Hanging the lizards on the washing line: Julie Aschkenasy meets Richard Pell, whose skill at turning cold metal into dinosaurs, dragons or daffodils is earning him a large following - and amusing the neighbours

WHEN the Hilton Hotel wanted a new fitness centre it demanded more than just a place to work out. So it approached a designer who knew nothing about gyms. Richard Pell's specification was to create something interesting and adventurous. Working in conjunction with Phil Hogan, proprietor of the Hilton's gym, who does know a lot about the subject, he found his lack of knowledge was an advantage. 'I wanted to bring the place alive and feel a sense of movement.'

Out went straight ballet bars, in came highly-polished ones with big curves at different heights to allow different sorts of exercises and a range of stretches. Out went boring lockers, in came curved ones with 'dancing vents'. Everything is metal, shiny and erratic - very different from the style of his own home.

At the back of his darkly cluttered south London flat is a bleak garage, housing Pell's metal workshop. If that sounds depressing, it isn't. An amazing variety of weird and wonderful sculptures stretch from wall to wall to lift this home-cum-workspace from drabness. A dentist's drill is awaiting possible metamorphosis into a lamp; the back end of a Ford Popular is to become a juke box.

The garden provides a good example of Pell's intermingled home and work life: 'I hang (metal) lizards and fish on the washing line to dry - it looks as if I have been hunting. It's not unusual to see 30 of them hanging there.' The neighbours regard his activities as a local attraction, and even bring friends round for a look.

Richard Pell is a fine art graduate, who in his normal working life designs and makes metal sculptures, shop fittings and interiors, all with a very individual feel. 'I like to make metal look like other things, very organic, such as plants and animals. Not at all like heavy industry metalwork.'

The art is one thing, but his bread and butter is a large range of decorative iron-work crafts. These include comic-book dachshund candle-holders, gothic bat and lizard wall sconces, new age clocks and wall decorations. 'I was very nave when I left college. I thought I could make sculptures and sell them, but it doesn't work like that. I started by making leather goods for the fashion industry, which was horrible. When I had enough money I started this business.'

With the help of three workers, he supplies gift shops around the country with his range: dinosaurs, cacti, dragonfly, octopus and sunflowers. They often sport spots and stripes achieved by 'blueing' the metal. 'I get my ideas anywhere, even Coronation Street. Seeing their flying ducks made me decide to make flying fish. We all sit down and have drawing sessions and create all sorts of creatures.'

Things have been going well since the launch about five years ago. So much so that he intends to set up a bigger workshop to cope with his 'standard range' and spend more time on interiors and one-offs.

Nicholas Hall is Pell's biggest fan. About a year ago he was buyer for a shop on the King's Road in London when Pell walked in. 'I immediately saw the potential and told my boss we should get in lots of stuff. It became our best seller.' But then the shop's director decided a 6ft fish mirror was too ugly and should come out of the window; when she also suggested he order less, Mr Hall promptly resigned and set up his own shop, Amadeus.

Eighty per cent of his stock comes from Pell: 'It is my wages, my life] The King's Road is a funny area, sometimes we sell nothing much for days. Then the other day a man came in and put his Gold Card on the counter and said: 'I'm going to go mad]' and has now decorated his whole living room with Richard's stuff.'

Richard Pell (081-693 5740).

London Stockists: Amadeus, 309a King's Road, London SW3 (071-376 4435); D'Arcy, 12 Nelson Road, Greenwich, London SE10 (081-293 9992); Nice Irma, Goodge Street, London W1 (071-580 6921); Nakedly Nothing, 230 Portabello Road, London (071-221 2910); Liberty, Regent Street, W1 (071-734 1234).

Outside London: Mortons, 79 High Street, Poole, Dorset. (0202 669563); Abode, The Shrieves House, 40 Sheep Street, Stratford- upon-Avon (0789 268755); Forsyths, 7 Market Place, St Albans (0727 839702); Earth Walk, 28 Guildhall Road, Northampton (0604 602101); But Is It Art, 56 The Broad Street Mall, Reading (0734 581088).

