I'm mostly self-taught and have therefore learned more from my mistakes than from anything else. I continue to make mistakes, daily, but I also continue to learn from them, or try to anyway. I'm not entirely sure why I make what I make, why I favour hard stone (while sometimes wishing I didn't) or why I feel drawn to express the shapes I do. Over the years I've learned to trust my subconscious though, which seems to love a challenge, and most of my problem solving and designing occurs there.
I've always worked on my own and get great satisfaction from knowing that I made every part of a sculpture. To me, the making is as important as the designing. I have a strong independent streak, which sometimes gets me into trouble, but mostly gives me room to move.
Since childhood I've been fascinated with tools. I was allowed free reign in my dad's shed, where I learned how to pull things apart and very occasionally put them back together, sometimes with all the bits in the right places, most times not. Then later in my mum's pokey, cluttered jewellery studio, I learned the beginnings of how to make an imagined thing real. I learned early that things don't always pan out the way they were intended, and that tools can work just as well at removing skin as they can at doing whatever they were actually intended for. I now have a healthy respect for the danger that tools can deliver, but also, and more importantly, respect for their efficiency. In the game of carving hard stone, efficiency becomes critical, more so as the pieces get larger in scale. I've learned this the hard way.
I try not to work if I don't feel inspired and psyched on the process (this is not hard to achieve); I go off and do other things, generally, unless I have a crazy deadline. I've found that if I work when I'm passionate and energised, I make much better progress and I stay engaged with the process. Carving hard stone can be pretty gruelling, so if I force myself to work when I don't feel like it, I get tired easily and start to second guess myself; I start thinking something is "good enough", when it clearly isn't. I'm often amazed at how much pain, discomfort and physical exhaustion I can ignore when I'm "in the groove", so to speak, and how little I tolerate when I'm not. It's taken me a long time to learn that play and light-heartedness is the most important part of the process. It feeds creativity and experimentation, which I guess is at the heart of art. So, my output tends to happen in fits and bursts. I'm okay with this approach now.
For almost two decades I've been dreaming about and working towards carving large monumental-scale stone sculptures, and I feel like I've only just begun on that journey. I'd far prefer to try to make something ridiculous and impossible seeming, than just rehash something similar over and over again. Currently I'm problem solving my way through carving a 23-tonne block of black granite, which is in my studio, situated in Canberra, Australia. I may be here for some time.
I feel pretty fortunate and grateful to be able to do this for a living, to be supported by a society and country where we can chase our dreams, however left-field they may be.
Here is a slide-show of the making of 'duo'. I learned a great deal while making it, and can now use what I learned to tackle future projects.