In the height of summer, the biennial Fresh Air exhibition showcased an eclectic mix of works of both HCA students, local and nationally acclaimed artists. Fresh Air Sculpture prides itself on showcasing and selling bespoke and unique sculptural works within a beautiful natural setting.

Taking place in the extensive flourishing gardens of Quenington Old Rectory, the exhibition ran from the 16 of June – the 7 of July, providing the guests with plenty of time to roam the grounds to explore and examine the 130 contemporary works on display. 2017’s show attracted over 11,000 visitors and was hugely successful in terms of creating connections for emerging young artists and making sculptural artworks more assessable to the general public.

Set up by art collectors David and Lucy Abel-Smith it had its first show in 1992 and further advanced to become a charitable trust in 1998. Since then it has become an inspirational high profile event within the contemporary art world, drawing together a diverse and influential audience.

Our (soon to be graduating) Artist Blacksmithing degree student, Jacob Edwards was awarded The Netherton prize for most promising student for his outstanding metal work. His forged bench with a wide top wedged surface is comprised of Galvanised and Stainless steel with Silicon Bronze fixtures, measuring up to (1200 x 300 x 460mm), it has earned a rightful and fitting space at the Fresh Air Sculpture 2019.

Jacob’s piece places emphasis on craftsmanship, materiality and production, he said “The main feature is the way that the metal is connected to each other – focussing on the joinery and making of the decoration, rather than putting on decoration that doesn’t have a function. All parts have a part to play.” As an artist blacksmith, Jacob uses traditional techniques to comment on ideas of production and purpose of the made object within a contemporary context.

The piece can be taken apart, flat packed and reassembled easily. This modular architecture allows for components to be changed without affecting the rest of the design structure – making it a commercially viable product.

When asked how well the piece is likely to weather and change with the seasons, he responded “The piece will withstand footfall and last in people’s garden. A galvanised finish is guaranteed for 25 years and much longer. Colour may change slightly but largely stay the same. Stainless steel won’t change. Silicon bronze wedges will weather to a mixed green/dark copper which will make them stand out more.”

Lucy Abel-Smith (pictued above) presented the award and a prize of £500, stating that “This is a well-earned prize. I am delighted to hand over The Netherton Prize for the best piece and most promising student. Many congratulations”.

The production of these bespoke and truly unique works via permeant materials highlights the importance of the continuing relationship between traditional technique and craft practise within a developing disposable world.