”