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24 September 2014
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Child wearing gloves and an apron

Getting a lesson in the art of metal work

Children at Raddlebarn Primary school were given a lesson in the traditional art of metal work by Jon Mills, who's undertaken the task of designing and building new centenary gates for the school.


Jon Mills, a world renowned Birmingham born sculptor and metal worker, has been commissioned to design and build gates that will border Raddlebarn Primary School and Muntz Park, to celebrate the school’s 100th anniversary.

Kieran and Katherine
Kieran and Katherine show off their work

The park was originally owned by the Muntz family who made their fortune in the steel industry, so metal gates made by using a traditional craft seemed to be appropriate for the project.

The gates are being designed to reflect the school building and will incorporate work created by the children themselves.

Kids get designing

When the school knew they’d secured Jon to work on the gates, the children were asked to draw pictures of the local park wildlife. Simon Bass, one of the teachers at the school and the head teacher, Fiona Chamberlain, selected the designs that would be made up by Jon and incorporated into the gate.

Jon demonstrating metal work
Jon demonstrates the skill of metal work

Each child whose design was picked got to work with Jon. They could also choose a friend to work on their design with them. This meant that twelve children in each year group were chosen to do practical work with Jon.

The other children in the school could watch demonstrations at play times and were also given after school demonstrations.

The school needs the new gates to enable children to access Muntz park safely from the playground.

Children's designs
Some of the children's designs

However this was also an ideal opportunity to show the children a practical task and a traditional skill where they will be able to see the results on a day to day basis. It is an experience that will stay with them for a long time.

Creative imaginations!

Jon said: "I’ve set up a small workshop in the playground, the kids are all making their own little objects associated with park life next to the school and I’m going to incorporate the things we’ve made this week into the gates and railing.

"Well, that’s the general idea – though of course the ideas move along a bit when we get them in here. We’ve got lizards playing tennis and worms sliding down slides – a bit of imagination as well."

Edward making his design

The children’s pieces will be incorporated in the workshop, then the whole thing will need to be powdered coated and galvanised to make sure its secure – and not rust.

Jon will be back on site to supervise the fitting of the gate.

A lot of the funding for the gates has been raised within the school, from governments grants, local organisations – from a variety of sources.

What did the children think of their experience?

Joely Ford: "I loved the sparks!"

Ayman Choudry: "It was really, really fun. I've never done anything like it before and probably never will again, so it was great!"

Matthew and Ayman show off their metal work
Matthew and Ayman show off their design

Matthew Beale: "I thought using the Plasma Cutter was awesome - I felt like I was in Star Wars."

Edward Rea: "It was excellent. I loved the noise and the sparks and the fact that I'd made something really different."

All of the children who took part in the metal workshop thoroughly enjoyed the experience. And just think how much pride they'll have in years to come when they walk past the school and can point out the pieces of work they helped to design and create.

Take a look at the gallery on the right side of the page to see more of the children at work and some of their designs>>>

To find out more about Jon and his work, see Jon Mill's feature on the right hand side of the page>>>

last updated: 10/05/05
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