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In this, the first of what I am hoping will eventually become a small series of pages about some of the more interesting characters seen about town in Ross-on-Wye, I would like to introduce Alan Ross.

For some time, not knowing who he was, I had seen Alan riding around on the most amazing looking bikes. Being something of a 'professional cyclist' myself by virtue of the fact that I am a postman, and having a rather ordinary looking Raleigh cycle of my own I had often been curious about his machines but afraid to ask where they came from. My curiosity about the bikes was eventually satisfied when we happened to meet one evening at the home of a mutual friend, Siggy Haynes. I discovered that Alan makes the bikes himself, from scrap cycle parts, and not only that - he is a sculptor in metal as well.

On this page I have included a photograph of Alan, which I took myself at the Ross Carnival prize presentation along with his own photographs of some of his artistic works.

Alan is willing to undertake commissions and enjoys the challenge of turning somebody else's ideas into a reality, often with surprising results for both parties. He is happy to be contacted by email and willing to forward more photos to people who are interested. He can also show people his work in the flesh, if they are in town. Tel: 01989 563153 to arrange a viewing.

Below the photographs, Alan himself describes his interests. Please enjoy finding out about Alan Ross and his wonderful creations . . .

Alan Ross, Ross-on-Wye
Alan Ross, having been presented with a prize for his cycle display at Ross Town Carnival in August 2003.

Alan Ross Sculptural Metalworker

I have been working in metal now for just over two years, prior to this I had been working in wood and making kites. Both of these are activities that I have been taking part in for a number of years and had started to feel very stale in. My long term interest in cycling led to me looking at working in metal to find an outlet for my creative urges. The next thing my partner had sent me on a night class in Gas welding and Brazing. At the end of my first lesson I was hooked.

I tapped up my folks, Brian and Margaret Gopsill for the cash to set myself up with the basic kit for welding and I was off. I did not have a clue what I was going to do, I just new that 'It' had to be done, whatever 'It' was. This was just over two years ago, and I look back and find it hard to believe just how far my work has come and wonder where 'It' is going to go in the next few years.

The welding class I took had no artistic content at all being aimed at basic fabrication and car restoration. Because of this I have had to find my own style and adapt what are in effect purely industrial techniques for use in an artistic manner. I use three main techniques; Oxyacetylene welding in which acetylene and oxygen are burned to produce a flame of about 3,000c in which ferrous metals melt and hence are welded together. Brazing, a similar technique except that a Brass filler rod is melted into the joint effectively sticking the pieces together. The third approach I use is the more modern technique of MIG welding, in which a thin steel wire is melted into the parent metal via an electrical Arc and protected by a shield of Argon gas.

MIG welding is probably the method I use the most as it is very versatile and can be misused to good effect. Most of the surface textures on my work are a result of the MIG process. It is, as a method frowned upon among traditional metalworkers and gallery owners for reasons I do not really understand, but possibly due to it's lack of a history and tradition and maybe the fact that it is a fairly easy technique learn the basics of.

I have developed three main styles of work and combine these to suit the piece I am working on.

I initially started out using so called 'Found Items' as I had a supply of worn out bike components mostly made of steel on which to practise my basic joins and as my skills developed I found that I had an 'eye' for seeing the unorthodox in the everyday, for example a dinosaur in a bike chain or a centipede in a typewriter. This is an area that has always interested me: to see the link between modern-day mechanics and nature. And to see how easily one can be substituted for the other, my favourite example of this effect being backbones and drive chains. I also enjoy using old tools as components for example pliers as jaws, or antique cutlery as feet or other body parts. I like the idea of somebody looking at a piece of work twenty times before seeing what it actually is, or in fact was.

I next moved onto the age old techniques of panel beating in which flat shapes are cut out and hammered into and around things to create hollow forms. A method I found suited to modelling shelled creatures as crabs or fishes with their simple flowing forms.

My most recent style is based on use of MIG welding equipment. And basically involves roughing out a shape in steel using off cuts and bits and pieces to create almost a sketch, prior to over welding the whole surface so that the artist is in effect painting in three dimensions with molten steel. A very satisfying technique to use as one is not so much forming an object into something else but rather forming a chaos of molten steel into a solid shape and controlling what are really quite vile and satanic forces as part of the process.

Ross-on-Wye Rat Patrol - Out on the Weekend


Photography, video and web design copyright © Alan J. Wood, All rights reserved.