It started with a noise. When I was a student at the West of England College of Art, there was a mysterious phenomenon known as the ‘Bristol boom’. People didn’t know what it was, but it eventually transpired that they were testing the engines destined for Concorde.
A few years later I watched the plane come in to land at Filton: its long nose and fuselage emerging from behind a copse of trees, a field of horses taking no notice – either they were deaf or used to it – and many people stopping by the side of the road to watch. It was an incredible sight. Later still, when Concorde was in service, it would pass over my studio every day. If I heard its distinctive roar, I would rush outside to look up at that silver dart heading for New York.
For me Concorde still exists. It is so beautifully refined, so exciting and futuristic, its form deceptively simple
So Concorde became a passion of mine. I can’t talk about it in the past tense; for me it still exists. It is so beautifully refined, so exciting and futuristic, its form deceptively simple. I have made many pointed sculptures that have an essence of Concorde. Some people might see its shape as sharp or dangerous or aggressive – and again, the same has been said of some of my sculptures – but Concorde’s pointed nose is that way for a reason: to pierce the air, to help the plane thrust itself through space. I think the nose of Concorde is especially elegant – the way it tips downwards and lifts up during take off and on landing.
I have always been fascinated by aeroplanes and by engineering. My parents used to take me round aeronautical factories when I was a child; it goes back to that. And one grandfather of mine was a watchmaker, the other a farrier – so there is metal in my genes. I like working metal, all the filing, grinding and refining. Concorde is an exquisite piece of engineering that captures a spirit of adventure in its svelte body. It is a work of art, a kind of flying sculpture (though not the kind you throw across the studio because you can’t get it right). Its visual expression of speed is something I find thrilling: it really looks like it’s going to go fast. I just love that plane.