Seemore and the Owls of Bath

26 June 2018

We were honoured indeed to be asked for the second time, to take part in Bath’s charity sculpture trail. This year, a parliament of 1.1m tall, fiberglass owls were fabricated and distributed among Bath’s creative community to be modified, decorated or otherwise reimagined.

We approached the brief as we would any design task, by developing concepts through ideation sessions in which we cast a wide proverbial net. The design process at Matter pushes us to find unique and engaging solutions to design problems whilst retaining a sharp focus on relevance and coherence to the subject-matter. We wanted our Owl's theme to speak to the nature of the creature itself and to feature a means of interactively engaging with the public, among whom it would ultimately reside. We jumped at the chance to once again be involved in this fantastic community project and what an ideal way to celebrate the studio’s beautiful home-city here in Bath.

After a great deal of ‘punning’ and sketching and having come to a consensus on the name and design, we began work on our owl. To start with, we chopped off his head!

We wanted Seemore’s head to have a full 360 degree axis of rotation. In order to achieve this, we installed a very substantial steel bar running through his body and up through the centre of his neck.

We then needed to make a pair of low-friction surfaces to allow freedom of movement. For this we used an engineering plastic known as Acetal or Polyoxymethylene. This has some wonderful properties including very high lubricity, making it ideal for moving parts.

With the swivelling-head feature now taken care of, we looked to installing two powerful field-telescopes in Seemore’s eyes. Our aim was to give people an ‘Owls Eye View’ of the city. Taking two 60x magnification optical telescopes we removed material from his eyes and the back and sides of his head. As well as the viewfinders through which the user would look, we needed a means of independently focussing each telescope. As such, laser-cut geared focus wheels would need to be included on both sides of the head that would mesh with the focussing apparatus of the telescopes inside.

With the mechanics and optics all in place we began the surface treatment of our owl. We chose a theme that we felt sat comfortably with the subject and with our own studio style. Turning our attention to the owl’s nocturnal habits we based our visual narrative on the night sky, painting Seemore matte black, with the addition of some silver and gold around the eyes and facial disc. We also wanted to include a process we very often employ in making prototypes for the studio’s commercial output. Gold rub-downs depict some of the most recognisable constellations and the starfield surrounding them.

Finally Seemore was installed, cutting a very fine figure, on a Bath-Stone plinth outside the famous Holburne Museum. The museum can be found at the end of the magnificent Great Pultney Street, where it is framed by a sweep of Georgian town houses to either side.