Student Case Study: “Shell Shovel” repurposing old ammunition into tools

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Leszek Sikon, L5 student on the BA (Hons) Artist Blacksmith course at Hereford College of Arts, worked in partnership with college staff (Dan Hawarth-Salter) as well as exploring his own practice to produce this innovative work that explored a range of social issues and which continues to have a significant input to his emerging discipline.


The Case Study below is presented in several modes. It is framed with a piece of Leszek’s reflective writing, and further explored through the co-created video below which investigates the historical meanings of the work and the making process. Information regarding the Ypres exhibition can be viewed through the exhibition website and further images of Leszek’s work at the exhibition can be viewed at the foot of the page.


This Shovel was made from original munitions from the time of the First and Second World War. I came up with this idea during my summer holiday when I had the pleasure to work with  85-year-old Master Blacksmith Jozef Kulak.


He told me many stories about the time after the Second World War, when due to lack of resources many Blacksmiths were forced to use scrap found on the battlefield to make tools.


During my further research into the subject I found out that many of the munitions and other equipment used during the First and Second World Wars were made from steel confiscated by the government. Tools, iron gates and railings –  even church bells  over 300 years old were confiscated to be melted down and remade into weapons.


Those were items with many meanings and stories attached to them. In the case of Church bells there are stories of clergy and parishioners conducting ‘requiem’ masses as the bells were removed for the war effort, a kind of farewell to an old friend.


After the war, those battlefields were littered with explosives. It took years to clean up. Even now we are still finding shells from the time of the First World War. 


In this project, I reversed the process and again give them back their ‘original’ form. I sought to change the tools of destruction back to tools of creation.

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