Mr Watt, Grumpy Man of Metal by Jon Mills

Delve into the world of the craft maker Jon Mills as he brings his work to a free exhibition at Hove Museum.

Man in a Plane
Man in a Plane

Jon Mills was born in Birmingham in 1959, the latest in a line of metalworkers. He studied at Wolverhampton before helping to found Brighton’s Red Herring Studios in 1983. In the mid 1980s he honed his skills at brazing, forging, laser-cutting and welding and exhibited work at One Off, Ron Arad’s London workshop and gallery.

In recent years Jon has been involved in major architectural commissions, inventing exciting structures that engage with their surroundings whether in cities or in the countryside. He has made balconies for Caerphilly and Kings Lynn, railings at Folkestone and Wolverhampton and a bridge over the River Dyfi in Powys.

His output is extraordinarily diverse and charmingly subversive. He makes dangerous toys and automata, dysfunctional furniture and an amazing range of sculpture with themes that are witty, whimsical, and sometimes darkly Gothic.

Dan Dare Chair
Dan Dare Chair

Hove Museum holds one of the earliest versions of his Dan Dare Chair of 1987 (C4.1993). The sheet-steel seat, with its hand-operated, multi-directional radar dish was made two years before Wallace and Gromit’s fantasy trip to the moon in a home-made rocket (in A Grand Day Out). It inspires the visitor to explore the universe from the comfort of a domestic armchair!

In 1999 Jon created the comically horrifying Man in a Plane (DA301849) which can now be seen in Brighton Museum’s 20th-Century Design Gallery plummeting for ever towards earth.

For the reopening of Hove Museum in 2003 Jon worked with children from the Peter Gladwin School in Portslade to produce railings for the first-floor Landing Gallery. Here are a row of growing plants that look like broad beans, covered with creepy-crawlies from the compost heap!

Railings in the First Floor Landing Gallery at Hove Museum
Railings in the First Floor Landing Gallery at Hove Museum

I’m thrilled that Jon’s latest creation, Mr Watt, Grumpy Man of Metal is coming to visit Hove Museum this spring. I understand that he is intending to make some special donations to Brighton & Hove’s collections. I wonder what they can be…?

Stella Beddoe, Senior Keeper and Keeper of Decorative Art

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