Iron Age bronze working

We had such fun at the final public event for the Clachtoll Broch project.


Uist Corrigan (who is now at Edinburgh College of Art) joined me and some local folk and volunteer archaeologists. (That’s Uist keeping an eye on the furnace)


We had the bellows from SSW and built the furnace using local clay, sand and horse dung.


glencanispfurnaceaWe had some local charcoal courtesy of Chris (although most of it came from the Chinese wholesalers in Dundee). Heather Fulton took loads of photos, some of which I’m using here.

We started before dusk and did the final copper smelt of the project.


Just about everyone helped with the bellows, it’s not so easy, but it’s sociable, thanks all who joined in.

We cast the two community bronzes which were lost wax cast.


This is burning out the wax.


Pouring the bronze and, below checking out the crucible for the next pour.


One of the bronzes was a bear foot print, designed by Bill.


I had spent the previous week preparing the waxes, adding runners and risers and then  dipping them in a clay slurry mix to build up layers of mould which was then finished by enclosing in a cob clay with a pouring funnel.


We kept the furnace going (and the bellow workers) to pour the last bronzes – One closed oil sand 2-part mould, an open sand box with local sand and clay mix; and a closed 2-part mould (although we ran out of bronze in the end)


Most people went up to hear Gordon’s talk, but I’d promised Mandy Haggith that we’d try a copper alloy. So we switched to the hand blower to melt the copper, including from the local smelting, and added some tin grain to get a very local bronze alloy.

The open sand mould was Roz’s bird over waves design; and the closed one Stuart’s panda:-

The next morning I said goodbye to the Art Studio for 2018 and headed back to my studio to finish the final bronzes.


My thanks to everyone for making the Clachtoll broch art project such good fun.


Clachtoll Art Project – Bronze community sculpture

The other piece that I’ve been working on is a community sculpture.

Eighteen children from Lochinver primary have prepared designs and tried their hand at wax carving using local beeswax.


Most of the children also did sand piece-moulds to cast metals beads which we then made up into nettle-stringed necklaces. Thank-you to the people who supported me with this workshop.


I then cleaned up the waxes so that they would cast well; and using the same method as the children (2 part sand moulds), I cast the first sixteen mini sculptures in bronze. I have been cleaning these – cutting of the running system, filing them back, sanding and polishing them.


The Ullapool High school children who came to the broch helped run a copper smelt. The copper from that smelt was added to the bronze used for these mini sculptures. The high school pupils also cast pewter pieces using clay models that they had designed themselves.

The community sculpture has been growing with local people making mini sculptures.

groupmouldiiAt a public event on Stoer field we smelted some more copper, which will be used in casting these waxes in bronze (thanks, Nigel, Fiona and Boyd)

Many of the dig volunteers and other people involved with the broch have added their designs, so I have a further 24 waxes cleaned and prepared for casting.


The discussion on where they may be installed continues, but I hope they can be affixed to bedrock in a safe place near the broch.

The final public event at Glen Canisp on 16th November 2018 will be to cast the final waxes for the sculpture (including copper from the public smelt). We also have a special request to demonstrate the alloying of copper with tin to give bronze. I hope to have more details of the event planning soon.


Clachtoll Broch – rock and fallen rock

lintelsfallenMy first impressions of the broch were of the majesty of the stonework and the rock bed that it is built on; and of the disorder of stones that had been part of the broch which fire, sea and time had scattered.


The bedrock falls to the sea and some of the stones from the broch have fallen this way. The archaeologists say that the broch collapsed in on itself , because the slope of the bedrock made the construction unstable. The recent work on the broch has included structural support and repair to the lintels to re-stabilise the building without embellishment. The work also included moving tonnes of fallen rock from within the building. This was all done by hand as there is no vehicular access to the site.

The stone double wall of the broch that once towered above the surrounding landscape has been in ruins since the time of Christ.


This mini re-cap gives some of the reasoning behind my decision to create an iron piece that is cast from one of the lintels at the site. It is still not certain that I will be able to do this this season as the weather seems to have turned autumnal, but that is the plan. I’ll keep you posted.


Clachtoll Broch Art Project – Proposal

This is an extract from my Clachtoll Broch Art project proposal, which was selected by a local panel (out of more than 40 applicants):-

“I would be making a sculpture or series of small metal pieces using traditional casting techniques and working on site as far as practicable. This would mean that the local community could join in throughout the process. The people who lived in the broch would have needed to work together and I think it important that the togetherness of this project to date is reflected in the final work”


This is the broch the day before the summer dig finished. (I know this as the lintel has not been put back in place). This is the main entrance with a triangular lintel stone.

The project application continues:-

“I work sustainably with materials from my local landscape, such as malachite scavenged from the edges of old copper mines. My work is inspired and informed by traditional processes, bringing us closer to the landscape and lives lived on the land.

I have also developed my practice so that I can work in the landscape. The ancient making processes that I am rediscovering allow me to work as a pre-industrial maker would.

My pieces are domestic in scale using non-precious metal. Their character arises from the process of making and from age, patina and wear: suggesting solitude and liberation from a material world – a simpler life.”


This is the inside of the broch that has been excavated. The lintel on one of the cell windows is broken and has had structural support added.


Clachtoll Broch post 1

I have just started work on the Clachtoll Broch Art Project.

I have come to Assynt for a few days now (still working on Stone to Bowl) to make contacts, experience the place and continue thinking about design and outputs.

looking backThis is the evening view from the broch over towards Assynt

Summer 2018 excavations ended today, so it was a good chance to meet people and set up meetings.

beachnbrochThis is the view towards the broch from Stoer beach

beachStoer beach

The broch was lived in by Iron Age people for a few centuries, but has been in disrepair for a long time. The dry stone engineering required to make a broch several metres high on sloping bedrock site proved very challenging. Much of last year was spent making it safe before excavating the main area and some side chambers.