While browsing your interesting catalogue of works of art in Ipswich*, I noticed that no. 46, a metal figure of flying swans, is unattributed. Actually they’re geese. It’s the work of artist blacksmith Paul Margetts. Paul has done work for me, which is how I know.

We’re in lockdown with time on our hands, and enough toilet rolls and flour to survive the isolation. What’s to prevent the tackling of an overdue garden sort out on the dead side of our house? Well, builder’s clay might be a discouragement, along with compound slopes and an antipathy for gardening. Solutions centred around hard landscaping, relieved by contemporary art. A few hours on Google led to a shortlist of people who were both creative and affordable. Paul Margetts was one such soul, with a portfolio of work which appeared suitable. We contacted him with a bit of an ask - could he deviate from an existing design enough to fabricate cormorants to flank Cormorant Drive, in place of geese. ‘Leave it with me’. I sent silhouette pictures of cormorants and two weeks later Paul said ‘yes’.

For a very affordable price increase, a unique sculpture was swiftly commissioned with a three months wait before completion. He’s a craftsman, so a modest delay was anticipated and came about. We used the time to dig, shift, saw and generally suffer in transforming the chaos of that ground, into order. Lockdown over, all that remained was a trip to Paul’s premises south of Birmingham, to collect the finished article.

Paul’s forge and his tiny courtyard form a crook in the narrow access road to his house, presenting something of a manoeuvring challenge. By way of compensation, he’s a very nice man.  Affable, coarse-handed and blackened by his trade, he’s everything that you’d expect a blacksmith to be. No spreading chestnut tree, but a lofty sculpture in lieu. Following his expert guidance on fitting the edifice into our SUV, we journeyed home, wondering how easy it would be to reverse the corkscrew method of fitting it in.

While collecting ours, Paul said that the geese were his most popular design. He had one there, which was probably 12 feet high. He makes the bigger ones with a hollow box section for stiffness. The wings are laser cut and the finished thing is dipped into molten zinc for galvanising.

Living on an estate, with a teenage element, we were sensitive to the possibility of prankish damage. A hole, deeper than needed, was filled with concrete topped with three protruding bolts. Two days later, the metal base slipped on onto our foundation, nuts were tightened, bolts trimmed and painted, and a bag of pebbles sprinkled around some artistically placed rocks. We’re pleased, compliments are voiced, there’s been no vandalism and the eyesore that the area once was, is no more.

As projects go, things went well. Not least because Paul did what he said he would, at the price agreed and pretty well on time. I’d buy from him again but for one thing – I never, ever want to move again!

Right now I’m project managing the acquisition and installation of a £10,000 work of art on our housing estate. We have a few murals in Stowmarket, but a shortage of statuary. As I’m sure that you are aware, Bury St Edmunds has quite a few. I can’t see Stowmarket catching up anytime soon.      

Jenny Davidson

Photographs: top – John Norman; Cormorant sculpture – Jenny Davidson.

[*The Public art in Ipswich booklet was distributed to members with the January 2021 Newsletter. It is available as a PDF download on this website –Ed.]

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