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Nigel swaps his angling gear for a metal sculptor's welding kit

By This is Cornwall  |  Posted: April 12, 2011

Nigel Wills

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A once-devoted sea angler who gave up the job he loved has used his passion for fish to create artwork.

Penryn metal sculptor Nigel Wills now has a large collection of sculpted Cornish fish, each made from pieces of old car bodies or any other scrap metal he sees.

"I haven't sold one yet, but I suppose I will have to as I can't fill up the whole house with metal fish," he said.

Having displayed his work at a recent show he may devote more time to what began as a hobby. Remarkable replicas of many species like mackerel, John Dory, pollack, garfish and red gurnard have taken many hours to make, with tools little grander than a mig-welder, a wooden block plus a series of hammers and mallets.

Much of his research on shapes, sizes and colours comes from commercial catches.

Mr Wills recalled the day he decided to ditch sea angling and pursue art.

"One day sea angling I caught a dogfish and saw it gasping for breath, I had never thought about that before but I couldn't see it suffer. I quickly gave away my fishing gear and sold my boat, I couldn't do it anymore," he said.

"I'm not knocking other sea anglers or commercial fishermen, it just wasn't for me.

"Once a panel beater and painter, before that a welder, about five years ago I wanted to make something out of steel and had in mind to make a mackerel. Once a fish takes shape, as you beat that metal in your hand, to me it comes to life and the more you go on, even to the colouring, that fish becomes more 'alive', it is an industrious art really."

With sparse use of paints most of the colouring is "temperature-done" by using a welding torch and varying the cooling process.

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