As you enter the Victorian regional centre of Shepparton, there are mysterious sentinels on the edge of town.

“Welcome to Shepparton” shouts the sign, as the adjacent giant sculptures of the miniature native plant, known as Pycnosorus globosus, stand at attention.

Made by Furphy Foundry, the sculptures of the plants commonly known as ‘Drumsticks’ were designed by Liesl Malan Landscape Architects (LMLA) for Greater Shepparton City Council.

"This project was definitely a team effort – LMLA, Furphy Foundry and Michel Signs,” said Malan. 

LMLA developed the original sculpture and highway entry concept. The design of the pattern mould for the sculptures, fixing method and materials were then developed in collaboration with Furphy Foundry. Knowing that bronze Drumstick (Pycnosorus globosus) heads would have been too heavy, the team decided to cast them in aluminium. To ensure they weathered well over time, the design team worked with Michel Signs to develop an oxidised copper finish.

"Each drumstick head has been hand-finished,” Malan continued. “Over time, the copper will continue to oxidise and they will gradually develop more of the beautiful green-blue patina."

The design references Pycnosorus globosus, a plant that is native to the region.

The Shepparton highway entry sculptures are part of an integrated approach which celebrates the river and the natural environment of the city.

It grows in areas that are periodically flooded and flowers over the summer. Driving through the Riverina during November and December, their bright yellow heads are a common sight in the table drains on either side of the road. These enduring, tough plants were chosen to represent the river environment of Shepparton and the floodplains which have sustained life for millennia.

Taking Malan’s design, the craftsmen at Furphy Foundry formed the aluminium the globular head of each sculpture in two halves, later bolted together.

This process first required the aluminium casting team creating timber patterns to form sand castings, which were then filled with molten recycled aluminium and poured at around 700 degrees C.

The ‘stems’ were created from 65 NB metal pipe, each hand-formed and shaped to ensure individuality.

In contrast to the natural bright yellow colour of the drumsticks, these sculptures were finished in a flat brown/grey to ensure the “welcome” remained the primary message for visitors to Shepparton.

Currently two main entries to Shepparton feature these sculptures with the two remaining main entries to follow suit in due course.

Furphy Foundry has a long history in designing and manufacturing urban art from metal and other materials, providing interesting shapes and art works for communities around Australia. Take a look at their Custom Gallery for examples.

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