I am a professional sculptor.
What craft do you work with?
I have been a professional sculptor since 2001. First working for a model making and special effects company in London, before setting up a ice sculpting company (glacial art.com) in Liverpool in 2006. At the model making company I learned to sculpt, make moulds and cast in various resins and rubbers, at Glacial Art I learned to design and to Carve. I sold my ice sculpting company in 2021 to become an independent artist specialising in Wood carvings. Sculpting in materials like wax or clay is easy- you can add on and take away the material as much as you like- but with carving you can only take away. You need to meticulously plan what you are going to do before you begin. I love this process. Plan plan plan, then start cutting.
What inspires you to work with this craft?
I was incredibly passionate about Ice sculpting for the years I spent building my business Glacial Art. Creating something that only lasts for hours had a poetry to it. You carved the frozen water into something unique for the event it was intended for, and then once the ice sculpture was released from its subzero storage and installed at room temperature, it was like releasing a wild animal back into nature. As the ice begins to melt, the sculpture glimmers and shines as it changes, shrinking and opening up, dancing its way back to its original fluid state of water. The melting process was like a performance and the longer I made ice sculptures the better I got at choreographing the melt. My time with Glacial Art was magical, but this ice age did come to an end. Everything we created was a direct commission from a client. A sculpture for a wedding, for a product launch, for a photo shoot. We worked to our clients designs and ideas. I started to feel a bit trapped. I wanted to make the sculptures I want to make. I also wanted my sculptures to last longer than one day. I wanted to play with texture and detail, something that is almost pointless on ice as it only lasts for seconds in room temperature. I had mastered carving in Ice and I was ready to look for a new material to work in. Whilst working on my friends farm in Ireland durning the pandemic, I fell in love with wood. All the same tools and techniques I had learned in my 15 years working with ice were directly transferable to wood carvings. With no practice at all, I was cutting animals out of logs with a chainsaw. I was carving intricate detail and I was polishing, burning, painting and staining the wood. I was carving sculptures that excited me and finding the old techniques from my model making and special effects days re-surfacing and blending with my carving skills.
How do you start your creative process?
Ideas are constantly bubbling through my mind, a never ceasing stream of possibilities. Almost all my ideas come directly from what I see in nature. Plants, trees, animals and insects. I try to capture as much as I can with photos and sketches. This is like background noise, always buzzing away, always being observed, always noted and filed away. It’s not until I have a piece of wood in front of me that the actual idea of what I’m about to make comes to life. I can spend a full day just looking at the wood. I much rather use forked or twisted branches than straight logs. I like to search for what creature is lurking beneath the bark. I start to sketch. Then I like to sculpt my idea in wax. A small maquette in wax is far more useful than sketches when it comes to carving the final piece in wood.Then it’s time to use the chainsaw to remove all the material I don’t need, to start looking for the sculpture hiding inside. It’s usually day 2 that I hit the wall of doubt. Have I taken too much wood away? Have I made the cuts too deep? My excitement dies. Ive lost it. I think that on almost every sculpture I have ever carved, I come to realise that it’s not going to be as good as I wanted. It becomes a battle. Keep chipping. Keep grinding. Keep taking a little more away. And then it starts to appear. Form takes shape and my excitement blooms again. Once the sculpture is free from the wood its time to sand and smooth. Bring out the natural patterns in the wood grain. I try to use this as much as possible in the final detailing. Use the beauty already within the wood and don’t add if you don’t need too.
How would you best describe your workspace and what tools could you not do without?
I need a tidy, warm and comfortable workspace. I tend to spend a lot of time just looking and thinking. I need my tools to be exactly where I need them. There is enough confusion in my mind that a cluttered workspace makes things unbearable. I always have an area for the messy work like chainsawing and grinding and a tidy area for the fine detailing. My chainsaw is my first and most important tool. It is possible for me to do a full sculpture with just my chainsaw. After that I use a cordless grinder and a dremel rotary tool for shaping. Finally my Flexcut chisels and my beaver craft carving knives for the fine detailing are my most precious tools.
Are there new techniques you would like to try?
I am still very new to wood carving so there are many new techniques I have yet to try or learn. Wood turning on a lathe is high up on my wish list. I am extremely excited to have been selected to participate in the hub craft residency to learn woodturning under Glen Lucas, a master in this field. I can’t wait to get me teeth stuck into what Glen has to show us and try.
What have you learnt or the best advice you have received that you would like to share with fellow crafters?
My best advice to fellow crafters is- Trust your own ideas. Don’t bounce them off other people to get approval. No one can understand your own vision like you can. If you like the idea, if it excites you, just do it. I’m looking forward to working with metal in the future. To combine metal and wood into my sculptures, enabling me to make larger and more permanent work. My current professional dream is to create a large body of work over the next year and then to be able to exhibit in a gallery. To carve a living for myself as an independent artist.
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