Selected Commissions Link BIO Part One BIO Part Two BIO Part Three
Artist Information HMS Victory Sculpture Upcycled sculptures Wood/Bronze Sculptures HMS Victory
Garter Knights Crests Bath Knights Crests Creating a Crest/Arms Short TV Films
Page Section under construction –
Part Three (First Draft)
To try and quickly analyse, in my case anyway, whilst I can to see what difference if any of all the incidents, accidents, hiccups and Oh what now moments along the way, from day one may have played in part or whole in the great scheme of during the past five plus decades in my particular career as a professional artist. To see if all or any of it all stacks and have outlined just a few of them from the past which have had a major bearing on my future.
Although many of these events were rather irritating at the time to put it mildly in hindsight most would appear to have been a rather vital stepping stone along the way in a direction I often knew not know where.
Having a rather unsettled childhood, moving from place to place, school to school, country to country up to my teens although being happy and brought up with loving caring hard-working parents well and truly countered any issues I might have had at the time. But basically, still being ‘Ian no mates’ during much of this period, if it taught me anything it taught me to be self-reliant and being able to work on my own which for over four decades I have done.
Having a motorcycle crash at 18 years old which not only stopped me from moving around from one place to another and one job to another, but it also gave me disabled green card and enough compensation to buy a house for cash which I never would have afforded to do otherwise which then enabled me to work for myself from a large shed I built in the back garden initially as a carpenter, woodcarver and later as sculptor working in bronze.
Making a mistake renewing my business insurance and losing my furniture making business in a fire. Not only did it indirectly start my career as a wood carver after my successful furniture making business with a full order book was destroyed in a fire and making a mistake with renewing my insurance stopped me in my tracks which then propelled me to change career in my mid-thirties become a woodcarver using just a handful of carving chisels which were part of a job lot which I inadvertently also purchased at a local auction buying a band saw also lost in the fire, but the carving chisels then the only woodworking tools I possessed safely back home on a shelf in the garage. If I had insurance, I would have rebuilt the business and would have most likely not carved anything professionally.
Being in the right place at the right time and also having oh so much help from above and much closer to home. Meeting many kind, thoughtful and generous people out there and there are many of them, especially the family who have both directly and indirectly helped me in one way or another on the journey, more than they know.
Having my first exhibition in an art gallery in London’s Mayfair just for a pre- Christmas showing and soon found myself humbled in the presence of artists that really knew their stuff when I had only two years earlier, I was making my living as a carpenter. Fortunately, the exhibition went rather well and it was extended and various exhibitions in museums and art galleries up and down the country followed for over a decade when in the end I was so busy trying to work on both exhibition pieces and commissions and having just one pair of hands, most of the time; I simply couldn’t continue to do both and decided to stop exhibiting in art galleries, with my last exhibition taking place in 1997 at the ‘Mall’ Gallery in London.
Except perhaps for the ‘Ian GB Retrospect’ being worked on and off in my ‘spare’ time for the past four decades, at a time and venue yet to be determined; but I am working on it.
Having the right tools for the job. As commissions increased necessitated my having all the right tools for the right job when a kind lady sold/gifted me her entire collection of over two hundred brand new wood and stone carving chisels, clay and wax working tools, mallets, vices etc kindly sold all of it for just a nominal fee.
Public Speaking; Had I been left to my own devices always quietly shielding away from any form of public speaking for over thirty years but reluctantly agreed to give my firsts talk in public by one of the village elders at the age of thirty-seven and later ended up giving media interviews and hundreds of public speaking engagements initially from a church hall to Windsor Castle and then travelled the World having been invited to participate as Guest Speaker on five of their Luxurious Ships for almost three decades.
The Hurricane in 1987 and the Storm winds in 1990, which provided me with a decade of huge stock of expensive carving timber for free, which I would never have afforded and the massive timbers lasted me for over a decade. These large mostly lime trees supplied with many large timbers to create and experiment with on my assorted large one-piece sculptures.
Having a large collection of my wood sculptures, damaged or stolen. A local newspaper ran a full feature about my work which was spotted by a Gallery owner visiting friends in the area. She then asked to see his work and consequently invited me to exhibit my wood sculptures in her top gallery in London’s Mayfair just a few years after I first started carving.
Working on a large collection of wood sculptors which took me years to complete for a series of planned exhibitions both locally and in London in art galleries which once completed were then either stolen and damaged in the first exhibition and what sculptures were recovered were then exhibited and promptly stolen from the next art gallery, including a full size ‘Osprey in flight catching a trout, my centerpiece. Fortunately, the police eventually managed to find the life size swimming otter and a large leaping panther, but the Osprey is still out there somewhere.
