DOUBLE HONOUR – COMMISSION FOR LATE QUEEN ELIZABETH II

PRESS RELEASE JULY 2024

In 2022 Melissa Cole was been chosen by The Worshipful Company of Blacksmiths to design and make a unique gift for Queen Elizabeth II to celebrate and commemorate the Platinum Jubilee. 

The hand drawn design was presented and approved by Queen Elizabeth II in June 2022 and a permanent home for the sculpture has now been announced. You can see this piece be in the Little Banqueting House Volerie Garden near Barge Walk at Hampton Court Palace.

“As a working artist blacksmith, I designed a piece that would work in a garden setting and that was of a scale that could work in any room of a garden, lawn or terrace. I was thinking of the Rose Garden at Buckingham Palace that the late queen so enjoyed. 

I wanted this commission to reflect the work of a modern blacksmith whilst drawing upon historic design influences and using traditional forging techniques. 

The design of the bird bath enables the use of contemporary techniques available to me to create beautiful decorative ironwork.  Although the Queen, herself, approved the design I am saddened that she was unable to see the finished work.

The Commissioner

The opportunity to showcase 21st Century blacksmithing in a new piece of decorative ironwork for Queen Elizabeth II was presented to Melissa in 2021 as an idea from the then Prime Warden, Jim Cook.

With an extensive brief to design a new piece of work to commemorate the 450th year since the granting of the first Royal Charter to The Worshipful Company of Blacksmiths in 1571, Melissa studied the history surrounding the Livery company’s heritage and their links to Queen Elizabeth I and her own connection to Queen Elizabeth II before finalising a decorative birdbath for the royal gardens.

Inspiration

Drawing inspiration from the Queen Elizabeth I brooch of 1574 depicting the phoenix, the decorative forms made by the plumes of smoke in the sliver brooch evolved into evocative swirls to form the base of the work.

The use of historic scroll forms is associated with traditional blacksmithing and connects this piece to the history of the craft and the skills taught to generations of blacksmiths. 

As the forged lines transition from the horizontal base to the vertical, they depict the flames from both the forge and the phoenix’s fire and regeneration.

With seven flowing tail feathers representing seven decades of reign, they transition into the branches of an oak tree which represents our recognisable natural countryside, longevity and strength. The finished piece is 125cm tall.

Suspended within the branches of the oak tree, the bowl of water represents life and is formed from copper with a laser cut stainless steel rim with filigree design details taken from the Imperial Crown.  

From above the work looks like a rosette. The elliptical shape of the bowl with ribbons also represents prizes given now by The Worshipful Company of Blacksmiths at county show forging competitions and to horses and riders in equestrian competitions and events.  There is also a personal association from the artist to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and a recognition of her love of horses and showing Fell ponies.

Traditional skills and modern making combined

“This piece was an honour for me to have been asked to create, I am proud of the work the Worshipful Company of Blacksmiths does to promote our craft. 

 I would like to thank the company for asking me to make it and to thank HB Designs for helping me with CAD work and Altex Engineering for laser cutting and etching the bowl rim.  

I have always had the support of friends and family through my 30 year blacksmithing career and it is lovely for them to see a piece of this importance among my commissioned works.”  

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