My most successful work is a culmination of a number of ideas, observations and feelings expressed as simply and directly as possible.
I build up ideas from first principles by developing a simple clean narrative or story in my head about what the piece is about. Once this is clearly defined it helps to keep things tight, which is especially relevant to Public Art projects where numerous restrictions, practicalities and budgetary restraints have to be negotiated.
Shape is really my thing. I tend to establish the balance, movement and rhythm in the underlying forms and ideas first before moving onto the surface finish (lines, pattern and texture). If the core forms and feel are not right nothing else one does will make any difference.
I tend to work within a set of aesthetic principles that are more instinctive than defined, hinting at origins from the natural world. I use clean, voluptuous and feminine forms with a good sense of structure and purpose.
My aim is to breathe life into static inanimate materials making meaningful, believable and self-contained objects that have a credibility, elegance, integrity and a quality of their own.
I started my training in 1981 as a traditional architectural stone and wood carver for Rattee & Kett in Cambridge. I went on at 21 to study as an industrial designer and subsequently worked in London for Addisons, a large design consultancy.
Since 1993 I have been producing and selling my own work (e.g. Royal Academy 1996 Summer Show) and have undertaken a wide variety of commissions, workshops and public art projects for individuals, groups, public and private organisations.
My carving roots have trained my eye and given me a deep understanding and appreciation of shape and how to move confidently in 3-dimensions. My design background has given me the skills, knowledge and approach to be able to research and execute projects to the highest standards.
I work either on my own or in collaboration with other artists, tradesmen, architects, designers and structural engineers as required to fulfill a brief, depending on the scope, complexity and size of the project. I have a range of contacts to draw on to help me with projects with relationships having been built up over many years.
I endeavour to be fair, honest and transparent in all my undertakings.
Excellence, integrity and quality is at the core of everything I do.
I design and make work that has as minimal an environmental impact as possible e.g. minimising the use of concrete. With regard to materials I will select one that lasts e.g. stainless over mild steel to remove maintenance requirements - rust / painting issues.
For outdoor work accessible by children and the public I always design to BS EN 1176 ‘Children’s playground equipment’ as children will invariably climb over any work therefore it needs to be safe (think head and finger traps).
I also use ‘Inclusive Mobility - A guide to best practice on access to pedestrian and transport Infrastructure’ by The Department for Transport as a guide to best practice.
Where possible I produce everything either in house or supervise work done at a fabricators premises or on site very closely - somebodies reassurance that they understand something at the start of a project needs to be verified as the project goes along so that the big picture and subtlety required are maintained.
I place a high emphasis on the organising, scheduling and running of jobs and therefore can work to tight deadlines and budgets when required.
Key core sculptural principles that usually run in parallel are:
Story - The underlying concept, idea or narrative runs throughout
Underlying Structure - Scale or proportions (balance, movement and rhythm), volumes (i.e. a rib cage), centre lines and symmetry must be maintained, i.e. the line of a twisting backbone with shoulders and hips sitting off this. A quick maquette in clay can be surprisingly accurate to work from and is of far more use than a 2D drawing for work in the round. You can determine the balance movement and rhythm in the forms as well as centre lines etc. quickly and easily.
Viewing Angles - Aspect to the sun, for work at height consider exaggeration, elongation of forms and deeper shadows (for exterior work consider water traps).
Iteration - I try to build in a gap in the projects schedule i.e. design, produce the maquette then leave it for a few weeks or months. Then when I come back to it I see it with fresh eyes - the work benefits from this as you can move it on again. It’s easy to get hung up on one aspect and miss the big picture or overall feel. This also applies to full scale clay models and mid-carving. I like to ask friends and visitors for their first impressions on a piece to get their gut instinct before they have had time to consider the work. An alternative is to view work in a mirror.
Material Working - You need to get to a stage where the actual process becomes second nature so you are not even thinking about the tools, this has become subconscious allowing you to focus totally on the work. To this end once I have roughed out a piece of stone, I mainly work with a ¼” chisel which can do virtually everything, so I do not have to keep changing chisels, allowing my focus to be 100% on the carving. I use the ¼” chisel to draw lines into the stone, helping to reveal and accentuate the form by the path left (similar to the results of a claw or toothed chisel). Towards the end I pick up the smaller chisels and gouges for fine detail work.
Efficiency - With carving or clay work I have a rule that if you are just taking off tiny amounts of material part way through it means you have lost your way and are getting bogged down. It’s time to step away, have a brak and get in touch with the big picture - you should be focused and removing material efficiently producing chips or lumps, not fine dust.
The Force - I try to work unselfconsciously, allowing the work to just flow, trusting my instincts and not forcing things, just letting it happen. To work in this way you need to have done your preparation thoroughly either through years of experience or through research, maquettes, drawings and visual supporting images & materials.
3D - To increase my sense of 3D I am always bobbing up, down, left and right, checking the centre lines and 90 degrees to this, top and bottom which helps build the feel of the developing shape. It’s easy to work on one view only, then come in the next day and view the work from another angle only to see that you have to chop away lots of additional material to get the profile right, thereby wasting time re-doing work.
Fluid Forms Are Essential - It's one of my golden rules - if you have a curve in one plane, you balance it or finish it with the opposite, making an S shape of varying proportions.
Flat - A flat surface can feel dead, empty and cold whereas a subtle convex or concave surface brings warmth and meaning to a piece. I only tend to use flat surfaces in my sculptural work as a way of emphasizing the surrounding 3D shapes.
Contour Lines - I use curving lines on the surface of 3D work like contour lines on a map to help reveal the form and accentuate movement. I also use numerous parallel horizontal lines on work as a way of referencing time, like layers of rock in sedimentary stone.
Life Drawing - An essential core foundation skill
The ability to observe and capture the essence of a pose on paper is key - proportion, scale and foreshortening. Exact precise meticulous drawing is not what matters here, but capturing the feel is.
My grasp of the parallel contending issues tends to ebb and flow in a piece. It can be quite frustrating and exhausting at times but a real pleasure when everything comes together and flows.
The above Approach and observations have been refined and honed through 35 years on a wide variety of projects, resulting in a breadth and depth of experience, bringing both skill and professionalism to my work.
My work is broad and diverse in both subject and material, led by commissions, projects or my own creative ideas. I enjoy the variety and challenge that each project brings and find the demands, interaction and cross fertilization of ideas between areas creatively stimulating.
"I follow what I am passionate about"