Groups have been a part of my professional practice for about 30 years. I like the challenge of the human figure, and the group dynamics and body language that a group carving provides. Also I take on board Henry Moore’s idea that “sculpture should be interesting from each of the 360 degrees of the compass”. I have simplified this to “there should not be an obvious front and back”. There is a fascination to finding figures inside the log. All of the the work below is not for sale as it is where I have done my learning and I refer to them frequently.
Commissions are welcome.
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This carving was made in complete secrecy for the recipients 60th birthday. I was working from two small photographs and his wife’s memory that the bike was a Honda 350. The internet showed that there were 4 different models but I could not work out which one fitted the pictures I had. Eventually I asked the East Leeds Lions MCC for help and they came back within 24 hours with a definitive identification and good pictures of the model.
To get the bike to stand right with a correct angle of the front wheel I needed a model I could actually measure, so I made up one of those plastic kits. It was a level 4 kit and very difficult to assemble, but as some fairly drastic simplification would be required in the final carving, I was able to leave off the fiddly bits.
The sculpture is about a motorcycle that has broken down again, which was my experience of motorcycles and the commissioners. It’s that moment when feminine impatience about how long the repair is taking comes into conflict with concern about the fixers confidence about their ability to mend it.
This was one of the first planned group carvings. Before this group carvings had just happened. I learnt a lot from this carving, such as:
I have put these into practice in later work.
Have you ever done country dancing? The Cute Companions is a set where you pass your partner on the left and the next dancer on the right, then left and right until you get back to your partner. Confused? Well try doing it to fast music. Whenever I have danced it, the set has always gone wrong the first time with the music.
This carving captures the moment before the music is switched off. It was inspired by a doughnut shape log, completely hollow due to rot. The rot was a constant problem, as bits fell off figures causing a complete revamp from fat to thin person, and getting a clean final surface almost impossible.
I was travelling daily from Birmingham to London by train and had lots of experience of waiting. The wood came from the top of the willow trunk where it had been pollarded and there were lots of branches joined together, and in some places, separated by bark. I used the bark to help me get into the centre of the block and create small groups within the larger group. There are twenty two figures on the carving if you count the teddy bear.
This carving was made for the recipients 70th birthday. It represents the grandmother and her eight grandchildren. When I started there were only seven and they were all boys, I had them arranged helter skelter wise round the grandmother in size order.
Before I finished another grandchild was born, and this had to be squeezed in. I just found the right amount of wood for the extra child and finished the carving before another came along. With seven boys to carve there was a problem of making them all interesting so I invented interesting ways to represent their clothing.
Kevin Griffiths, the town cryer of Barnoldswick, Lancashire, commissioned this carving as the prize for their local Town Cryer competition. The winner keeps the prize for two years and then it is fought for again.
When we discussed the design, it was obvious that he wanted a typical town cryer stance with an outstretched arm ringing a bell. Unfortunately that sort of design is unlikely to withstand the rigours of normal life and in a very short time the arm will fall off. I suggested that a more relaxed, “I have just finished my part in the competition” stance would be more suitable, as it kept the bell and the scroll protected by being close to the body.
I was inspired by the burr on this root and made it into the frilly underskirt that ballroom dancers wear. The other dancers were chosen from a variety of styles to fit the roots.
This was my first group carving and came about due to a complete lack of inspiration. I decided I would tidy the garage and carve the first bit of carvable wood I came across. If I failed to find anything, at least I would end up with a tidier garage. The wood I found was rotten, and the good wood so thin that I thought of making it into a lamp shade. This led to me thinking about people round a bonfire when all you see is their black shape against the fire light.
I carved this in America whilst an exchange student in Richmond, Virginia. I made contact with the local woodcarvers – James River Woodcarvers – who met once a week to carve. There was not enough wood for the feet so I imagined them as dancers on a smoke filled stage as seen in Top of the Pops.
I was asked to submit a piece for the British Woodcarvers Association ‘Childhood’ exhibition. I could not think of anything until I remembered Music and Movement at school. A very plummy English voice would say “And now children, I want you to find yourself a space, and when the music begins, imagine that you are…” I was hopeless at it. There were always girls who went to tap and ballet classes who looked so elegant. I am the one that looks as if he is falling over.
This was carved in a hotel bedroom in Abu Dhabi, in response to a British Woodcarvers Association request for work to be exhibited in a Shakespeare’s England exhibition in aid of the building of the new Globe Theatre.
I used a carpet covered mallet in attempt to keep the noise down. I could not find any books in the library on Elizabethan England and so borrowed heavily from Brugel for the style of medieval clothes and musical instruments. I often wonder what the chambermaid thought of the small wood chippings that I did not manage to clean up!
I was carving at the Malpas Vintage Vehicle Show and a fellow exhibitor said it reminded her of her childhood.
One of the children had found an unexploded bomb sticking out of the ground, and contrary to all the instructions, they pulled it out of the ground and took it to the police station. The policeman on duty turned a deathly shade of white, ushered them out and called the bomb disposal people.
Pine is not a good wood for carving because it splits easily. I decided to push the wood as far as it would go, so there is lots of space between the figures which lead to some scary carving.
This was carved from a whole beech tree. The legs from the root, the trunk is trunk, and the arms and head are from branches. It can actually stand in about five different positions.
© 2011 John Adamson