Once upon a time, sculptors carved wood or stone and cast models in bronze, but not any more. Today’s artists have a bewildering array of styles, techniques and materials at their disposal.
Steve Halward is one of those people. In 2009 I penned [I know!] one of my many stories about his remarkable talent. He collects the scrap metal bits and pieces detectorists discard, and using his special skill and talent produces exquisite forms.
The lead story in the January 2009 edition of The Searcher featured [what was then] the Northamptonshire based Central Searcher’s club. I mention this because one of the pictures showed the familiar and very large container with the legend, “Bin It – Not Bury It”, placed at the entrance to every field. Not only had gaffer Richard Evans, allowed Steve to pillage his bright yellow bins for bits, but has proved to be one of Steve’s most ardent supporters, suggesting projects and generally giving encouragement.
I first came across Steve when I saw him imploring detectorists not to throw away any of their unwanted finds. He was asking for any scraps (or bits and bobs as he put it) and specifically said that broken stuff was best – the more corroded the better! He even promised to leave a bucket by his car when attending organised digs, for people to discard their unloved and unwanted objects. Naturally, this strange plea resulted in comments like, “I can find you loads of rubbish if you will help dig it” and, “You can have my detector – I can’t find anything with it!”
We now know why Steve was offering to collect other’s rubbish. Some thought he was simply being ultra-environmentally friendly by removing it from the hedge to please the farmer. Or was he re-cycling the scrap metals, sorting them and making a little cash. After all, it’s the easiest thing in the world to do!
The prancing horse was one of Steve’s earlier creations made ten or more years ago. I remember, unlike previous models, this one was picture-documented from the beginning and I showed a number of the different stages of fabrication. In total there were 600 pieces in the construction. At the time of writing it was ‘sitting on the window sill toning in the sun!’
I know that landowners especially appreciate some of the works you see here, as they are unique to their property, often showing the history of the land. Steve says that he uses finds from fields he detects on to make an individual and personal piece.
To make such masterpieces, you don’t have to have special equipment. Steve sets out to use only the tools that ‘Mr. Average’ might keep in his garage – pliers, hacksaw, sandpaper, etcetera. For example, the replica flintlock pistol was made with just a hacksaw and pliers. Can you see the musket balls, spoon, buttons, buckles, grenade caps, hem-weights, farthings and all the other ‘whatsits’?
The pistol generated a lot of interest and positive comments. Steve made it to show how much you can do without having expensive tools and also the variety of scrap items used. He says that he will sometimes use a bench grinder with a small polishing mop or similar. Just shows what can be achieved from bits of crap from the rubbish bin and simple tools. One special ‘tool’ I haven’t mentioned, of course, is imagination, and Steve has that in abundance.
Often he will take a handful of bits from the rubbish bin and simply drop them on the table. (I suggest that if you ever try this, do this on the floor – could save a lot of trouble later!) The way they fall may be the catalyst for another masterpiece!
EXCALIBUR LETTER OPENER
Take the ‘Excalibur’ letter opener for example – nothing more than a six-inch nail in a piece of casting slag. The handle is made from two pieces of a Victorian penny, a small piece of broken military cap badge and a bit of old copper wire!
Finishing, according to Steve, can be anything to your taste. Certainly, items will need cleaned back to a surface that will accept adhesive, but the overall finish can be what you want it to be. Interestingly enough, sometimes the condition of the material doesn’t matter as you might be painting it when finished. So many things can be made. Some may be functional, like penholders or paperweights, whilst others can be purely decorative.
Steve maintains that a plus point from having to do all the preparation yourself is that you will gain experience and expertise when cleaning and preparing (what he calls) proper detecting artefacts. A plus point, perhaps.
I guess another big ‘advantage’ helping with his scrap creations is that since the age of twelve, Steve has worked with his father in sheet metalwork for the lighting trade. In that time he has made everything lighting brass work to spinning silver chalices for a church. This is a dying trade now. Whilst working with the company he ran the polishing and finishing section. Steve ruefully comments that some of the methods he uses for cleaning his detecting finds would make a lot of detectorists wince with fear. “As with most things”, he says, “it’s a lot about confidence”.
Here you see examples of Steve’s craftsmanship. Click on an image to make larger. Notice the barrel tap cleaned, lacquered and mounted on bits of old pallet, and the ‘shotty’ cap coaster. Steve said, “If I had a hundred of the coasters, I could sell them twice over.”
The Successful Detectorist
Steve has made display pieces for craft fairs and other places for over thirty years, polishing and finishing items that are already in good condition, but they have no real appeal to him. One thing he is proud of is winning the UKLA heritage award for his work for St. Bartholomew’s church in Leeds.
You may gather that he is more interested in things like buckles, buttons and horse decorations than hammered coins. He says that a coin can just be spent whereas items (such as those mentioned) carries its own unique story. As you would expect,he throws away very little of what he finds.
Steve considers himself a successful detectorist as that, (to him) is someone who has an interest in the history of what they find rather than monetary value. He reckons that if everyone at an organised dig were to show his or her finds at the end of the day, a whole historical timeline could be laid out for that piece of land.
Another thing he did was to encourage his children [when they were younger] to take items to school to show. “Children are fascinated to hold objects rather than look at pictures and teachers are always grateful when you send things on Victorian or Roman theme days.”
I think it is evident that Steve works very hard in keeping history alive – and one of the best ways is to get people talking about his unique works of art. The quote he uses most often is, “Something from Nothing; Imagination not Included!”
Gill and Richard Evans of Central Searchers have moved to pastures new and the yellow buckets with their discarded finds are no longer available for Steve to ‘pillage’. Yes, the yellow magic porridge potsare no more and he makes other arrangements. Golden Girl Nettie Edmundson helps retrieve scrap. Now you know where to send those shotty caps you keep finding.