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Norfolk postman delivers new piece of public art in shipdham

29th Sep 2014
Carl Preston left and Tony Abel unveil the new sign at Oak Meadow Shipdham

A Norfolk postman has made an unusual delivery in Shipdham - a new piece of public art, his first professional commission after 25 years as a keen amateur sculptor.

Carl Preston, from Scarning, was given the commission by Watton-based Abel Homes, which four years ago made a commitment to commission a piece of public artwork from a Norfolk artist at each of the sites where it builds new homes.

The latest artwork is a 3 foot by 2 foot bas-relief carved sign created from a single piece of English oak, to mark the creation of the new community called Oak Meadow, in the centre of Shipdham.

It was unveiled by Mr Preston and Abel Homes managing director Tony Abel at a ceremony attended by residents of the 43 new homes that the company has built on the site, as well as leading parish councillors.

“The idea of funding these public artworks is to create a modern-day ‘village sign’, something which can give the new community a sense of identity and act as its centrepiece,” said Tony Abel.

“When we put the call out for ideas from local artists, this was the one which we immediately thought was appropriate.  Given the wonderful trees we have on this site, and the name that we have given it, Carl’s idea of a traditional carved oak sign seems just right.

“The artists we have commissioned over the past four years have ranged from established names to up-and-coming talent – but this is the first time we have commissioned a postman!”

Mr Preston first started sculpting when he met his wife Valerie, more than 25 years ago.  Stuck for ideas about what to get her for Christmas, he decided to make a cat out of a piece of wood.  Since then, he has branched out in his hobby, working in metal as well as wood, making things ranging from jewellery to weather vanes.  But the Shipdham sign is the first professional commission he has undertaken.  It was made in his shed-workshop at his Scarning home.

“A friend saw in the EDP that Abels were looking for ideas for their Shipdham site,” he said.  “They brought me the cutting and said I ought to go for it.  I visited the site and was inspired to come up with a design, and when Abel Homes rang me to say they were going with my idea, I was so happy.

“It is lovely to create something which will be at the heart of this new community.”

The 43 family homes at Shipdham combine traditional exterior designs with the latest contemporary design features and energy-efficient features inside.  The two-, three- and four-bedroom homes are situated right in the heart of the village, next to the church.

The unveiling of the artwork coincided with the release of the final five homes on the site, all four-bedroom houses.

The artwork is the fifth unveiled by Abel Homes since it made its pledge to commission a piece of public artwork for each of its new sites.  Works are already installed at Old Catton in Norwich, Swaffham, Hingham and Drayton, on the outskirts of Norwich.  A sixth commission, a life-sizes collage of a shire horse by Hilborough artist Harriet Mead, is due to be unveiled at the company’s Watton site later this year.