RHS Hampton Court Flower Show 2006

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The bell tree is a copper sound sculpture designed and made by Paul Marshall that was part of a major show garden in the 2006 Hampton Court Flower Show. The RHS awarded the garden a bronze medal.

The Garden The garden was “the Well Garden” and was created by multi-award winning designer Tony Challis of Ginkgo Landscapes in London. The client was Independent Age and the whole garden is to be taken from Hampton Court and installed at a nursing home in Hove. You can see more of the garden including a panoramic image here

The Tree The tree itself comprises three layers of broad-leaved copper that are positioned to spread out from the original base. The main copper piece sits in the centre of the 1.2m diameter well and the ‘leaves’ hang over the water where they shimmer with any air movement. On the end of a number of the leaves are the ‘fruit’; comprising 5 heavy bronze bells from Nepal and Burmah that hang approximately 10-20mm above the water. The sculpture has 6 central stainless rods shooting up and those finish in a further six Indian bells that sound in the wind. The tank is made from a discarded copper water tank and was dissected using a plasma cutter made available to me by my friend and fellow sculptor Kevin Killen.

The Well The well itself contains water and under the water are four pumps all facing anti-clockwise. With the pumps active, the water develops aHampton Court Show Gardencircular current. Also in the water are a number of black neoprene pads, each having a stainless steel rod mounted through it.

Copper resonators help by projecting the sound

These rods circulate in the current and strike the overhanging bells at random intervals.The bells have a gentle,pleasing sound and long sustain. To assist with the randomness of the sounds, a number of ‘interruptors’ are placed at key sites in the well to deflect the strikers where they might tend to congregate. In addition to the sounds of the bells emanating from the well, there are three underground tubes that travel from the well interior out to beside three seating areas. These tubes carry the sound of the bells to the garden’s visitors away from the well. The tubes end in three copper parabolic dishes, also taken from copper water tanks. These dishes serve to focus the sound but also to catch and return rainwater to the well.

The sculpture as it ages One of the beauties of using copper is that it ages rapidly and in a very aesthetic manner with the lively green verdigris patina being theultimate objective.

Bronze horse bells from Nepal

To this end, the ‘leaves’ of the main sculpture and the resonators have had the raw copper exposed in places, other places retain the protective coatings required for use in their former domestic life. This means that different sections will age differently, the leaves for example have had the extreme edges exposed and have had random maThe copper resonators to be usedrkings ground into the broad leaves. Exposed copper will rapidly dull then after a period of exposure will attain the vardigris patina. I look forward to seeing the piece in three or four years