Kelly, Rod (2 of 5) National Life Stories Collection: Crafts' Lives

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  • Subjects

    Metal work

  • Recording date

    2011-09-07, 2011-10-05, 2011-10-27, 2012-07-19, 2012-10-12

  • Interviewees

    Kelly, Rod (speaker, male)

  • Interviewers

    Wright, Elizabeth (speaker, female)

  • Abstract

    Part 2: Brothers' names Russ [RK] and Geoff [GK]; looking forward to them coming home from university; being spoilt by GK, the middle brother; mention that RK was a "mistake"; water-filled rocket brought home from university by GK for RK; other gifts including a Space Hopper. RK's interest in the mechanics of things; taking bicycles apart; chemicals in father's shed; taking an alarm clock apart; using a soldering iron to fix a radio; ability to imitate movements; learning skills through watching, including knitting by hand and on mother's knitting machine; interest in archery. Astonishment at change in self at age 17; sudden ability to make things and draw. Passion for football until the age of about 16; autograph signed by George Best; father's uncle who played for Everton; letter from Liverpool Football Club inviting RK to go for a trial. [0:10:26] Story about using footballing reflexes to save a silver and gold beaker from hitting the ground; training at Preston North End; realisation at age 16 that RK was unlikely to be successful as a football player; seeing illustrations by Gustav Dore in the Telegraph Sunday supplement; interest in art beginning at around this time; studying Technical Drawing at school; beginning to draw at home; decision to pursue a creative career. [0:14:23] Mother's background as a dressmaker in Durham; clothes made by her; feelings about homemade clothes; mention of learning to use a sewing machine. [0:15:41] [Pause] Further comments about using treadle sewing machine; being given first pair of Levi jeans aged 16 or 17; sewing patches onto these; comments about wearing the same Levi 501 ‘Shrink-to-Fit’ jeans today, purchased from St Louis, Missouri in batches of ten. Influence of move from the South to the North of England; football as a passport to ease this transition; details of football playing routine at weekends as a boy. Becoming aware of art after beginning Foundation course; not visiting galleries prior to this; memories of Harris Museum in Preston; opportunity to experiment during Foundation Course. [0:20:57] Being given first pair of Levi jeans by a family friend; process by which the denim fades and becomes softer; romantic view of America; description of using knee during process of caulking; annealing work using sulphuric acid; effects of these processes on clothing. Watching Western films with father as a child; believing this image of America; cycling from Seattle to New York with wife, Sheila [Sheila McDonald] [SM], after leaving the RCA; travelling through Montana and Wyoming; shops in Montana; clothes worn by people there. [0:30:54] Mother's name Agnes, known by her middle name, Jean; her career as a nurse; memories of her cycling to work night shifts at the weekend; eating bacon, egg and beans cooked by father on Saturdays; mother's interest in art; access to art before the internet; visual stimulus from surroundings. Importance of patience within RK's work in contrast to lack of patience in other areas of life; father's advice about doing a job properly. Father's interest in fishing; description of making fishing rods; being given the skills to do things well by activities such as this. Making first metal object, a bracelet; comments from tutor about this; feeling at home using metal; creating a brass key to fit a moneybox; showing this during interview for Birmingham. [0:43:40] Looking at old house in Reading on Google Maps; helping mother to wallpaper the house; rugs in each room; mention of wood stove in the kitchen; record player built by father; records including Motown artists; games including bagatelle made for RK by father. Sofas and chairs that were covered in a gold-coloured fabric supplied by father's friend, Johnny Mapson, who had been a professional goalkeeper; mention of not being allowed to sit on the sofas after this; mother's pride in the house versus father's interest in the garden. Financial constraints on the family with brothers away at university; big leather trunks in which their belongings were sent to university; contrast with son's current life at Leicester University. [0:51:45] RK's bedroom in Reading; bunk beds; creating a pulley system to play tricks on brother while he was in bed; other tricks and games played at home. Pencils from Her Majesty's Stationary Department at the AWRE; eye for the design of football boots; preference for Puma boots due to the logo; lacing boots; looking back for signs of creativity. [0:56:24] Consequences of having a birthday close to Christmas; memory of brother getting a scooter; respect for older people, perhaps due to the influence of older brothers. Visits from Auntie Audrey and Uncle Jack, who would drive from the North East in a van with borrowed tyres; visits from Grandma, who came by coach. Traditional family Christmas Day; Christmas meal; Sunday roasts. Good relationship with parents; lack of teenage angst; feeling homesick initially at Birmingham; bleakness of Birmingham; short story about travelling home by motorbike on A roads. Enthusiasm for Three-Dimensional Design course at Birmingham; feeling in awe of a recent graduate who had received a first class degree; ex-student Freddie Behr, a furniture maker; looking up to more experienced makers including Jacqueline Mina [JM], Michael Rowe, Michael Lloyd, Kevin Coates [KC] and MA. Influence of ‘Maker's Eye’ exhibition; visits to metalwork exhibitions at the City Museum in Birmingham; speaking to John Makepiece, who came to lecture in 1977. Coming second in a competition to design an award for Birmingham University; description of this award; quotation from Charles Rennie Mackintosh engraved on the piece. Process of maturing during Birmingham course; beginning to do low relief chasing during third year; chasing first piece of copper during Easter holidays in final year; realisation that this was what RK liked to do. Developing this at RCA due to one-to-one tuition from Richard Price [RP], who was invited by GB and MR specifically to teach RK; discussions with RP about chasing tree designs; making pitch with him that RK still uses; making chasing tools with him. Importance of this grounding; reflection on lack of technique taught at art schools today. [1:21:40] Original use of pitch, known as Swedish pitch, for sealing the decks of ships; using pitch to support metal for chasing. [1:23:05] Getting lost at Spaghetti Junction when travelling to Birmingham for the first time; living in a city for the first time; feeling overwhelmed. Enjoying the department but not the city; walking between departments in the rain on Friday afternoons; apprentices’ attitude towards BA students. Learning spinning and lettering, taught by Cyril Shiner [CS] on Friday afternoons; use of Letraset by designers at this time; attempting to use a template for lettering; problems with this; process of learning to draw the alphabet; importance of this skill; developing own graphic style. [1:32:12] Style of lettering used by RK; preference for Roman lettering; description of this style; Medieval lettering used by William Morris; handwriting; preference for Parker fountain pen; change in RK's handwriting; being able to write letters that stand out. Fountain pen bought as a gift for RK by SM; benefits of artistic license when writing.

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