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Contour Seat Commission 2016

Russell Jakubowski

Last year I worked with Surrey Hills Arts and completed a commission to design and build a bench seat at a spectacular viewpoint along the Greensands Way in the Surrey Hills - on top of Reynards Hill in the Hurtwood.

The Greensands Way was formed over 65 million years ago and is the result of a great cycle of marine sedimentation that lasted until the end of the Cretaceous period. At that time the land lay at the bottom of a shallow sea. The action of the ocean currents in the past, the layers of sedimentation, contours of the land and the visible forms and cycles of nature inspired my design.

I have worked extensively with composite laminated shapes in my work and this geological history, natural landscape and mineral and OS mapping were an obvious source of inspiration. I designed a dynamic abstract form to lay under a functional sitting platform.

An important aspect of this commission was to realise in three dimensions exactly what I designed in two. The creative design work took a matter of hours, the physical engineering of the seat took weeks.

I needed to machine 1,872 holes positioned to a tolerance of 0.25mm and mill out 48 sheets of plastic so that some matched perfectly but the next group accurately graded to the next contour.

To make the work durable and robust in this exposed location I used recycled plastic and marine grade stainless steel. So it will not rot, rust or change colour and is virtually maintenance free.

In this era of waste I think it is important to conserve energy and natural resources where possible. So I am delighted to have had the opportunity to be creative with this much maligned but very useful material. And it is also thought provoking to consider that this plastic (made from oil) also has ancient origins and may have been being formed at the same time as the landscape it now sits in.

The words - made from recycled plastic - are inscribed on the seat, but you have to look hard to find them.

Part of my brief was to engage the local community and I ran sculpture workshops with local schools in the Cranleigh area.

This was lovely. It was so very refreshing to call the schools and offer sculpture workshops for the students that were paid for by the commission. Particularly now when time in the curriculum and the funding for arts is so squeezed. I worked with about 140 school children in all, each person making an original sculpture. Exposing young people to new materials and ways of making is so rewarding and it always throws up things I wouldn’t have thought of doing. They really enjoy it, and you can’t do it with a mobile phone.

The commission was very inspiring and I am still working through ideas that arose from both the workshops and the fabrication of the seat.

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