Obed Nicholls (1885–1962), pictured below, was a Newlyn artist who worked in copper. Wheelchair bound from birth, he was encouraged to attend evening classes and it was at the Newlyn Industrial Class that his talents were discovered and nurtured until he was sufficiently confident to work independently.
One of the most famous Newlyn School painters, Stanhope Forbes (November 18th), described the class affectionately ‘In the narrowest part of the little lane we stumbled along on our way through the village, where there hangs a curiously fashioned sign, indicating that here an industrial class is held. A terrible din assails your ears, and, curious to find what occasions it, you enter a courtyard, and climbing a steep ladder into an old net loft, find a room full of lads all busy hammering away at curiously shaped pieces of brass or copper. Originally started by that good friend of Newlyn, Mr Bolitho with the co-operation of the artists, and chief amongst them Messrs Gotch and Percy Craft, the idea was to find employment for the spare moments of fisher lads, and certainly a more admirable safety valve for their superfluous energy could not have been devised. To have introduced the best qualities of design into some of the commonest objects of our daily use, surely this is an achievement to be proud of, and probably no work the colony has done will tend more to the true mission of the artist, which is to foster and encourage the love of beauty and grace’.
Funded by the MP, T.P. Bolitho, the Newlyn Industrial Class, teaching metalwork, embroidery and enamelling, was established in 1890 by John Drew MacKenzie (July 22nd) not just to develop an artistic centre but to develop the skills of fisherfolk so they could earn in the off season. It ceased during the First World War but restarted in 1920 until stopping once more in 1939.