Sculptural WINDBILES

Artisan Blacksmith Darrell Markewitz of the The Wareham Forge has long been fascinated by the motion of objects influenced by the wind. The pieces here differ from conventional weathervanes, in that they are not primarily intended to indicate direction. Instead, these sculptural pieces utilize the winds to provide motion and life to their sweeping lines. Creative Inspiration - rather than the dictates of function, guide the designs seen here.

At the heart of most of these one of kind pieces lies hand forged elements. The plastic possibilities of steel are exploited, while at the same time the inherent strength of the material remains. Sheet metal in copper, brass, aluminium or stainless steel allows for both vane surfaces, but also the creation of often elaborate three dimensional forms.
Last Revisions made February 2011


These pieces represent an ongoing series of designs, based on fossil fish and ancient sea creatures. Aggressively forged steel bars are pinched and folded to create spines and other bone like shapes. A long student of armour making, and interested in both fossils and insects since I was a child, my past work with hammered sheet was turned to forming boney plates, skulls and fins.

On Coppula
Normal Standing View
Close up Detail
Close up of Copper Figures

'Dragon Fish' / Summer 2007

This is the first of the Windbiles in the 'Shades' series. The point of inspiration here was the pinched shoulder used along a thick flat bar, an method that always suggested a bony spine to me. Overall it is over a metre in length. The fish pivots easily on a ball bearing inside the tube support. This piece was intended specifically as an entry in the artists gallery display held at Summerfolk each August. I was extremely pleased that within two hours of being on public view, someone sought me out and asked to purchase the piece!

'Dol-fin' / Summer 2008

Greatly enthused by the reception of the first of the 'Shades' pieces, I worked up a number of related designs for the 2008 presentation season. This piece was similar in scale to 'Dragon Fish' - well over three feet long. Agressively forged square tube made up the jointed spine. The skull plates are two pieces of copper, joined down the centre seam. Paired tail fins are set at right angles to the line of the body - suggested by the profile of a dolphin.

'Fins' / Summer 2008

I had forged this punched and pinched bar originally as a test piece for a possible stair railling element. The top knot was a complex set of reversal curves. I decided not to cover this element with a skull as seen in others of this series. I merely added the many bladed tail to balance the form's weight, so it would pivot on the ball bearing inside the tube. Again the surface has been purposefully left with no coatings in its natural forged state. It will take on a rust patina with exposure to the elements.

'Catch Me if you Can' / Summer 2008

This piece started with the two piece skull, suggested by the head of a chambered natillus. As I forged up the heavy T bar to form the spine, I pulled one part of the material into a flat tail. As I worked the other section into the curved point, I was remined of fly fishing lures. ( And visions of Rodger Zelazny's 'the Lamps of his Eyes, the Doors of his Mouth'.) Now stands in the yard of an old friend (and patron) in East Beaches in Toronto.

'Coelacanth' / Summer 2008

The inspiration for this piece started with a cut off from a fabrication job. The length cut from an industrial grate reminded me of a fish skeleton spine. The heavy 'skull' is a fitting from an antique farm wagon (circa 1900). Fitted together they made up the form of an ancient boney fish. The sculpture is finished with flat bars forged to resemble the massive fins suggestive of these 'living fossil' fish. Again the surface has been left untreated to develop a rust patina with age.
Originally the piece was intended (and displayed) as a wall mount. In fall of 2010, I changed this, drilling a hole in a large piece of natural limestone and here setting the piece into the edge of the pond here at Wareham.

'Shark' / Summer 2009

For 'Shark' I made a bit of a departure from the mounting methods used on the eariler pieces. Instead of a ground tube and ball bearing, this Windbile is designed to hang from a central point. This greatly increases the potential movement of the piece. The fins are cut and formed from polished stainless steel, creating bright surfaces that will reflect sunlight. The image was provided by the new owners, a couple from the Bruce Peninsula who have been collecting this series!

