Travels With My Anvil – JHQ Commission

I have just loaded up my small Victorian bellows forge and little anvil plus approx half a ton of hand tools into a van that is now scurrying over to Germany.  Organising and sorting through my workshop to find the right tools to take to JHQ Monchengladbach for this project has taken far longer than I ever thought.

I have slight panic attacks about those precious tools going missing in transit but know I have another chapter for my children’s story book which i ought to get on and write soon!

The project for The Ark School at JHQ British combined Forces base at Rheindahlen is to commemorate the past 59 years of life on the camp and to give those people still residing there something positive to look forwards to as their futures are uncertain.  In particular

The children at The Ark School will be the focus for this project and they have already provided me with fantastic drawings of birds for our sculpture.  While I am on site for the next two weeks, we will be forging birds for their sculpture and making wire and foil birds with the youngest children.

I thought a lot about the language used whilst I was at JHQ
and the physical implications of the closure of the base and relocation of the
residents over the years.
I was very taken with the map of the world in school and
postcards sent back to school from children that have moved on. 
Nearly everyone I talked to, children and adults used the
word POST in their conversation; it was of course in reference to the place
they would be stationed next or before JHQ but it also resonates in a different
way for me.  I see it in some way as a
migration, the ‘flock’ of people stationed at JHQ moving on in a positive and
direct way.
I want to leave a little piece of British-ness behind in the
work and capture the international nature of the role of JHQ over the last half
century.  I also want to recognize the
vital role of old fashioned letters and postcards as the means by which people
communicated with each other – ‘blueys’ being a fantastic example and which may
become a colour link.
The physical act of writing on paper and posting in a box a
letter that will be transported by people across the world is still a special
thing.  It was also a crucial form of
communication when JHQ was first built.
 NO. 1
Melissa Cole February 2013
I want to make a sculpture that uses a Royal Mail post box
as its base, from the letter-box mouth will be steel lines in a flowing pattern
linking birds in flight together, swooping and playing above the box.
The children would design the birds and I will devise a way
of making the whole thing work.  With the
forge on site we would work on the birds and smaller linking steel work.  The main structural work would be done at my
The possibility of using the actual ER post box from the
base would be fantastic and it also makes it easier to have a free-standing
piece that has a big visual impact.  I
think it would be relatively straight forward to install the post box.  I would need to make an internal structure to
support and fix the art work to.  I would
love to have the JHQ official closure date as the ‘Last Post’ mark on the box.
More updates on my time at JHQ over the next couple of weeks will follow.

Leave a Comment