Sculpture: a fabrication is a research and development project by artist Nicola Ellis.

Utilising practical research to inform new sculptural works, the project explores the processes inherent in the production of large-scale public sculpture, the artist/fabricator dynamic and how the artist’s hand can be present in elements of sculpture fabricated by others.

It builds on the research and relationships developed during a previous research project Play/pause: the turbulent history of UK steel, in which she spent time on large-scale industrial steel sites and within steel communities.

Ellis is conducting site visits to UK-based steel fabricators who specialise in the production of large-scale sculptural work by internationally renowned artists.

Using these site visits as technical inspiration, Ellis will be testing new works in progress in three exhibitions in Manchester, Altrincham and Blackpool throughout the project.

Three public talks by guest speakers – which will each address different technical, conceptual and social issues inherent within public sculpture – will be announced shortly.

Sculpture: a fabrication is an Arts Council England funded project and is produced by Mark Devereux Projects.



Transfuse: Three weeks of sculpture is the first opportunity I will have to start practically grappling with some ideas generated by my research so far, particularly in terms of the role of found/acquired materials in my work to date and their combination with newly fabricated elements/materials. I will be in good company chewing this matter over, along with the overlapping interests of artists Paul Bramley, Polly du Cros and Alyson Olson who will also be taking part in the short residency/exhibition.


Vital info/Press release:

TRANSFUSE: Three weeks of sculpture at The Great Medical Disaster

Paul Bramley
Nicola Ellis
Alyson Olson
Polly du Cros

20/09/17 – 11/10/17

Four artists will take up residence at The Great Medical Disaster to make sculpture in response to the internal architecture of the space.

Developing a dialogue between each practice, they will discuss mutual motivations of process, materiality, Arte Povera and the Baroque.

You are welcome to view and discuss the works at the open event on 05/10/17 6.30 – 9.30pm or by appointment until 11/10/17.

New Art Spaces
Castlefield Gallery’s New Art Spaces (NAS) is an initiative to create dynamic project spaces for artists, artist collectives and artist development agencies. Making use of temporary vacant retail, office and light industrial units, NAS provides opportunities for emerging creatives to incubate their practices, produce work and showcase new art to local communities. Currently CG runs New Art Spaces in Bolton, Leigh and Manchester City Centre.

Transfuse: three weeks of sculpture at The Great Medical Disaster is associated with Sculpture: a fabrication, Nicola Ellis’ current ACE funded research and development project produced by Mark Devereux Projects. For more information about the project, please follow the link below:




GSS Fabrication

(The image above isn’t mine- I borrowed it from the GSS website as I was too excited during my tour to remember to take a photo)


KelsenTechnical LTD



Scott Associates Sculpture and Design



Old school fabrications



There are numerous existing websites that do an excellent job of explaining the set up of each of these fabrication houses, and many other, so I will try to avoid repeating any of that in this blog. Likewise for future posts that relate to fab facility research visits. I will however note a few things not included in those online resources that have been of particular interest.

GSS had a lot more technology driven processes than I expected, alongside the more manually operated plethora of  tools, machinery and facilities. CAD is king when you are into perverse levels of accuracy and efficiency.

As you’d imagine, any business that continues to develop and succeed over time positions itself within a landscape of other businesses offering similar or complimentary services. During my visits to each of the four fab houses, I discovered at least one recent case in which they had some kid of involvement with one of the other three. This might be in the form of one team installing a work on a particular site because they are better placed to do so than the team that produced the object. Another example would be outsourcing a particular process as part of a larger build. Therefore keeping the operations at both ends of the job efficient and allowing the general workflow at each facilities headquarters moving smoothly. Cooperation makes things possible, keeps the client happy and creates a network in which each facilities specialism/setup can compliment the others. It also helps when each team is really good at what they do and maintain excellent communication with all parties involved.

Making small and extremely accurate things for other people is hard, so I’m told- and I believe it. I spend a bit of time around the steel profiling industry, scrounging materials and basically any kind of service I can access for free. My works that are made within/from matter found within this industry have never really been highly polished or accurate in terms of a specific design. They are allowed to be as the material/environment is, rough, robust and a bit filthy. Any kind of gentler action resulting in more intimate and polished work is generally carried out one, two or ten steps removed from this environment, in my studio. Although nothing excites me more than matter that has been knocked about by large industrial scale forces, I have had a glorious slap in the face this week with facilities to produce the most accurately designed/fabricated objects. Almost repellingly spot on. Maybe that  says more about my approach to wrangling material than anything.

Time to embrace both sides of the coin?








Skulpture Project Munster gets it right.

10 years preparation well spent in between each of its iterations. Many of the public works commissioned by the project continue their life in the public realm after the official 100 days of the festival, making Munster an extremely clean and beautiful city where people live among a constantly accumulating (very) public collection of sculptural works.