I discovered that sculpting was a powerful, visceral form of expression for me… portraits, in particular, are my way of understanding the world around me.
How did you become a sculptor? While working on women’s rights with the UN in the Dominican Republic, I started to get back in touch with my other passions: for art, music, and dance. I discovered that sculpting was a powerful, visceral form of expression for me – and discovered that portraits, in particular, are my way of understanding the world around me and enable me to tell stories.
Where did you train? I have been trained by some of the top portrait sculptors in the country including at the University of Sussex, Heatherley’s School of Fine Art, Kingston University, masterclasses run by the Society of Portrait Sculptors as well as the Florence Academy of Art (Florence, Italy).
What commissions do you undertake? Private portrait commissions as well as public commissions, such as my 7ft 4in bronze of Sir Nigel Gresley for King’s Cross Station, being unveiled at King’s Cross Station on the 5 April 2016, and my bronze sculpture of Sadako Sasaki for the Hed Wenn peace garden in Wales. I am currently working on an exciting commission to celebrate the lives of women biscuit factory workers – the ‘Cracker Packers’ – for Caldewgate, Carlisle. And I am just completing my commission to sculpt the Suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst for St Peter’s Square, Manchester, due to be unveiled on 14 December 2018.
Where do you exhibit? Since 2007 my work has been shown widely, in over 60 galleries, exhibitions and sculpture trails across London, southern England and Wales.
What professional bodies are you a member of? I am a member and former Council member of the Society of Women Artists (SWA), newly elected to the Royal Society of Sculptors (RSS) and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (RSA). I am also the sculptural advisor to the Hove Plinth project from its inception (an initiative of the Hove Civic Society).
What awards have you received? I have received prestigious awards, including the Falle Fine Art Bronze Sculpture Award, the President and Vice President Award of the SWA, and the Society of Portrait Sculptors’ Masterclass Prize in 2010 and 2012.
Where do you work? I live in Brighton but my rather Gothic studio is in West Sussex.
My aim is to move people – move them to tears, to ask questions, to participate, to tell their own stories, to take action.
Curiosity in people, their faces and their stories form the heart of my artistic practice. I find clay to be a highly responsive and sensitive medium. I use the process of clay portrait sculpting as a catalyst. My aim is to move people – move them to tears, to ask questions, to participate, to tell their own stories, to take action.
I am never happier than when I am combining my passion for portraiture with telling stories of struggles for social justice. This could be celebrating the achievements of rights activists and peace advocates, through sculpting their portraits – such as my commissions to sculpt the Suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst for Manchester, or Sadako Sasaki, who has inspired peace activism worldwide, or my commissions to sculpt disability rights activists Diane Mulligan OBE and Baroness Jane Campbell of Surbiton.
Or it could involve inverting the norms of portraiture and sculpting those who are rarely deemed worthy of capturing in bronze, whose faces and stories are effaced from history, such as my commission to sculpt the women biscuit factory workers – the Cracker Packers – from Carr’s in Carlisle.
My artistic practice thus seeks to challenge the artificial divisions between people; between ‘me-you’, ‘us-them’. Live sittings provide the opportunity to have conversations that move us beyond stereotypes, highlighting difference, to finding connections and similarities.
And my struggle is to find ways to do this that offer alternative, non-stereotypical portrayals, where the subject (sitter) joins me as an active partner in this reflective, story-telling, image-creating process.