Victoria Guthrie speaks ro talented local metalworker Kev Colbear…

Many great things happen in the pub – business ideas, friendships and new connections. This is where I first met Kev Colbear, local artisan metalworker from East Bergholt. Kev is highly skilled in his trade and produces unusual sculptural designs. Kev admits that he has always had arty bones in his body, and when we asked him how he found metalwork, he explained: ‘Metalwork found me! My work is produced from a background in art but is rarely purely sculptural. Foremost it serves a purpose and looks beautiful as well.

‘I’m a bit of a classic car nut. When I was 15 I bought an old Morris Minor. It was a total wreck. I bought it with no welding experience and was determined to get it on the road. I taught myself to weld and fixed the car up.’ From high school Kev went on to study art at Suffolk College before studying three-dimensional design in metals at West Surrey College of Art and Design. ‘My style tends to lean in two rather different freeform directions depending on what I am making,’ he says. ‘Pieces can be angular, sharp and stylised or organic and asymmetrical forms, though it really depends on the first coffee of
the day!’ 

Kev finds his inspiration in works of art, from the likes of Edward Hopper and Jack Massey. ‘Their use of colour is extraordinary. I like art to stir something inside me and both of these gifted artists have painted and created with their emotions; that’s true art. The things that really inspire me are big skies and Suffolk has some of the greatest skyscapes in the world.’ It’s not only the big things that influence Kev’s work, it’s all in the detail, too. Design features like metal furniture mechanisms or joints in a timber building are fascinating to Kev. ‘Don’t take me to Lavenham,’ he jokes, ‘I take an age walking around – there’s too much to take in!’

I was particularly interested in finding out what it’s like being a skilled maker in Suffolk. ‘It really is a privilege,’ says Kev. ‘We’re surrounded by such rich history in art and we have pockets of great makers in Aldeburgh, Snape, East Bergholt… I could name most Suffolk towns!’ Kev points out that the community spirit is a large part of what makes living and working in Suffolk such a rewarding experience. He works with an exciting pool of local artisans and makers and is never short of someone to call on should he need input or help. ‘I work closely with some very talented people. Rosie Hunter (interiors and soft furnishings), Tim Germain (cabinet maker) and Diana Majdalani (seamstress) are three who I’ve collaborated with on many occasions. I think it is important that we look to maintain friendships with each other. Great collaborative pieces have come from simply chatting over coffee. Simply “swapping notes” can help keep madness away as most of us work alone and don’t have the luxury of work colleagues.’

Kev loves a challenge and prefers making items where he’s been given a distinct problem that needs to be solved. ‘I like a brief where the client identifies a problem but says “do whatever you think”. That’s Christmas to me!’ An example Kev describes is the ‘Lead Leaf’, the first piece he ever made for a client from Aldeburgh. The brief was for a small covering over the front door to their home so that if it rained they wouldn’t get wet finding the key. He explains how the doorway had two huge buttresses either side and was not an easy
arrangement to work with. ‘The cottage was located in the woods and it seemed only appropriate that the covering be a leaf. I made it from lead with a steel frame underneath. This was a great project, probably my favourite one. It’s important that a piece of work bears a strong relation with its surroundings. Many designers and makers fail to get this right but when its done well, it’s amazing to see.’

So what is Kev working on at the moment? Two large organic form canopies are just two exciting commissions he’s getting stuck into right now. He is also in the middle of making some wild gates: ‘I want a formal frame with wild knotted vine-like down bars giving the illusion that they are alive and taking over.’ A self confessed fidgeter, when Kev needs to escape his work he’s still knee deep in metal of a different kind and at the moment is working on building a classic 50s style pick up truck out of a 1958 Rover P4. ‘It’s pretty wild. I’m sure my family think I’m mad!’

The future is looking very bright for Kev, with new commissions for canopies and bespoke pieces coming in all the time. Whilst much of his work goes to London, more and more is adorning homes in Suffolk which is really important to him. ‘Suffolk is a great place to live and work, and I’d hope that clients who buy my work would also see it as an investment into our county and the thriving micro industries we have operating here. Living, working and creating in Suffolk; can it get any better?’

To speak to Kev about what he can create for you, get in touch on 07740 864700. You can see a portfolio of work on www.kevcolbear.com and follow Kev on social media on Facebook and Instagram under Kev Colbear Design and kevcolbear on Twitter.