'La Tene Rotor' / Summer 2009

We all have some piece of machinery which enthralls us. For me it is helicopters. The too few and too short flights in military birds when I was in the Reserve Forces are nailed to my memory.
Here sweeping curves, lines typical of Celtic La Tene bronze work are convered to rotor blades. Mounted to a central hub (taken from a discarded bicycle wheel) and set on to a tall (six and a half foot) pole. The shallow glass bowl, set upwards to catch rain water, was another chance find.
The base, not seen in these images, is formed from three stips of flat bar coiled into spirals and reversal curves. Another piece which sold on its first presentation.

'Winter Wheat' / Summer 2007

This tall sculpture is the first rendition of a concept I have had for a good while. A large slab of natural limestone serves as the base foundation. Into this are inserted about two dozen thin steel rods. Each rod is capped with a leaf shaped aluminium form. Each of the top leaves will catch the wind, and because of the thinness of the supporting rods, will start to sway. As the rods are all different lengths, the amount of motion will vary from upright to upright, resulting in an interesting random movement to the sculpture as a whole. Anyone who has driven past a field of fall wheat, ripping in the wind, can envision my point of inspiration.
Again, this piece sold at its first public presentation , at the Earth, Air Celtic Festival in Goderich.

'Celtic Winds' / Summer 2005

This piece was the first of the large free standing wind influenced sculptures I created. I had been wanting to illustrate how the spirals and curves so evident in Celtic Iron Age art could be extended into the work of contemporary artists. At a fund raising auction in February in 2005, I had purchased a quantity of medium weight sheet aluminium. This material cut easily, and was just the right balance between holding its shape, but at the same time light enough that much of the shaping could be done with just my fingers. This was quite exciting for me, as normally I am distanced from working completely spontaneously by the forge and the hammer.
Celtic Winds is a larger piece, standing about 2 metres tall and sweeping out about 1 .5 metres side. Again thin steel rods are supported by a stone base, of granite in this case. Not only do the individual arms sway in the breeze, but the curved terminals will flex and bob to add even more motion.

"Norse Weather Board"
This early piece straddles the line between weather vanes and windbiles. It is one of a series of four matching pieces made in 1992. The shape is based on a number of artifacts from the Viking Age, circa 1000 AD. Originally these 'weather boards' would in fact be fixed to the prow of a longship. Weighted ribbons would hang down, measuring not only wind direction, but relative speed as well. Each of the four I made was of similar size, formed of heavy sheet copper. The patterns on each differed, with designs based on the four points of the compass, this is the one representing West. Each had a central figure: North - eagle, South - hart, East - Loki, West - serpent. The type was in Norse runes, with the sailor's prayer "Sun at back and fair winds" along the top. The line along the bottom edge related to the particular direction. In this case the runes give brief sailing directions from Iceland to Vinland.
"Salmon Of Knowledge"

This was the first real windbile piece I did. It was a 'proof of concept' - more of a prototype than a finished sculpture. The material used was a light weight aluminium. intended for roofing repair. This metal was coloured (dark brown) on one side, and in use proved too light to permit out of doors mounting. Even the smallest breeze would send the fish dancing! The colours here are applied with spray cans.
I had originally conceived of a line of such fish, forming a school down a garden path or fence line. A second version of this fish (coloured both sides) now graces the porch of a private home in Florida.

"A Kingdom with his Horse"

Another cross over - this piece was created specifically for the exhibition 'Reflections of the Conquest' mounted by An Droichead at the Woodstock Museum in February of 2002. The design was directly taken from the groupings of mounted Normans seen in several places along the Bayeux Tapestry. Considering the 'cartoon like' outlines of the embroidery, I decided to stick with simple outlines - rather than detail and texture the metal sheet. The use of copper, brass and painted steel echoes the dominant colours from the original tapestry.

Weather Vanes

"What's the weather?" Perhaps one of the most commonly heard topics of conversation between Canadians. In the days before radio forecasts, every farmer knew that the direction of the wind was a sure sign of what was to come...

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Text and photography © 1998 - 2008, Darrell Markewitz