Blacksmith hammers the competition to win Eastleigh public art commission

A new housing development in Eastleigh will soon be home to an exciting piece of public art designed and crafted by an internationally- celebrated blacksmith.

The project has been commissioned by Woodside Avenue Developments LLP – a joint venture between Eastleigh Borough Council and VIVID. The feature will take pride of place in Leah Gardens, a new development of 94 homes.

The winning proposal came from Guildford-based artist blacksmith Bex Simon. Bex beat strong competition from more than 50 artists, from places as far flung as Brazil and the US, to be awarded the sought after project.

Inspired by the allotments next to the site the winning design proposes a four-metre high garden fork, with laser cut panels reflecting elements of the surrounding landscape.

The artwork will be located on a new area of public open space, designed to support interaction between residents and increase usage of the area.

Speaking about the appointment, Bex, who recently created a 40-metre long piece of public art for Westminster Magistrates Court in London, said:

‘We are thrilled to have been chosen for this project.

‘When I read the brief, describing the link with the allotments, I was really intrigued to explore an idea around these diverse melting pots of personalities. To me, allotments have always resembled a patchwork, where individuals make their mark on their own strip of land, so each one says something about its owner.

‘Of course you can also expect a good helping of social politics bubbling away behind the sheds and fences, mixed with elements of escapism and quiet time. I really want to look further into these facets and see what we can dig up!’

As part of the project, Bex, her partner David Harris, and her team of highly-skilled Artist Blacksmiths will work with the local community, new residents and members of the allotment association to develop ideas for the artwork. They will also host a special community activity day, open to all, which will include blacksmith demonstrations in forging and laser cutting.

‘I always love designing and making art for public spaces, especially when we can get involved with the local communities,” explained Bex. “It’s great to be able to share our love for our craft with the community.

‘By bringing our mobile forge down and engaging directly with the local community in the design and making process, we hope that we will be able to bring people of Eastleigh together by getting involved. We want the local people to feel like it is their art. We hope that people will feel that the artwork represents the new residents, as well as creating a permanent link back to the allotments.’

Cllr Paul Bicknell, Eastleigh Borough Council’s Chair of Eastleigh Local Area Committee, said:

‘The new Woodside Avenue development demonstrates our commitment to investing in affordable housing for the people of Eastleigh. Our goal is to build, not just houses, but new communities with quality housing and public open spaces where people can thrive, prosper and call home.

‘This public artwork from Bex Simon will contribute to an active open space and will celebrate not only the site’s rich heritage but also its exciting beginnings as a newly forged community.’

VIVID Head of Development Julie Porter said:

‘We’re really pleased that Bex Simon has won the project. As well as building new homes, we build new communities, meeting the needs of residents, supporting their growth and wellbeing, both now and in the future. Art is a great way to bring a community to life and Bex’s artwork will be a great focal point which will grab the imagination of residents as they walk by.’

Work on the new artwork is scheduled to begin later this month (July); the finished piece is expected to be installed in January 2019.