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Extract of Interview with Ken Morris - Carnival artist in metal

Interviewer is Tony Hall

1992

 

TH: Do you remember how old you were when you made the transition to metal?

KM: Well it had to be about...I was...must have been about...let's see, sixteen, fifteen, somewhere around there. I was still into papier-m_ch_ because the demand for metal in carnival was as other people would say, I introduced the thing. And that was the advent of it. I was cleaning up the yard after mas'. You know the mess you make. And for some reason there was some metal in the cleanup. And all was burnt. So by the time you were sweeping up all the ash now, this...the metal seemed very soft to me. And I say, well here is something new. I didn't know metal used to change like that. Now we call it annealing, of course this is. And I say, well if it can do this thing, why not, um...try for impressions? So I went to a mold of the same mud that we use for clay, that we call clay. And I had a half-baked piece there. And I started hammering it. I still use it sometimes these days. But there you have it, you know. The ability to include the metal into the carnival frame was exciting. At the same time I had my eye on the Art Society because I was painting a bit. And I thought after a while that I may to use this thing but I put it aside for carnival...

TH: (inaudible) was just carnival?

KM: Just carnival.

TH: Yeah.

KM: And then after the war. I mean, this...now we get into '49...'45, three-four years after the war. I...we were working in metal for carnival. Lots of things. The advent of the breast plate and things...It was just about making it feasible, that the carnival designers could have taken the experimentations of mine and included them in the design of the costumes. So a costume, you know, of that time, we had...carnival was based on an historical or biblical...

TH: Right.

KM: Portrayals was always that a Roman soldier or something will come out of the bible, you know, the cross, and you have the crucifixion, you have Jesus, you have the soldiers. And you have to get these strips and things on these...armor plate. So it was easy for me to do.

TH: So you were servicing many different bands then?

KM: Oh yes. I actually ... Frankly I changed the area from moulding into actual metal. You had the metal era in carnival you must recall that. Because now we don't have it. It's all gone.

TH: What are the years of the metal era? Do you remember...?

KM: I would say the fifties. Started at fifty. Fifty until about...when? If we could pin point when Sally played Rome. I think that was the highest point. Then it started to decline. Costly. The costs of metal and the costs of the production soured at that time. It has soared more. Of course, now what...It is not in the kind of expense.

TH: Well wouldn't you say in terms of that metal era, was the...the highest point, the best piece of work, a set of work that you did, in that era?

KM: Well...I had...We had to portray the knights. I remember this carefully, you know, because...um...With Bobby Ammon, Richard II and the knights of the garter. And we had to do, to portray these knights. And we had to make all joints articulated so they move on the road. It is very interesting because...the test was to be able to run with this thing in case you got in a fight! (Laughter) So you can bolt the things hard, you know. So we, I got into it. What was done was successful. But I remember that era because, at the same time I was working for a band, it was...Rome, I think it was. And we had to do Nero. And I had to do especially the whole regalia. And it was just...And the two bands we all well done. Of course I was responsible for all the metal in the both bands. And it was just, to me, it was the highest point. If I could remember the data, I can't remember.... And the sixties coming in there. And the...This is the part I think I would like to cherish. As I say, I always loved archives. I think this should be, should have been kept. I don't know where I could find these things...

TH: This is Bobby Ammon's band.

KM: And that was the high point of my metal work in that era Nothing was made after that that could have eclipsed that.

TH: Yeah...

KM: For instance they were on Frederick Street, and there was just the band coming down. Fully English clad, trumpets and bugles and whatever. And the...There was the whores up front, a gladiator of Rome coming on the other side. With Nero in his carriage and everything. All regalia. And the both bands were locked in a presentation. And you could have seen all of the gladiators and the...and the (inaudible). One of the most impressive sights I have seen. But I was upstairs taking a look at my work notes, yes.

TH: Right.

KM: And I said, no you couldn't get higher than this. Because...um...Cecil B. DeMille had a lot of work done in those days. We took a lot from the pictures...

TH: Yeah...

KM: And I wish that he could have seen it. I thought I would have gone to Hollywood straight. (Laughter)

TH: Ready? Apart from working for the band and so on...You brought you own band, right?

KM: Yes, I did that. I remember in 1966. And it was of course on the way ner. Having to produce for all these bands, it was getting slack. I couldn't exercise...again, the art. You didn't feel...that Carnival needed me individually for me to attend to them anymore. So I took a shot bringing out a band. We did a little thing. I think I did it for about twelve, thirteen years. And...But during the...my...production of these bands, I got to realize that I had to chose. There were two masters that I had at the time. One is to keep, to keep the art going. Besides I had no formal training. I had a stint in London, maybe 1955, somewhere around there. '55, '56. Sir John Cass, a good college, for art and so on. But for that, I had to depend on myself. Because they didn't do what I had done in Trinidad. They had...Repouss_ I had learned at the time with what I had done. No but still doing. For the extent to repouss_ was only done for things like jewelry and...Until I saw the British Museum where (inaudible), it was done in Egypt in there. So I had some history. But none of this came. I mean I don't know if it's done anywhere like this in the world. I mean on this scale today. But I had to deal with art in the same way that I had to deal with the carnival band. So which one I would attend? I thought that art was pulling a bit...It was getting the better of me. Because after carnival period, say like in February, March time. I had to live. I had to be with myself for ten months. And during that time I produced something else, like a piece of sculpture or something for demand. And the popularity was getting better and I had to do more for the people. And by the time I got back to carnival it wasn't very much time for mas' then. So I knew that I had been missing out both ways. Finally I think by '79 I decided...Peter was on the scene anyway...

TH: Right.

KM: And I say, well maybe um...They got a slight change here, because see...It's quite different in his presentation for carnival. And he did it, I think it was Paradise Lost. And I saw it, I saw it, I saw it from the pictures that we had a new input.

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