Frogman Bronzes at Fire and Iron
A wide selection of Tim Cotterill's beautiful patinated bronze frogs is on display at Fire and Iron. If you would like to join our mailing list for collectors, and receive details of new releases and special Frogman at Fire and Iron events, please do get in touch with your e-mail address. We can gift-wrap and deliver frogs if you are unable to come in person, and we offer a 'frog to doorstep' local service if you want to surprise a loved one! We also now sell Frogman gift vouchers if you are not sure which frog to give as a gift, so that the recipient can choose their favourite frog (£50, £100, £150, etc.).
Across the Pond
The jewel-like bronze sculptures of ‘Frogman’ Tim Cotterill
Born in England in 1950 and now based in California, artist Tim Cotterill recalls a childhood enriched by the flora and fauna of an idyllic English country landscape.
“We lost ourselves in the woods all day, damming streams and collecting tadpoles, frogs, newts, toads and birds’ eggs. I knew the song of every bird.”
Adventures into the secluded woods close to his home, combined with ‘patient parents’ who encouraged interest in ornithology and a backyard menagerie of pets, instilled in Tim a true love and grasp of nature.
Another crucial ingredient that contributed to Tim becoming the world-renowned sculptor he is today was a six-year engineering apprenticeship followed by a job in the auto repair business and an interest in motorbikes. This experience gave him the practical skill and knowledge to make things to an expert level – creativity and inspiration are vital, but the sheer quality and technical complexity of Tim’s work shines out.
Tim then spent several successful years as a landscaper and stonemason. One rainy day, the usual English drizzle turned to a downpour, and Tim sought shelter in a building hosting a city art exhibition – another pivotal moment. “I was attracted immediately by a group of abstract metal sculptures, with striking forms and contours that had been created with the same techniques and materials that my motorbike projects required. I was deeply inspired, realizing that I could explore an entirely new realm of creative expression with my skills. Soon I was totally absorbed in the creation of my first metal sculpture. The random pieces of scrap metal that had fallen unnoticed to the floor of the garage became a source from which my imagination soared. A large owl took form in the metal and I was very pleased when it later sold for five pounds. Although a day’s work, it felt like easy money because, for the first time, someone placed value on something that I had made.”
It was his passion for motorbikes during this period that first triggered Tim’s interest in the USA:
“It was a very exciting time for me. It was a monumental day when I bought my first acetylene welding equipment, allowing me to join metal together without nuts, bolts or cost. I loved making things and put a lot of creative energy into everything I did. At this time, the American Hells Angels motorcycle club and the 1969 film ‘Easy Rider’ were influencing the British motorbike scene. I envied their custom chopped motorcycles and freewheeling lifestyles, and became absorbed in American chopper magazines. The locale was as mesmerizing as the bikes: the sharp, bright light of the desert, ocean and palm trees. Few days in England are as vivid as most days in California.”
The captivating settings in the photographs drew Tim to visit America, as his artistic vision and sense of purpose simultaneously unfolded. As an artist, he felt hugely inspired by America, and started to sell and exhibit there, establishing new contacts in the art world. He was invited to assist the artist John Jagger, who became a great friend and mentor, on a major puddled bronze sculpture project.
Back at his home in England, Tim felt charged with creative energy and full of ideas. Owls and hawks were his favourite sculptural subjects, and by the late 1980s Tim had created hundreds of bird sculptures – often sold through Sotheby’s in London. Tim built a pond in his garden, and enjoyed leisure time spent observing the colour markings and characters of frogs.
In 1988, Tim returned to help John Jagger again, this time with some stonework at John’s new home and studio on a 25-acre mountaintop in California, called Frog Pond Mountain. Back in England five months later, Tim felt restless and unstimulated, and joined John again to exhibit together at eight street art shows in Florida. Staying with John, Tim was struck by “the most comforting element in that isolated environment”; “the symphony of croaking frogs that echoed though the canyon from the large ponds at the base of our Frog Pond Mountain. The frog chorus brought back pleasant memories from my childhood.”
“I had the desire to explore a new form for meaningful creative expression. Soon, strong memories of the form and movements of frogs grew into a desire to create them in sculpture. I was intrigued by the challenge of capturing their personalities. Some of the elements of a frog’s shape melded in my mind, inspired by the delightful chubbiness of a baby or the grace and beauty of a well-shaped human leg. This perspective, combined with what I imagine as an almost cartoon-like quality of a frog’s expression, engaged my imagination. The frogs I sculpted seemed to offer something intrinsically appealing to many people. I had a few cast in bronze and began to display them at shows. They held a fascination and charm that captured the interest of others.”
Tim moved in to his own studio at Venice Beach, California, and put all his energy into his frog sculptures. The response of the American people was “uplifting and euphoric”, and Tim is now famously and affectionately known as ‘Frogman’.
The frogs are made using the labour-intensive lost wax bronze casting process. Once cast, each frog is meticulously cleaned and polished before being patinated to achieve dramatic and brilliant colours. So unusually lustrous and vibrant is the finish on the frogs that people often think that they are made of glass – one hold of a frog, however, reveals the surprisingly heavy and pleasing weight of solid bronze. Tim’s patinas are the envy of metal artists worldwide, and he wisely keeps that part of the making process a secret.
Tim Cotterill’s frogs are exhibited in selected art galleries around the world. Fire and Iron Gallery in Leatherhead, Surrey, exhibits and sells the bronze sculptures to a growing group of admirers and collectors. A large selection is always on display, and Tim is also due to visit the gallery for a special show of his work in 2015.
Fire and Iron Gallery
Surrey KT22 0EN
Open Tuesday to Saturday 10am-5pm