How did you get started?

Because my wife was late! I was waiting for her on the steps of York Minster, started to look at some exquisite new carving around the West door, and thought how wonderful it must be to work in stone.  It must have been fate, because on our return home we found the National Trust were advertising weekend courses with the masons at Hardwick Hall in Derbyshire. So I went along and was bitten by a considerable bug....

 

I've always been interested in making art and I had painted for many years, but technique let me down. I could never achieve on the canvas what I saw in my mind, whereas with stone-carving I found translating ideas into 3D seemed to work.

 

Where do you get your stone?

Mostly, I visit commercial stoneyards and ask if I can take scrap stone from their waste heap, which would otherwise go to landfill. Cut stone is expensive stuff, with most of the cost in the cutting, so it makes little sense to pay for a cut block when the first thing you do is to knock all the corners off.

 

For commissions, I order the right stone for the job. The picture shows delivery of stone for my biggest-ever sculpture

 

Where do you get your ideas?

I find the best ideas come to me when I'm actually thinking about something quite different. Most of my abstracts, for example, start life as doodles when I'm at meetings and not really thinking about sculpture at all. The ideas evolve as I go, through interacting with the stone during carving. I've never tried making maquettes, as many sculptors do.

 

How long does it take you?

A potter friend had a good answer for that; "about thirty years" - or in my case, fifteen. It's difficult to say how long a typical piece takes, as quite often I'll spot an an improvement long after I thought I'd finished. But typically three or four days equivalent, spread over whatever time is available.

 

Is it all done by hand?

No! I start the initial rough cutting with an angle grinder, as I can do in half an hour what would take days by hand, and it minimises the impact on my joints as well. But all the shaping of curves and edges, and all the detailed work, are carved by hand, as is the final abrasion and polish.