A melting pot of ideas

Tristan WheelerManjimup-Bridgetown Times
Paul Fontanini makes sparks fly at his forge, turning metal into art.
Camera IconPaul Fontanini makes sparks fly at his forge, turning metal into art. Credit: Manjimup-Bridgetown Times

Manjimup sculptor Paul Fontanini has a knack for bringing metal to life.

“I really enjoy doing organic ironwork — so making the ironwork look like it’s a natural thing — like grapevines or roses,” he said.

“Making a solid piece of steel that comes from the steel shop as a square rod and then forging that down into a twisting vine, flattening out a piece of steel sheet into a leaf and putting texture and veins and shape to give it life.”

After leaving school, he studied art and design at TAFE for four years, but seldom worked with metal during the course and did not pursue art for another 15 years.

A motorsport enthusiast, Paul said he had worked a lot with metal while building and modifying four-wheel-drive vehicles, but did not pick up metal as an artistic medium until eight years ago, when he began creating scrap metal sculptures, his first pieces being created for his parents.

Blacksmithing was the next skill that Paul took an interest in.

“I just got interested in blacksmithing — the ability to move hot metal — it just expands your abilities a little bit further,” he said.

“The good thing about the metalwork... is that the things I make, will probably outlive me.

“If someone treasures it, it will be a hand-me-down.”

Paul often shares his work with the world, being a regular exhibitor at local arts events, including the recent Cherry Festival Art Exhibition. He has also entered his pieces into a number of different art competitions, including Sculpture in the Vines at Pemberley vineyard, where he won a prize for a table that featured metalwork shaped like grapevines.

His interest in blacksmithing is not limited to artistic pieces —he also makes tools — and he is interested in expanding the range of items that he is able to craft using his skills.

“I enjoy toolmaking as well and I want to make a few more things, maybe like some axes and tomahawks,” he said.

What began with metal has quickly moved to other mediums as well, and Paul has turned his hand to wood-turning, wood carving and resin casting as well.

“ Wood-turning ... and wood-carving ... are good things to do over summer, because when the forge is going over summer, nah,” he said.

“It’s a good thing that I can switch priorities a little bit and say, OK, I’m going to do a little bit more of the turning and a bit less of the forging, and then switch that back in winter.”

While his art is currently a hobby, Paul says it is self-supporting and profits that he makes from prize money and selling his art are reinvested into his facilities and other art projects. This sustainable ethic is also reflected in the materials he uses for his projects.

“I do like to use recycled items and bring new life back to things, like using old railway spikes or horse shoes,” he said.

Paul used to be heavily involved in motorsport as a member of Team Carnage, a Manjimup-based team he founded, but said that his motorsports days were over.

“The motorsports is pretty much finished,” he said

“We had a lot of fun, that’s the main thing —it’s not about sheep stations, it was a fun thing — we had a couple of wins, but nothing serious.”

To see more of Paul’s work, visit Carnage Creations on Facebook.

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