One day my new neighbour who worked for the Times newspaper took a photo of one of my sculptures and within the week was featured in in the Times newspaper and the phone then was then really busy with enquiries and one of the callers was from the Royal Household who had seen my wood carvings and invited me to London to discuss the possibilities of my producing wood sculptures for Windsor Castle and Westminster Abbey………
Breaking my fingers. Carelessly breaking my fingers on my left chisel holding hand. My left hand was crushed under a massive beam I was trying to unsuccessfully move which broke the index and middle finger. Being unable to hold a carving chisel normally in three dimensions started to carve only requiring my good hand in base relief which today is around half of my commissions. During my daily visits to the occupational therapy unit at the QA hospital to assist movement in the fingers. I was then taught by a member of staff, how to use a wood turning lathe and began turning my wooden coronets and crowns which up till then I was carving by hand which takes considerably longer to do.
An accident with a chainsaw. Which once again prevented me from using my left hand to concentrate more on relief carving and working in clay and wax, I could do one handed. but could work with clay working tools, so I was experimenting making small sculptures in clay for possibly cast in bronze in the future.
Working in bronze. After explaining to friends and clients Terry and Judy I was now also thinking about working in bronze, but couldn’t afford the foundry costs. They said if we win the lottery, they would have a dozen or so of my original sculptors, moulded and cast in bronze. A few weeks later they won the lottery, Yeh, I know you couldn’t’ make it up as Terry and Judy arrived at my studio and told me their news and good to their word, they promptly contacted the ‘Phoenix’ art foundry and around three months later, I then had a collection of a dozen large and small bronze sculptures, to exhibit alongside my large and small wood sculptures.
Having a stroke in November 2016 whilst on the Queen Mary 2 and lost all my close-up vision live on stage in front of a large audience and also being filmed so that my talk could be played back on a continuous loop on everyone on board cabin TV. Although I could see normally in the distance I totally lost my close up and my peripheral vision and even with a magnification screen and thick lens glasses was unable to correctly carve in three dimensions, so I was unable to see what I was craving during this period but not too sure what that was all about mind…. But always needing to do something, decided to start writing this journal/bio with the laptop set up on the 72 font on Christmas eve and my sight began to return back to normal each day at almost 10 fonts a time and by the end of December I was back to using my normal 12 but still often requiring spell check and could then put this laptop away and my overalls on and got on with my proper job in my other happy place; the preps room, with timber, tools, dust and stuff.
Breaking my foot. After fully regaining my sight and peripheral vision now working as usual and finally catching up with my commissions, and being so busy I stopped writing this journal for about a year, but having a half day off in 2019, fell off a ladder breaking my foot and being told to rest. Well, here we go again as always need to do something so I once again decided to continue writing this potential journal/bio and it most likely being so busy with commissions the journal would most likely never have existed which is meant to be just like a diary I meant to keep, often taken notes from the diary Sue did keep.
To be fair none of this was part of any master plan I might have envisaged as a teenager about to leave school especially as I never had one as I was always a bit of a blank canvas as far as a ‘career’ was concerned and was always looking for the next job and effectively as a teenager I just went along for the ride and the brown envelope which came with it every Friday afternoon with real money inside and mostly simply hung on in there like we all do and did the best we could to cope with what turned up next time, which eventually ended up my starting a new career again quite by chance once again in a totally different direction not of my choosing, but turned out to be the right direction for the past three decades as a professional sculptor to Royalty…….
In 2020 things were so different for us all up and down the land as Sue and I being in the so called ‘venerable’ age group along with most people were self-isolating and trying to get a grocery delivery slot and when you did, totally relying on the armies of special people up and down the land in all forms of employment still carrying on, often get up at dawn to sort also the order out for us and then the equally special delivery drivers with a warm greeting that delivers your vital supplies to the front door, which for us then the only other time the front door was opened was to give the much appreciated 9.00 pm NHS clap to all the emergency workers including my eldest daughter who works in a hospital maternity unit and her husband who is paramedic, as are both his brothers and their wives. Along with so many other vital trades and skills always out there to share them with us all. Postmen like my son in law, shop workers, the kind volunteers standing for hours in a car park in the pouring rain to show you where you go to get your Covid jab and the kind staff inside administering it, the list is endless and all equally important as each other in their own special. People who simply carry on regardless of Covid and out in all weathers which for me just a humble carver who now officially again really doesn’t get out much, really does put it all in perspective.
