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)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
i100 In this video, the late actor Leonard Nimoy explains how he decided to use the gesture for his character
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
News
Down-to-earth: Winstone isn't one for considering his 'legacy'
people
News
news
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Expect a new wave of fishing expeditions by fraudsters now we can invest our life savings

Cold callers and your pension: watch out for dangerous boiler room scams

Sean O'Grady received a cold call last week that was much more sinister than normal. Yes, someone wants to get their hands on his pension...

Fuel poverty could claim 100,000 lives over next 15 years, warns energy charity

The NHS is currently bearing a yearly burden of approximately £1.5bn treating cold-related illnesses every winter

MPs call for Equitable Life policyholders to be paid £2.8bn owed by government

Hundreds of thousands of people's policies were hit when the mutual insurer almost collapsed at the turn of the century

The elderly woman's family discovered the mistake

DWP criticised after it left a pensioner £26,000 worse off

The Department for Work and Pensions has been slammed after a series of cock-ups left an elderly pensioner £26,000 worse off.

The FCA has today issued a consultation paper on its plans to tighten up consumer credit rules to give consumers greater protection on guarantor loans and in other areas

Payday loan companies must publish their rates, says CMA

A 20-month investigation concluded that a lack of price competition between lenders has led to higher costs for borrowers

Vulnerable consumers are defined as those with poor literacy skills, those who have caring responsibilities, people with disabilities, dementia or the old

Financial companies are not meeting the needs of vulnerable consumers, says City Watchdog

The Financial Conduct Authority said the industry needs to start thinking about solutions to these challenges

The FTSE 100 is inching closer to its record high but can it maintain these levels?

In 1999 stock markets quickly tumbled, losing many a fortune in the process

Tax-free savings: Freedom dawns for the junior savers caught in low-income accounts

The parents of six million children stuck with low-interest saving accounts worth more than £5bn will be able to move the cash from this April. But what are their options? Samantha Downes reports

How much lower will mortgage rates go?

Another day, another cut. As lenders compete to offer the cheapest deals, Simon Read asks if borrowers should jump in now or wait for further falls

Are bills ruining your family life? Try the lover's guide to coping with debt...

If you're in the red and can't find a way out, it's time to get some help. Neasa MacErlean hears that relationships will suffer unless you are open with your partner, but there are organisations that will put you on the right track and get you talking

How to complain: From retailers to energy suppliers, it's easier than you think

When companies let us down, millions of us just take it on the chin. Simon Read shows how to make your voice heard

The dark side of debt: Descending into financial desperation is not due to self-indulgence

Three stories reveal financial desperation that was born of other, serious concerns, from being a victim of sexual assault, to losing a family member
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    SThree: HR Benefits Manager

    £40000 - £50000 per annum + pro rata: SThree: SThree Group have been well esta...

    Recruitment Genius: Office Manager / Financial Services

    £30000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Established in 1999, a highly r...

    Jemma Gent: Year End Accountant

    £250-£300 Day Rate: Jemma Gent: Are you a qualified accountant with strong exp...

    Jemma Gent: Management Accountant

    £230 - £260 Day Rate: Jemma Gent: Do you want to stamp your footprint in histo...

    Day In a Page

    HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

    Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

    Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
    How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

    Time to play God

    Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
    MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

    MacGyver returns, but with a difference

    Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
    Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

    Tunnel renaissance

    Why cities are hiding roads underground
    'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

    Boys to men

    The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
    Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

    Crufts 2015

    Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
    10 best projectors

    How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

    Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
    Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

    Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

    Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
    Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

    Monaco: the making of Wenger

    Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

    Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

    Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

    This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
    'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

    Homage or plagiarism?

    'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
    Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower