I am quite sure that if I had enjoyed my boarding school, and
gone to University, I would have ended up in the City of London,
and spent my life behind a desk. Instead I found my boarding school
days very depressing. Life at Rugby School after W W II was a
pretty spartan affair. The water would freeze over night in the
dormitory basins, and with food rationing still in force (one
egg a week, and sausages guaranteed 'no meat'), we were all left
pretty hungry. However this was not the reason for my unhappiness,
the main problem was the sheer boredom, and draconian authority.
Mr Barraclough saved the day. He must have noticed my change in enthusiasm for the lessons. He asked me if I would like to join his little sculpting group in the tiny studio he had under the stairs in the basement. The room was about 15 feet square, and smelt deliciously of wood and linseed oil. He gave me a chisel and mallet, a block of wood, and asked me what I wanted to carve.
I built a house, fell in love with Margie, got married, and together we worked the property. Over the following 10 years the sheep numbers grew to 3000, and the sons to 3. After 10 years of hard work, when the property was fully developed and the work load lessened, I found I had some spare time, but no hobbies.
VENUS, the `Hula Hula' girl, had followed me to Australia, and
sat on the bookshelf in our Homestead. It now became the catalyst
that took me back into sculpting. I used to look at the carved
wooden figure, and it made me want to sculpt again. One day I
walked past an art shop in Melbourne that happened to have an
offer of clay for sale, half price. I walked in, bought a bag,
and took it home.
In the end the decision was easy. That summer was a scorcher,
and the temperature reached 115 degrees. One day I came into the
house to escape the sun and found it just as hot inside. My wife
and I decided, right then and there, to sell the farm and buy
land nearer a city, and schools. The farm was soon sold, and then
I suggested that, before rebuying, the whole family go to England
for 2 years. We would rent a furnished house in the country, I
would spend the time sculpting, and we would show our sons where
I had grown up as a boy. Unfortunately my father had died by this
time, but my mother was living in London, so it would be a good
time for her to get to know her grandchildren.
I flew to England, rented a lovely Georgian house in North Devon
near Barnstaple, called Marwood Hill, and also a barn which would
act as my studio. I went to see my mother to talk to her about
my decision. She replied, "I am not surprised. Do you remember
my giving you a set of wood carving chisels when you were 12?
It was because a 'fortune teller' had told me that my youngest
son would be a sculptor". "Well, " I thought, "maybe for a couple
I moved into the Barn studio, bought some clay from the Barnstaple Pottery, and started my first child figure, my son Tim playing marbles. By luck I was given the name of a master plasterer, Mr Manzini. When I had finished the figure he drove down from London and took a waste mould of the sculpture. He introduced me to his friend who did cold resin bronze casting (a cheap way of producing a bronze looking sculpture), and I had the figure cast.
Fired by the whole adventure, other children sculptures soon followed, and then I did a figure of a kneeling mother holding a child up in the air. This was my first sale. My landlord Dr Jimmy Smart bought the figure to go on the island he had created in the lake of the Marwood Hill gardens. It is still there and you can buy a picture postcard!
On one of my trips to the resin foundry to collect a sculpture, I met the workman who had done the job, Mr Roy Wakeford. His skilled workmanship, along with the care he put into the finish of the job, had to be seen to be believed. Here was a real master craftsman, and we immediately liked each other. He was not very happy with his employer, and somehow between us, we agreed that he should start his own business in his garage in London, and I would give him all my work.
Without Roy my sculpturing days would have soon ended. Instead,
over the last 25 years, single handed he has made every waste
mould and positive plaster cast, of every sculpture that I have
made. The number of children I did over the next 10 years reached
above 100. On top of this I did several athletic figures, some
of which, i.e. ACROBATS, were 16 feet high. They were all done
in his garage!
The two years came to an end, and we asked Dr Smart if we could
stay another year, to see if the new career would last. At the
end of the 3rd year, he wanted the house back. Still with the
problem of schools, we bought a house in Somerset, to be near
King's School Bruton. We settled into our new home, and have been
there now for 25 years. The old apple barn that went with the
house, home of the cider press, became my studio. I was now committed
In an art magazine I had seen advertised the bronzes of Enzo Plazzotta, and greatly admired them, and envied the skill of the sculptor. I wrote to him and sent him some photographs of the pieces that I had done. Could I possibly come and talk to him and ask his advice? He wrote back and agreed to see me when I was next in London.