Otherwise, during this period I continued to work pretty much normally as commissions continued to arrive from all over the world and once again being collected from truck drivers to deliver the then completed sculptures back to their new home. Drivers yet another one of the oh so many people who deserves a medal with much of the world still in lockdown and as such no longer giving Talks on land or at sea and with no other distractions to stop me working seven days a week yet again playing catch up on commissions I couldn’t say no to apart from trying to get to grips with the Zoom thingy with the family without the frequent shouts and laughter of ‘Oh not that button Granddad as I try to adjust something on the phone or laptop which I wished I hadn’t touched, before I eventually managed to get back using machines far less stressful I do know how to use being back in my comfort zone, once again wielding my cutting-edge chainsaw around like a broad sword a Knight of old in the heat of battle, but hopefully in my case with far less dramer now wearing a more modern form of body armour, creating a Crest for the Knights far more contemporary compatriot. A Crest once hidden deep within the trunk of a massive tree that took centuries to grow but alas stopped doing so several years earlier.
My now being in my seventies and although apparently still being in the ‘venerable’ age group and despite still able to work pretty much as per normal, the kind people at Westminster Abbey and Windsor castle have collected the latest Crowns, Coronets and Crests from my studio built by me in the 1970’s to be placed in their new home in Windsor Castle built by the Normans over 700 years earlier, to save me the long journey and time doing so which would now enable me to start work on the next one as time waits for no one although when you see the line of colourful newly sculpted Crests placed upon the ancient Battle helmets in both medieval historic chapels, you wouldn’t think so, as they look as they have always been there.
As such when I created a pair of Knight of the Garter Swords several years ago one of which was commissioned for Prince William; The Duke of Cambridge which was created over several weeks in all its glory, using an original 15th century sword to replicate which Windsor kindly loaned me and then spent several more hours aging the two new swords to blend in with the thirty plus similar medieval swords that were placed in position in the historic Chapel to ensure they also looked as they have always been there.
The Duke of Cambridge Sword and Crest being worked on is now placed in St George’s Chapel.
During the past three decades working as a professional wood carver and sculptor on a variety of subjects and materials started from the remains of my burnt-out furniture making business which was the beginning of an often-fraught transformation process from carpenter to carver. Initially on a journey not of my choosing but often with the assistance of oh many unusual events along the way far too many to mention in the here and now but I might get around to it in the future, all helped keep up the momentum going forward.
From one moment creating furniture in my garden ‘shed’ initially built to house my motorbike, before moving my entire furniture making business a few miles away in a so much larger rented workshop initially built to grow mushrooms then crammed with a dozen large expensive three-phase woodworking machines which made furniture so much easier and quicker to produce, but still having to work from dawn to Dusk to keep up with all the orders all of which were lost when the workshop burn down whilst I slept.
Inside was designs, tools, machines and completed furniture and the only thing that surviving the raging fire was two twenty-foot-long Cedar wood logs left seasoning outside from which I could hopefully make something, anything to sell to help make ends meet and the firefighters kindly kept a powerful hose on them throughout the night so one day I might.
The same place in a different time zone (1984-2022)
Although both cedars logs were charred around the edges, they were still good to go and plank by plank over the first few years, go they did which helped put food on the table and helped keep creditors at bay, working back in the shed using the first of these cedar planks created a seating unit for a paying customer and a few years later from the last cedar planks created several large wildlife bas-relief carvings just to see if I could do it. As the short transformation process from carpenter to carver was complete as I realised I could.
Kitchen unit 70 inches long – Elephant panel 26 inches high and the Lion 30 inches high - cedar wood
The workshop fire itself which laid waste to my furniture making business for the local community which in turn ignited my dormant sculpture career creating sculptures for Kings and Queens and as the workshop area and everything around it was cleared away and a housing development ‘Cedar ‘Park on ‘Sovereign Crescent, was built in its stead. All the signs are there!
With my old furniture making skills behind me and newfound carving skills now way out front, led to an influx of commissions from all over the world and much closer to home, but being only 24 hours in the day and having just one pair of hands; most of the time, at one point having a two-year waiting period for new commissions, prevented my working on exhibition pieces for art galleries apart from my proposed ‘Retrospective’ exhibition being created in my 'spare' time and as such no longer requiring to do TV, newspaper and magazine interviews to help promote such exhibitions apart from one or two, being so busy working on commissions, simply got on with doing it, rather than just talking about doing it. Apart from being invited to give talks with Cunard for over two decades but that was also a working holiday so that doesn’t really count.
My first exhibition of my wood sculptures in 1984 was in a layby just a few hundred yards from a Craft show and my last exhibition in 1997 was mainly of bronze sculptures in an art gallery just a few hundred yards from Buckingham Palace.
The Mall gallery again at the same place taken in a different moment in time (1997 - 2022)
The Mall gallery situated directly opposite where the Queen Platinum jubilee procession would two decades later pass by on the same day as I completed the bejewelled gilded coronet for the future Queen Consort, just one of the latest of over three hundred unique wood, bronze and silver sculptures in a wide variety of subjects and materials as a full-time occupation I would have happily done as a hobby. Working in a studio I share with the local wildlife that backs on to a forest alongside the Solent and if I had to basically try and sum up my day job and often night job during the past forty plus years from carpenter to a carver making it so, along with the many ups and downs, near misses and oh what now moments and when things actually did go bump in the night, in one word, it might well have to be…….
