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Anya Gallacio’s ‘Ghost Tree’ at the Whitworth Art Gallery – and how water jet cutting made it possible

The benefits of water jet cutting mean it is trusted by major industries looking for reliable production of machine parts.

At TMC water jet we have cut all manner of parts, it is our bread and butter and we are extremely grateful for the business. However, sometimes something a bit out the ordinary happens, something that lets us use our beloved water jet cutters to make something a bit more exciting. Sometimes, we get to make art!

Based in Macclesfield (but serving the whole of the UK, if you’ll excuse a plug), we are of course fully aware of the standing Manchester’s Whitworth Art Gallery has within the region. It is therefore hard to put into words just how proud we were to be asked to work on a permanent exhibit, one that will benefit the region for generations to come and saw us work with a Turner Prize nominated artist.

Ghost Tree by Anya Gallacio at Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester

Ghost Tree by Anya Gallacio at Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester

We have written blogs in the past on how others have used water jet cutting to create great pieces of art, both in the UK and beyond; this was our chance to help create a piece that is inspirational rather than just functional.

Our journey into the art world began when we were contacted by the White Wall Company, specialist installers and fabricators of artwork, to turn Anya Gallacio’s vision into reality.

Anya’s work, informally known as the ‘Ghost Tree’ was a metal tree sculpture, a piece commissioned by the gallery to replace a tree that had died outside the museum, leaving an unsatisfactory gap. The work was a departure for us, but also for Anya, an artist famous for more transient works, including coating a gallery’s walls in chocolate.

Once Anya had settled on making a steel sculpture, water jet cutting emerged as the only feasible option for producing the instalment.

Water jet cutting is capable of cutting to ten times the depth of other technologies such as laser – 25 centimetres as opposed to 2.5. However, that factor was perhaps not as important as water jet cutting’s ability to cut complex three-dimensional parts.

Through XD cutting, water jet heads can move in multiple axis, meaning that parts that would otherwise require re-cutting can be done in one fluid motion; this reduces both the risk of mistakes being made but also keeps costs down.

In fact, keeping costs down was an important consideration – Anya admitting when talking to the BBC that she had doubts the project would come to fruition, recalling the ‘shock’ she felt when the call came through to say the gallery now had the funds to proceed.

Really, though, it is a project that had to happen – the tree dying creating an opportunity to make something remarkable outside the museum, generating excitement before even entering.

“It’s a starting point for many different narratives,” Anya told the BBC.

“From the geeky material people, who can be amazed at the welding and the engineering (people like us!), to others, like a little girl thinking it was like a Jack-in-the-Beanstalk fairytale tree.

“For me, that’s fantastic. It isn’t just one thing.

Ghost Tree by Anya Gallacio at Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester

As it’s a Ghost Tree, there aren’t even leaves to be collected

“I hope that people will love it and make it their own.”

And that’s exactly how we would put it if we had the same eloquence as a world-renowned artist. Sadly we don’t; what we do have though is unrivalled expertise when it comes to cutting things with water jets.

If you have any projects that might require our services please do get in touch to discuss your bespoke needs. We have cut everything from new keys for a parish church to parts for huge businesses so the cliche that there is no job too big or too small really does hold true.

Oh, and, whatever you do, get yourself to the Whitworth and check out the Ghost Tree!