I went to visit Enzo. For the first time in my life I entered a real art studio. Northern light, stands, tool benches, even a little changing room for models! I was overawed. All around me were beautiful wax figures that he was working on. At this time Enzo was specialising in ballet dancers, and female nudes. Later he went on to produce some stunning larger than life male figures.
Enzo invited me in and made me a cup of coffee. We talked and
he looked at some more photographs that I had brought with me.
I asked him if I should continue to try and earn a living as a
sculptor. "Do you want to do anything else other than be a sculptor?",
he asked. "No", I replied. "Then why are you asking me? Go and
Enzo Plazzotta became a great friend. He took me to Italy and
introduced me to the Fonderia Mariana, who have cast all the Symbolic
Sculpture bronzes in the UNIVERSE SERIES. He lent me his studio
in Pietrasanta, and taught me to model in wax. I was never able
to thank him properly for the early encouragement he gave me,
and for making me believe in myself and my Intuition.
Around 1975, about the time of Enzo's death, I began to work on the Symbolic Sculptures. By this time all my Figurative Sculptures were being cast in real bronze, and the Harrods's Fine Arts Gallery had become my main outlet. Roy was still handling all my plaster work, and the bronzes were being cast in Italy and England.
Harrods were not interested in my Symbolic Sculptures. "Stick to what we can sell", they advised. Well you can't live like that if you are full of ideas you want to try. I had to make a change.
I went to several other Galleries, here and in the USA, and got the same Harrods-type answer. How could I solve the problem? When my Mother died, I had inherited her apartment in London. I decided to sell it, and invest the money in my own Gallery. I talked the idea over with the manageress of the Harrods Gallery, and asked her if she would consider coming to work for me if I leased a Gallery. She said she would, and I soon found some marvellous premises in Albemarle Street, off Piccadilly, London, and bought the lease. The Freeland Gallery was born, using my Mother's maiden name.
The Freeland Gallery
The Freeland Gallery displayed bronze children in the front window,
and made its income from the sale of these sculptures. Inside
I had all my Symbolic Sculptures. We only kept the Gallery for
just over two years, but during that time three men came in and
once again my life changed. The change was so radical, I no longer
needed the Gallery. I had found my Patrons.
he next man to pass by the Gallery was Robert A. Hefner III. He looked through the window and saw the Symbolic Sculptures. He asked to meet me, but there was a problem, he was leaving next day for the States. I rushed to London to have breakfast with him in his hotel. I found a man passionate about art, the owner of the greatest collection of contemporary Chinese paintings, my own age, plus, and we shared many views about Life. He bought 2 heroic pieces, and now has some 15 other very large sculptures at his Aspen home in Colorado. He also has become one of my closest friends.
Robert has donated pieces of my Symbolic Sculptures to the Aspen Centre for Physics, the Aspen Institute, the Fields Institute for Research into the Mathematical Sciences, Toronto, and Macquarie University Sydney. Damon has donated sculpture to the University of Wales. Between them they have donated one piece to Harvard, and three pieces to the Isaac Newton Institute, University of Cambridge.
Also through the Freeland Gallery I met the Swiss Patrons who
form Edition Limitee, whose support has been beyond measure. They
too have donated sculpture to Universities and Institutions of
Education. Edition Limitee published a 90 colour plate book about
my Symbolic Sculptures, and paid for the exhibitions of the work
at the Universities of Cambridge, Oxford, Wales, Barcelona, etc.
They also supported the creation of the original version of this
web site back in 1996.
Inside he found the Symbolic Sculptures. He tells me that he could
not believe his eyes when he saw the Mathematical formulae that
I had unknowingly used in my work. He contacted me, and we arranged
a meeting, at which he told me about the Mathematics Road Show
that was about to take place at the University of Leeds. We had
just sold the lease of the Gallery and moved all the Symbolic
Sculptures back to the studio in Somerset, so Ronnie asked me
if he could borrow them for the Road Show. I agreed to this and
asked Edition Limitee if they would finance the cost of the transport,
which they agreed to do.
© Mathematics and Knots/Edition Limitee 1996 - 2002