Cutlery Bird Sculptures – Acorn Forge

Published:
12:59 5 July 2022



“Ooh, I’d love one of those.”

“Wow, that’s crazy!”

Just a few sentiments you might hear (or exclaim) as you pass the James Barrett-Nobbs booth at fairs and craft events.

Working under the guise of Acorn Forge, the East Anglian sculptor regularly draws crowds, who are completely blown away by his incredible creatures, forged from recycled cutlery.

A kingfisher perched on a branch dangling its prey. An owl, wings spread, ready to take flight. A fish caught in motion.

James admits he ‘sucked at art’ at school, and wasn’t quite sure what he would do with himself, until he found himself working with a blacksmith and a welder nearly 15 years ago. When his mentor moved to Wales, James walked out on his own…and didn’t look back, remarkably being almost entirely self-taught in his craft.


Sculptor James Barrett-Nobbs with a kingfisher he made from cutlery
– Credit: Denise Bradley

“I wanted to do something for myself. Something based on wildlife and nature, which I love,” he says. “It’s totally different from anything I was interested in in school.”

Early works included hearths and chimneys, which he continues to manufacture today. “The hearths are hexagonal,” says James. “I did my first 15 years ago and I still have it. There are so many poor quality ones. I wanted to create something that would last forever, and that was aesthetically pleasing. Mine are made of heavy gauge steel.

The sculptor’s light bulb moment, and what was the start of his most lucrative business, was when he noticed that a pile of cutlery handles on a table looked like the wings of a dragonfly.

“I experimented, and a little dragonfly was one of the first things I did, out of fork handles or spoon handles. And it really continued from there. I base them on pictures I have taken myself or taken by others.I have just done some larger birds of prey for a couple in Loddon who are wildlife photographers, recreating pieces from their pictures.Recently I I also received an order for a rooster!”


A woodpecker, one of James Barrett-Nobbs' cutlery sculptures.

A woodpecker, one of James Barrett-Nobbs’ sculptures made from cutlery
– Credit: Denise Bradley

James laughs that he keeps local charity shops open with his bulk purchases to do his job. “And I’m quite used to the Kessingland car boot! I work with people who clear houses, and odds and ends always come my way.

He really hit the jackpot a few years ago when a closing hotel restaurant offered him 1,500 teaspoons in exchange for a hummingbird sculpture. “It’s so rare to come across a lot of identical cutlery. You may have 10 spoons in front of you that look alike, but are actually completely different. With these spoons, James made a giant fish, one of his favorite pieces to date, which was sold at this year’s Royal Norfolk Show.

“I had become quite attached to it actually. I did some really really big butterflies, which were also my favorites, and a very interesting one I did was a big butterfly on a 24 foot tall dandelion made out of 6 inch steel nails. It was beautiful. It was exhibited at Sculpture in the Valley at Potton Hall last year and won the Peoples’ Choice Award. I still think it’s one of my best songs.


Sculptor James Barrett-Nobbs made this fish using 1,500 teaspoons from a closing hotel restaurant

Sculptor James Barrett-Nobbs made this fish using 1,500 teaspoons from a closing hotel restaurant. It was sold at this year’s Royal Norfolk Show
– Credit: Denise Bradley

James works to order and, in the background, is busy making various pieces to take to shows and fairs, which are very busy in the summer. Pieces range from £20 for a dragonfly to around £3,000 to £4,000 for a large installation.

His sculptures can be viewed and purchased at the Designermakers 21 store in Diss – a collaborative co-op shopping experience run by a group of artists.

“I have something for everyone, and each piece is totally unique. There are never two alike,” he adds.

Learn more at acornforge.wixsite.com

James is exhibiting at Strumpshaw Tree Fair near Norwich July 16-17, Raveningham Sculpture Trail from July 31, Harlequin Fayre in West Norfolk August 4-7 and Folk East in Glemham August 19-21 .