3 minutes reading time (515 words)

Placing a value on my work

Placing a value on my sculptures is often challenging! There is a perceived value based on the creative impact, craftsmanship and desirability of my pieces. On the other end of the scale there is also a cost of making which is often overlooked. The general assumption being that my sculptures are made up of discarded wood with the only quantifiable expense being my time to work it into the finished piece. How long can it possibly take to throw a bunch of sticks together??

This could not be further from the truth!

The Armature (the underlying structure) 

I strive to use second life material in all parts of my work - I spend quite a bit of time looking through the scrap yards and local boat wrecking shops to buy second hand high grade stainless steel. At £4.00 / kilo it's fairly expensive and made more so since I don't get to choose the profiles or the shapes that best suit the job. I have to use what I can find and make it work. A horse might require some 500kgs of stainless steel, and perhaps a week to work and weld the scrap into the required shape with the required stability.
Me working on Saltus Fidel, a jumping thoroughbred

The Wood

Here is the part very few recognise: I pick through, chop and shave 90% of this wonderful stock to get to the 10% that conforms to the anatomy of the piece I am making. A horse might carry some 200kg of long dead wood however I have ploughed through 10x that weight to complete it. Hence a driftwood horse sculpture will need some 2,000kg of long dead wood to make. At an average cost of £5.00 / kilo that comes to some £10,000.00.
Me on my off-cuts pile - some 500,000kg of long dead, picked-over Vitex Parviflora

The Craftsmanship 

A horse will take my small group of assistants and I some 1,000 to 1,500 hours to make. I go to extraordinary lengths to make sure that my sculptures will stand the test of time and this comes at a cost. Large slabs of wood are fixed onto the armature using stainless steel bolts which are then welded to this base. Subsequent layers of wood are screwed onto these slabs using coarse stainless steel screws. The entry holes are then sealed with wooden dowels or epoxy sawdust filler. I have yet to make a horse without modifying it. Alas, I only recognise the modifications needed once the sculpture is standing with much of the wood attached. Out comes the chainsaw and cutting discs and the sculpture is hacked back to the armature, the armature is modified and the outer wood re attached. It is a long process. 

And then one has to equip and maintain a workshop that can support such specialist work.

Making driftwood animal sculptures come alive is not a job to be undertaken lightly! 

Exhibitions 2022
Chelsea Flower Show Publication 2022

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