I was thinking of subjects for sculptures for The Natural Eye, the annual exhibition of The Society of Wildlife Artists at the Mall Galleries in London, and decided that it would be fun to try and make a red squirrel.
I tried to make the piece life size but it ended up a little too large. Despite my best efforts most pieces end up about 15 or 20 percent bigger than I intend. I think it is a combination of working with found objects and working in 3D. If I was using a malleable material such as plaster or clay I could remove or add volume fairly easily. With found objects I like to try and show as much of the shape of the original tool as possible and hesitate to grind volume away and ‘muddy’ the shapes.
The head has a variety of tiny spanners in it and the ears are made of a large wingnut that I cut in half and dinner forks with steel cable for the tufts. Although it is a bit obvious to use colour in the piece, I think it helps to show it is a red squirrel and not the larger grey. The bulk of the red comes from an old hand drill and a canterbury hoe along with a couple of pairs of pliers that had red handles. In addition I found a coat hook that I brought back from Sark with layers of white paint which was perfect for the white belly. The tail proved a problem until I hit on the idea of using old auger drill bits.
I enjoyed making this commission as I think corvids are very striking and lend themselves to being made out of old tools. When I make a piece I tend not to think about the item itself, as far as I’m concerned they are shapes and forms.
The bill on a Raven is extraordinarily large and the combine ‘finger’ was a perfect start. I shaped it slightly at the tip and added an old hand made nail for the lower part and steel cable for the characteristic bristle on the top.
The title of the piece, Blade Raven, was obvious when I realised how many blades were in the sculpture. Circular sawblades for the shaggy feathers, shear blades for the wings and tail, a sickle in the wing complete with the remnants of a ‘Spear and Jackson’ label and rotavator blades on the body among others. To add to the shaggy neck I used a small garden fork but also had an old dinner fork and a carving fork from an ancient collection of cutlery that I had been given.
This piece was a commission for a gift for a family member with a house in France named after the bird. It was quite an undertaking to create a piece in sheet steel on such a relatively small scale.
The problem with birds is that often a great deal of their recognisable features is in the plumage colours. I do not paint my sculptures so I have to be quite creative to refer to patterns and colours when using steel. For this piece I used the grille from an old white transit van bonnet to suggest the barring on the chest. in order to get a good dark stripe I had to create a space behind the grille to give the depth of shadow. It worked out quite well. In addition when working with painted steel you have to take care to ensure that the welds are kept to a minimum or the paint burns off.
An example of a sculpture on which I made use of colour is the Southern Ground Hornbill. This piece was made with scrap items that had already got red paint on them (spanners, pliers and a spokeshave) so provided the striking red pouch on the bird.
Southern Ground Hornbill
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I am lucky enough to see lots of hares in the fields around the village. This is a simple study of a reclining hare that reminds me a little of Durer’s drawing of a young hare. This piece is available from The Pinkfoot Gallery.
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A client commissioned me to make a sculpture of her feisty bantam cockerel. He was a bit of a character apparently and I hope that I have captured something of his attitude in this piece. A circular saw blade is used for the comb and auger bits, heated in my pot bellied stove then bent, add to the tail feathers alongside callipers and a builder’s trowel.
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I made this piece for an exhibition in Stamford called ‘Living on the Edge’ that was a spin off from the New Networks for Nature symposium. The remit of the show was to make work in response to the title. It was a thought provoking show and I made Dog Chain Bittern, Tweezer Nosed Frog, a Roesel’s Bush Cricket and Bilhook Badger.
Dog Chain Bittern
Dog Chain Bittern alluded to the success of conservation efforts to help a particular species by setting up reserves.
Tweezer Nosed Frog
The Tweezer Nosed Frog was a reference to how the world has got smaller so that wildlife can be exposed to non native flora and fauna and indeed viruses, in this case the choroid virus that has spread through amphibians and is cited as the cause of extinction of at least one South American frog species.
Roesel's Bush Cricket
The Roesel’s Bush cricket is extending its range in the UK possibly through global warming and by making use of roadside verges.
A badger was an obvious choice as being a mammal in the news due to the TB crisis and an example of a species that is at the centre of a massive controversy involving Government, the farming industry, conservation organisations and the public.
I made a special effort to use plenty of digging tools in the piece as I enjoyed the fact that badgers are honed digging machines.
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Sole Great Auk
I was commissioned to make a life sized Great Auk for a client. I had to look on the internet for pictures of stuffed specimens and found biometrics on line as well. The specimens were very reliant on the skills of the taxidermist so I ended up basing my version of a Great Auk on an oversized Guillemot for the eye position and general feel of the bird.
Sole Great Auk
I tried to capture the essence of the bird and was really pleased with the find of a ‘tramp’ or metal sole in my scrap pile. Designed to protect the base of the foot the ‘tramp’ was attached by a strap to the boot and used when doing a lot of digging I believe. The ‘tramp’ forms the back of the bird and allowed me to use a quality pun in the title of the piece ‘Sole Great Auk’.
Sole Great Auk
I think it came out surprisingly well considering I had such variable reference and the bird itself is rather ungainly. The ridges on the beak were defined by the use of an old drawer handle and secateurs made up the bulk of the bill.
Sole Great Auk
I was asked to make a sculpture of a particular dog for a client. Patch is a fox terrier who should have flopped over ears but hers decided to ping up. It gives her a charm all of her own but meant it was actually a rather tricky sculpture to get right as the ears seemed very large. As the client had commissioned it as a surprise joint birthday present for friends it was impossible for me to meet Patch in person so I had to rely on photographs and looking at her conventionally eared daughter Pickle who belongs to my client.
The sculpture actually took a long time as I got bogged down in the detail and had to slim down the face to capture the distinctive muzzle of the breed. One ear is based around a small builder’s trowel and the other has part of a rotavater blade among other things. I managed to allude to the splodge on her body, hence the name Patch, by using cogs from egg whisks. The characteristic stance and feeling of her being ‘ready for anything’ worked well and is typical terrier. Some may say that my attention to detail went a little too far as I could not resist putting the strategically placed nut at the base of the tail.
Patch the Fox Terrier