MASTER CRAFTSMAN JAMES VIRGO SCULPTOR

Virgo came from an engineering background. When he left school at 16 he went straight into foundry work learning how to make sand castings in a small foundry in South East London.  Over the years he worked my way into management working for a couple of larger foundries.

In 1999 Virgo decided to start his own creative casting business making work to clients specifications and also designing and casting his own unique products.  His designs come from life experience, a sight, a smell or even a piece of music that inspires him in his designs.  Virgo has a story for every product idea he has ever made.

Virgo’s  work can be seen in many countries around the world and in many major buildings such as Buckingham Palace (Garden Bench) and Westminster Abbey (ensigns).

Read more about Virgo’s inspirations below:

I am an engineer, artist and inventor and I roll all of these professions into one to invent and sculpt new products in a unique way – from the smallest pieces of jewellery to street furniture. I specialise in cast bronze designs.

‘The melting of bronze, the metal poured, the sand in the mould and the art in mould making all represent the creativity and wonder of art’

Self taught or apprenticeship?

I am a self taught artist and I served an apprenticeship in foundry work before managing a couple of foundries. I didn’t want t get stuck in a rut because I had too many ides for sculpture and design rolling around in my head so I set up my own business in a small foundry in 1999. my ideas come from a life experience, a sight, a smell or even a piece of music inspire me in my work. I have a story for every design I have made. I have had high profile commissions including a bench for Buckingham Palace garden and ensign posts for Westminster Abbey. I have also worked with the late great architect Sir Antony Haro.

What piece of art would you like to own and why?

If I could own a piece of art it would be anything by Lorenzo Quinn as I love the movement in his work.

Describe your style

My style is classical as seen in the lamp stand and the coat hangers. I am also making a series of products for an interior design company in north London. These include bronze coat hooks, kitchen pan hooks, shelf brackets and plate stands from old train luggage racks.

Where are your favourite places to view art?

Any London Gallery. They are always surprising. I made a sculpture ‘Changing London’ which I submitted for the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition 2016. The inspiration was the building works that are going on and mainly the river Thames. The building blocks are cast in the same shape as the view of the Thames between Deptford and Westminster.

Favourite sculptors?

Lorenzo Quinn. Also internationally renowned sculptors Guy Portelli,http://www.portelli-sculptor.co.uk and Charles Westgarth,http://www.charleswestgarth.com . I have worked with Guy to produce a commemorative piece to mark the 950th Anniversary of the Battle of Hastings. It takes pride of place on a roundabout in Battle and was installed on the 28th September the day of the battle and it was unveiled last November. It has been designed by Battle resident Kenneth Higgs and a small version of it has been made.

I have also worked with Patricia Lovett,http://www.patricialovett.com an illuminator, scribe and calligrapher to produce a wonderful piece called ‘Apples of Gold in Pictures of Silver’).

Who or what inspires your work?

A sight or smell inspires my work especially when I am on holiday.

Where is your place of work and what is it like?

My foundry is a small jobbing foundry in south London quite untidy but eye catching.

What are you working on currently?

I am the only designer of cast bronze bow ties. The idea came to me when I met up with a friend over Christmas 2014. He was wearing a patterned bow tie and as I had already cast a handbag in bronze I thought this would be a fantastic product. I researched the market and discovered that no one had done this before so I went ahead.

The standard model is cast in bronze and then sanded and polished. Colours are made by adding chemicals ( patination) and the silver model is cast in bronze and then coated in silver.

Making Sand Moulds

A frame is put down on a board or floor and the object or pattern to be made is placed inside. Sieved sand is poured over it followed by unsieved sand and then it is packed in hard (ramming). The sand is levelled off and turned over revealing the object. Another frame is put over this and the process is repeated. The two frames are separated from each other ( a top frame and a bottom frame).
The object is removed from the sand. A hole is made in the top and a channel made so the metal can flow into the shape of the object.
The mould is then closed together and metal poured in forming the object. For the bow ties they are made in aluminium and then this is used as the pattern for casting them in bronze.

These great works of art which combine art, fashion and sculpture can be made to order and make wonderful accessories for weddings or black tie events and can reflect hobbies or interests.

I am taking part in a fashion show run by Gem Media Events, www.gemmediaevents.com  in Milton Keynes on the 7th April 2017 where I hope to showcase my new designs.

What makes my job exciting and rewarding is knowing that it pleases many people. Also knowing that for many jobs I’ve produced the clients have been told it’s impossible to make and the fact that bronze gets better looking as it ages.

Where can we buy your work?

For all commissions please contact me at http://www.jamesvirgoartwork.co.uk

What are your ambitions?

My ambition is to invent new products and art and help others along the way.

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