One to Watch is Bex Simon, artsmith and creative director of the eponymous company that specialises in metalwork with a difference...
Words by Emily Martin
Bex Simon, artsmith and creative director at Bex Simon, was first awarded a start-up business grant for her sculptural and metalwork business in 1999, but it was in 2010 that she joined forces with her chartered building surveyor husband to see what be could achieved with both their skill sets.
‘We had worked on a TV programme and I was expecting our first child,’ Simon recalls, ‘and it did take a while to get used to someone questioning my design ideas and processes.
We argue less now.’ Together they work on a range of public art projects, as commissioned by private clients, with Simon a trained and experienced blacksmith.
Kitchen accessories: The company has designed and produced a range of cast-iron kitchen accessories, inspired by the fluid shapes of the art nouveau movement. Each has been made using the traditional method of sand casting. ‘The Gaudí-inspired Pestle and Mortar was designed as part of BBC1’s High Street Dreams with Jo Malone, and this led on to the other products in the range,’ says Simon.
‘My first products were metal sculptural gates and garden accessories,’ says Simon. ‘I would exhibit regularly at RHS Chelsea Flower Show and RHS Hampton Court Flower Shows.’ A banister for a house near Brighton was her first commission, and remembers it as a terrifying but enjoyable experience. The company is about to launch a 40m-long public artwork piece, running the length of Westminster Magistrates Courts on Marylebone Road, London.
Lucy Cavendish College, Cambridge University: This gate and railing project took the design of the school’s shield as a starting point, to featured water lilies and nautilus shells as its central motif. Simon says: ‘As with many commissions the design went through a number of revisions to meet the client’s wishes. In this case, we learnt to take a harder line in future, to protect the integrity of the design.’
‘We also worked with offenders from a prison to make parts for a sculptural cityscape QR code that actually works with a smart phone QR code reader,’ she says. ‘The viewer will have the opportunity to see a video of all of us working in the workshop.’ The company has ambitions to produce more large-scale public artworks with an ultimate dream goal of working with Zaha Hadid Architects. ‘She [Hadid], to me, feels like GaudÍ’s contemporary.’
Copperfield Bench in copper and steel: ‘I love this bench,’ says Simon. ‘This was not a commission but something we did while filling in time while filming something for Channel 4.’ The bench forms part of a small collection of pieces, designed to deceive the eye; it adopts the visual of something soft and inviting and it’s not until on closer inspection that the user realises it is in fact hard, forged metal.