Born in Surrey in 1951, Vanessa studied Art and Mathematics at school, later achieving a degree in Mathematics before pursuing a career in teaching.
In 1986 she was introduced to sculpture and it was to become her passion. Following an Art course at North Devon College, Vanessa left teaching behind her and concentrated on developing her skills as a sculptor.
Figurative pieces have become her abiding interest. Working in her studio at her Devon home, she makes extensive studies of her subjects before working first in clay and completing each work in either bronze resin or as cast bronze.
Vanessa lives in Devon with her husband and has exhibited widely.
Becoming a sculptor has been a very pleasant surprise to me. This is because the concept of being a sculptor in this day and age never crossed my mind. I thought sculptors were people who lived long ago, and were men who exclusively chipped away at marble. It never occurred to me to wonder how bronze sculptures were made. Similarly I loved modelling with children's modelling clay and making 'sceneries' out of all sorts of old bits and pieces, but it was clear to me that these were activities for children and not to be taken seriously in any way.
It was when I was a mother in my mid thirties that I heard of some evening sculpture classes. I had no idea of what this might entail but I felt that I would really love to have a go. This was the turning point. When I saw how a plaster mould can be made from a clay model and the sculpture then turned into a permanent form, in this case in concrete, it was like a door opening onto endless possibilities. Now it was worth spending a long time modelling as there was the prospect of preserving the results.
Initially sculpture need not be an expensive occupation, the essential materials of clay and plaster are cheap and easy to buy. There is a slight problem with mess, my kitchen certainly suffered rather in the early days. I was extremely lucky to have this initial training from Peter Newell without which I never would have entertained the idea of being a sculptor.
My heart meantime was still set on the idea of being a maths teacher and I completed my degree but in a small gap between courses I was able to attend a foundation art course at North Devon College which was invaluable. I then doggedly completed my maths and computing teacher training, still unaware of the possibility of actually taking up sculpture as a job.
Having taught maths and computing for a year I realised this was not what I wanted and I must take the plunge and call myself a sculptor. I was inspired to do this by seeing other sculptors' work, particularly in gardens, and thinking that that was certainly something I could do.
My first year was definitely for finding my feet, making a working space of sorts and looking for sales outlets for my then rather small sculptures. Over the next few years I gradually cast my work in finer materials and graduated from very small local markets to very large national shows. I also sold through some galleries but never found this very satisfactory. I was getting an increasing number of enquiries for portrait sculptures of children in particular and so inevitably my prices rose.
I have been very privileged to make sculptures for several institutions for children. The Childrens Hospice South West, Heathlands School for the Deaf, Ealing and Notting Hill Gate School for Girls and some of my non commissioned work has also been used in other schools.
I have also completed a commemorative life size bronze of a Glass Blower for Nailsea, near Bristol and a one and a half size bronze of Keiron Cunningham (Rugby League Here) for the Rugby League Stadium in St Helens near Liverpool.
I work on my sculptures throughout the year but more consistently in the winter months as I am often out and about in the summer exhibiting. It can take as long as a year to complete a sculpture so a child subject will have inevitably grown in the meantime, but the sculpture will last much longer than a childhood and so just captures a moment in time and holds that pleasure for many years to come. I also enjoy larger work and the more defined features of mature people.
I am incredibly grateful that I have, by chance, had the opportunity to become a sculptor. My working day is a delight even if tiring and I am fortunate to be very happy in my work.
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