Home   Sudbury   News   Article

Subscribe Now

How Sudbury-born welder Billy Moulton-Day is turning discarded footwear into unique artwork with business Rusty Creations UK

More news, no ads


Horseshoes are living up to their lucky reputation for Billy Moulton-Day - helping him to discover a creative talent that has added a new dimension to his life.

Welder Billy is developing his artistic skills by turning the rusty, discarded footwear of hundreds of horses into sculpture.

Countless thousands of hoof-miles have already gone into his works of art and he is determined many more will follow.

Billy Moulton-Day begins work on his deer sculpture
Billy Moulton-Day begins work on his deer sculpture

At the moment he fits creating his sculptures around a full time job and being a new dad to Maxwell, his five month-old son with fiancée Gemma. But his dream is that one day his metal artworks business, Rusty Creations UK, could become his sole career.

It is even overtaking his long time love of cricket and he says this may be his last season of regular Saturday games.

Four years ago Billy began welding together a few horseshoes to make simple items to sell at craft fairs.

Billy Moulton-Day's sculpture of a deer
Billy Moulton-Day's sculpture of a deer

Now, equipped with a forge - and an anvil that belonged to his grandfather – he is accepting commissions for much more complex works.

He shapes the shoes, and sometimes other recycled metal, into forms including spheres, and animals like dogs, hares and deer.

A life size model of a soldier for a Remembrance-themed commission was among the largest he has tackled so far.

Amazingly, he never draws a plan. Instead he looks for a good place to start – with an animal it could be the nose – and builds the sculpture up from there.

Horseshoe spheres by Billy Moulton-Day
Horseshoe spheres by Billy Moulton-Day

Billy was born and bred in Gestingthorpe, near Sudbury. He and Gemma still live in the village, next door to his dad Chris.

He was always a keen cricketer, and when he left school a sporting career beckoned.

At 17 he was scouted and joined the MCC Young Cricketers programme as a semi-professional, but decided against staying in the professional game.

Billy Moulton-Day working on his grandfathers anvil
Billy Moulton-Day working on his grandfathers anvil

For two summers he played cricket in Australia, and since then has turned out for local clubs including Sudbury and Witham.

“I’ve spent the last 20 years playing cricket every Saturday,” said the 31-year-old.

“This is probably going to be my last season – I prefer doing my sculpture now.”

His previous jobs include making traditional hand-crafted bricks at Bulmer Brick and Tile Company, which specialises in supplying material for heritage projects.

Then in 2017, encouraged by Gemma, he decided to do a college course in welding, and now works for a company that makes decorative fire pits. Recently he has worked on items for their stand at Chelsea Flower Show.

“When I started college I was doing evening classes. I was a member of Essex Young Farmers and they helped fund my first year at college,” he said.

“Then I got some horseshoes and put together a small reindeer design. It took about eight shoes. I sold some over that Christmas and that’s when it sort of clicked.

“I decided to create my own ‘rusty creations’. I started making wine racks and hearts, gift items, things I could display at craft fairs.

“At Christmas 2018, I did about 20 craft fairs. Then the same the next year, then Covid happened, so I just did it online.

I did things on commission, like a King Charles spaniel. I started from the nose. You have to find a simple place to start. The spaniel was a lot bigger than life size.”

Horse's head sculpture by Billy Moulton-Day
Horse's head sculpture by Billy Moulton-Day

Billy is completely honest about why he chose to work with horseshoes. “I decided to use them because they’re free. I have a few mates who are farriers.

“When I first started I didn’t have a lot of money to play with. I never use new shoes, always old ones, ones that have done miles on a horse.”

He set up his equipment at one end of a workshop at Hill Farm, Gestingthorpe, which his dad was already using for woodwork and restoration projects.

They now share the space, but he admits his end of the building is getting slightly crowded.

“I didn’t have a forge at first. I was just hammering horseshoes on a vice.

“But I managed to make some decent things, then made a fish sculpture which was probably one of my favourites.

“When I first started the horseshoes were all in their original shape. Now with the forge I got from a farrier friend I can bend them any way I want.

“There are easy ways of making horseshoe sculptures, and there is the hard way. I like doing it the hard way, straightening the shoes.”

Hare sculpture made from horseshoes by Billy Moulton-Day
Hare sculpture made from horseshoes by Billy Moulton-Day

With the forge furnace-hot, he inserts a horseshoe until it glows orange all over. Not too uncomfortable in winter, but a sweltering job in warmer weather.

Then he hammers it into shape on a anvil that belonged to his grandfather Kenneth Day, who came from a local farming family.

“Grandad had the anvil when he was 14. I’ve also got his bench,” said Billy. “Sadly he died in 2018 so he only saw the pictures of my earliest work.”

It is hard to believe that he can produce his perfectly-proportioned animal sculptures without drawing some kind of plan. But the vision of the finished work is all in his head.

He simply decides where to start, and builds up the model from there.

“I never write anything down. I won’t draw it on a piece of paper. I find pictures on the internet, decide on the pose, and work from one or two measurements.”

Usually he will not make a frame of the shape to guide him, either. One exception to that rule is a sculpture of a deer he has just completed.

“I needed to make the deer in time for the Essex Young Farmers Show at the end of May. So I made a framework to save time, but I don’t normally do that.”

Because he can straighten and bend the horseshoes using his forge, he can make more realistic depictions.

“I try to be as detailed as possible while still keeping a rustic edge,” he says.

Sculpture made from horseshoes by Billy Moulton-Day
Sculpture made from horseshoes by Billy Moulton-Day

He says it is impossible to estimate how many horseshoes have so far gone into his creations. But the spaniel probably took around 200, and a horse’s head he made some time ago, about 150.

Every so often he does the rounds of his farrier friends in his truck to collect more supplies.

He is now thinking bigger and hoping people will commission him for more ambitious projects.

On his website he invites potential customers to 'dream it' and he will create it.

His horseshoe spheres which are a popular format are mostly two or three feet across.

“I’m wanting to go much larger and make some measuring three metres or more,” he said, although he admits he could not make something of that size inside his current workshop.

But what he really wants to tackle is a life size sculpture of a horse. “I would love to make a horse, and I think some day someone will commission one,” he said.