Prices start from about pounds 10 for wall fish decorations to more than pounds 500 for an enormous fish mirror.

(Photograph omitted)

Arts & Entertainment
The Honesty Policy is a group of anonymous Muslims who believe that the community needs a space to express itself without shame or judgement
music
News
Waitrose will be bringing in more manned tills
newsOverheard in Waitrose: documenting the chatter in 'Britain's poshest supermarket'
Life & Style
life
Arts & Entertainment
Back in the suit: There are only so many variations you can spin on the lives or adventures of Peter Parker
filmReview: Almost every sequence and set-up in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 seems familiar from some earlier superhero film
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Arts & Entertainment
Jack Gleeson as Joffrey Baratheon in Game of Thrones
tv
Life & Style
Father and son: Michael Williams with son Edmund
lifeAs his son’s bar mitzvah approaches, CofE-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys he’s experienced in learning about his family’s other faith
Arts & Entertainment
Ian Anderson, the leader of British rock band Jethro Tull, (right) and British guitar player Martin Barre (left) perform on stage
musicJethro Tull frontman leads ‘prog rock’ revival
Sport
Gareth Bale dribbled from inside his own half and finished calmly late in the final to hand Real a 2-1 win at the Mestalla in Valencia
sport
Arts & Entertainment
Who laughs lass: Jenny Collier on stage
comedy... writes Jenny Collier, the comedian whose recent show was cancelled because there were 'too many women' on the bill
News
House proud: keeping up with the Joneses now extends to children's playhouses
newsLuxury playhouses now on the market for as much as £800
News
news
Life & Style
Stir it up: the writer gets a lichen masterclass from executive chef Vivek Singh of the Cinnamon restaurants
food + drinkLichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines
Extras
indybest
Arts & Entertainment
Ken Loach (left) and Mike Leigh who will be going head to head for one of cinema's most coveted prizes at this year's Cannes Film Festival
filmKen Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
News
The academic, Annamaria Testa, has set out on her website a list of 300 English words that she says Italians ought to stop using
newsAcademic speaks out against 'Italianglo' - the use of English words in Italian language
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    1st Line Helpdesk Engineer Apprentice

    £150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company has been providing on site ...

    Telesales & Sales Support Apprentice

    £221.25 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is a well established Inter...

    Client Relationship Manager - SQL, Python

    £40000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Client Relationship Manager - SQL...

    **Financial Services Tax**

    £35000 - £50000 per annum: Pro-Recruitment Group: Take your chance to join the...

    Day In a Page

    How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

    How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

    Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
    Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

    British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

    The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
    Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

    Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

    Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
    A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

    A History of the First World War in 100 moments

    A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
    Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

    Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

    The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
    Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

    Cannes Film Festival

    Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
    The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

    The concept album makes surprise top ten return

    Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
    Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

    Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

    Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
    10 best baking books

    10 best baking books

    Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
    Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

    Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

    As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
    Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

    Mad Men returns for a final fling

    The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
    Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

    Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

    Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit
    Westminster is awash with tales of young men being sexually harassed - but it's far from being just a problem in politics

    Is sexual harassment a fact of gay life?

    Westminster is awash with tales of young men being sexually harassed - but it's far from being just a problem in politics
    Moshi Monster creator Michael Acton Smith: The man behind a British success story

    Moshi Monster creator Michael Acton Smith

    Acton Smith launched a world of virtual creatures who took the real world by storm
    Kim Jong-un's haircut: The Independent heads to Ealing to try out the dictator's do

    Our journalist tries out Kim Jong-un's haircut

    The North Korean embassy in London complained when M&M Hair Academy used Kim Jong-un's image in the window. Curious, Guy Pewsey heads to the hair salon and surrenders to the clippers