I was born on October 1st, the Feast of the Intercession
of the Virgin, 1946, in Farnham Royal, Buckinghamshire, and put to school
in Slough. My father's family were joiners and cabinet-makers in Cambridgeshire,
my mother's of farming and seafaring stock from Dorset.
Between 1965 and 1972, I attended Cardiff and London
Universities and the Institute of Historical Research, studying History,
Archaeology and Classical Literature, specialising in Medieval History.
I gained a First Class Honours Degree in History from London and won
the Derby Studentship. I went on to research medieval spirituality and
religious thought for a Doctorate, completed in 1985.
From 1973, returning to my grandfather's profession,
I studied woodworking, antique restoration, gilding and picture framing
in private workshops, becoming a self-employed artist-craftsman in 1975.
Throughout this period, I travelled extensively in
Europe and the Middle East, investigating ancient sites and the works
of traditional art and literature associated with them.
From 1986-8 I studied woodcarving with Dick Onians
and John Roberts at the City & Guilds Art School in Kennington,
winning the William Wheeler Memorial Award and the Worshipful Company
of Joiners & Ceilers Prize.
I am registered as an artist-craftsman with the Council for the Care of Churches and architects and Diocesan Advisory Committees countrywide. I was on the database of the Conservation Unit from its inception, but resigned when it was taken over by UKIC in 2004. I have taught carving and life drawing, privately and publicly. I am a member of the Guild for Research into Craftsmanship. I have a lifelong interest in the work of G. I. Gurdjieff.
Articles, features and photographs of my work:
Sculpture and Carving, Conservation and Restoration: fashionable redefinitions are guaranteed titillation, unfailingly bon ton. Skill is only a threshold. If head, heart and hand remain disunited, spirit is locked out. Then one's work is a source of shame. A living culture is remade continuously between opposing forces, even heaven and earth, but at least between whatever upper and nether millstones one is able to experience consciously responsibly.
I have been influenced by the values of ancient sacred
art and the surviving craft traditions, zig-zagging between universitiy,
workshop, art school, museums and ancient sites in inaccessible places.
I have learnt what I am able by conforming to traditional models (envied
for emulation) and original hand tools (useless, unless used properly).
Sacred art, traditional thought, remembering oneself, what is it? One
hears a sound, but doesn't know from where it comes. There is, so to
say, no time.
From hating hand work because it humiliated me, I have come to love the demand it makes for the coordination of all the parts of my common presence. It aborts the influence of contemporary culture by deepening and widening the force of attention supported by sensation of the body. It is said that each day, before attempting to sculpt the human form, the temple carvers in ancient india would make contact with every part of their own bodies. Traditional wisdom says we have something like a mirror within us which needs polishing.
Carving is a subtractive, self-denying process. It requires an unerring relaxed expansion. Forms are abandoned only to be rediscovered. Murder your darlings. In the course of the work the material is soaked in attention. Unity is when the whole exceeds the sum of the parts. Direct carving, from the vision of imagination, unmediated by projected models or mental concepts, is a disciplined way to work. Everything one says about it is a kind of lie.
The forces involved in this work and the precise action of a harmoniously realised form are well expressed in Rilke's poem on an Archaic torso of Apollo.
for here there is no place
On Craft (pdf