‘Exhausting’…. but I wouldn’t change anything.
Well maybe one or two, possibly quite a lot more than that really and oh don’t get me on the subject of……...
Success of course is relative and to some it comes easy, to others they have to work hard for it, but to me it came as a big surprise……..
Working in a career I would never have thought chosen or imagined I would ever be capable of doing for a living would result in my creating sculptures they would then be placed on display in such historic places including Windsor Castle, Westminster Abbey, St Paul's Cathedral, The Royal College of Arms, along with Museums, Government buildings, Universities, Churches, the United Grand Lodge of England, Company receptions, HMS Victory, Cunard Ships, Public Spaces and both Stately and Private homes all over the World. Including creating sculptures for over one hundred Knights, three British Prime Ministers, twenty-seven British and European Kings, Queens, Princes, Princesses, Earls, Lords and an Emperor. Sculptures have also been created for Television programs and can also be found on books and magazine covers and even featured in the Country Life book and magazine as a 'Living National Treasure' and examples of my work can also be found on a set of Royal Mail Postage Stamps featuring Windsor Castle issued in 2017......... Yes I know.....but.
What if in 1984 I had simply renewed my business insurance correctly like most people tend to do and have done so in the past without any real issues I would have most likely have simply replaced all my tools, machines and timber, with the insurance moved into the new workshop I was planning to do anyway in a few weeks’ time, take on staff to help with my full order book in the once flourishing cabinet making business and simply started again.
Or indeed if the fire which literally ignited the whole change of career scenario never happened....I would have most likely never have carved anything for a living and all the well over three hundred sculptures for such exciting people and places all over the world and also much closer to home, would most likely never have existed.
I wouldn’t have known that of course as I would probably be far too busy still designing, creating furniture and as it was my turn making the tea (other beverages are available) for all my staff who were also helping make the furniture and fitting out kitchens, restaurants and expensive yachts. Who knows I most likely would have retired by now with my feet up mid-afternoon having a bit of a nap. Maybe even retired early and and having a bit of a lay in in having sold my no doubt rather successful furniture and yacht fitting business as a going concern and as a result of selling the business with all that cash it would have made and now with plenty of spare time on my hands, maybe even start thinking about going on our first Cruise on one of the massive luxury Cruise Ships, we often see going past whilst on our walks strolling along the coast, or maybe even trying my hand at a bit of wood carving using an old set of carving chisels I found a few weeks back whilst clearing out the garage and then maybe even trying to carving something in the shed where I keep my motorbikes.
But instead, back in the real world in the here and now I am here writing this journal of sorts having ‘stolen’ yet more hours getting up before the dawn chorus, but the sun’s getting up now and foxy and family knows I am also up as one is now scratching at the lounge window looking for breakfast, I should be doing the same and then really be getting on with my proper job swinging a mallet and driving a chisel into a block of timber that was planted over a century ago but alas stopped growing a few years back. The following chapters when complete will eventually cover in more depth not only my career initially as a part time woodcarver but a full-time survivor learning on the job to then becoming a professional sculptor working on a wide variety of subjects and materials all of which came about quite by chance.
Especially when often as a teenager having just left school when asked what I wanted to do when I eventually grow up and really didn’t have a clue and then in my late twenties having done so, finally decided it was to be a carpenter, just like my grandfather, that was until the 7th of May 1984, fate decided otherwise as I was standing amongst the burnt out remains of my furniture making business and the dozen or so of my large three phase woodworking machines along with my only form of income, when amongst the burnt our rubble and smell of blackened timber, I noticed a small burnt outline shape of a leaping dolphin and discovered my true vocation……providing I just hang on in there and go with the flow. like you do…….
‘Success is not how high you climb, but how long you can hang on’
This BIO/Journal has yet to be finished, but why use one word when a thousand will do, so it might take some time,.... but I am working on it.
Or, to quote one of Britain’s Greats - Sir Winston Churchill;
‘This may not be the end, it may not even be the beginning of the end, but it is perhaps the end of the beginning’
Or, to Quote one of Hollywood’s - Terminator 101;
I’ll be back;
Possible Chapters for the Journal/bio: - which are not yet finished… but I am still working on. it…when and if I can continue to steal a few more early hours.
'Coming of Age'
‘Back to my roots’.
‘The trials and tribulations creating a life size Eagle’.
‘Moment of Epiphany.’
‘Working on HMS Victory’.
‘Working for and with the Royal Household’.
' Three decades of creating Crowns, Crests and Coronets for Westminster Abbey and Windsor Castle'
'At Home with British Wildlife'
'Somewhat more unusual commissions'
'Various restoration projects'
‘The Present Day and Beyond’
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