Anthony asked Brian, “What have the Local Authority done to help you out of your predicament?” He replied: “They’ve ne’er gimme so much as a f***in lightbulb”. Inspiration indeed. The sculpture is a cast, of solid swarf, taken from a mould of a large lightbulb. The mould was positioned in front of the grindstone, and slowly filled up with swarf, as Brian worked. It took around two and a half months to fill.
What hope for the future of the grinding industry? Which way next for the Swarfhorse timeline?
The figure that emerges from the swarf, as if unearthed in an archaeological investigation, resembles the bodies cast in lava at Pompeii. Are we witnessing the scree-m of someone once buried alive by volcanic ash? Or is it the scree-m of a new born, a foetal harbinger of a potential rebirth?
The sculpture is carved from a block of swarf (the ultrafine grindings produced by the friction of metal on stone) which took around 12 months to be formed.
Before the foundations for The Electric Works were sunk, an archeological dig was carried out on the site by ARCUS, industrial archaeologists from The University of Sheffield. They unearthed an unusual, twisted, fragment of metal which had obviously been forged but whose identity was a mystery. Metallurgists established that the metal was Nimonic. ARCUS took the fragment to The Hawley Collection and Ken Hawley himself, the magisterial collector of hand tools. Ken recalled that in the early 1940’s, when he worked for his father at Pond Hill, adjacent to where the excavation had taken place, representatives from Rolls-Royce had been at renowned cutlers Joseph Rodgers, the firm who occupied the site before The Electric Works. He recalled that they were there to oversee the prototyping of the first Jet Engine blades, carried out by Rodgers’ forgers and grinders. An example of the unacknowledged role which Sheffield’s grinders have played in the creation of state of the art, ‘Cutting Edge’ technology.
Where are the mountains of swarf, hundreds of thousands of tons of which have been produced in the city, over hundreds of years? The answer is that there are none. Sheffield’s grinding industry is another example of the city’s fine tradition of recycling. The swarf was collected, and the grit separated from the metal grindings. The grit was taken to Leeds where it was used in the production of industrial hand cleanser, hence the trade-name ‘Swarfega’. The metal grindings were taken to Huddersfield, to Standard and Lion Fireworks, where they were employed in the making of Sparklers! Just how many kids have wished and wondered as they celebrated in their innocence, sparklers aloft, drawing on the heavens, magical roadmaps to the stars.