A SCULPTOR who grew up in Henley but now lives in Last of the Summer Wine country
A SCULPTOR who grew up in Henley but now lives in Last of the Summer Wine country is back in town this weekend as one of the exhibitors at the Craft and Design Experience fair taking place at Henley Meadows.
The event, which was previously held at the Henley Showground in Hambleden, runs from today (Friday) until Sunday at the site adjacent to Fawley Court off the Marlow Road. Opening times are 10am to 5pm daily.
The organisers say the fair has earned an enviable reputation for selecting only the very best professional designers, artists and craftsmen.
Visitors are able to shop for unusual contemporary items, view a wide range of demonstrations and take part in a range of craft-related workshops.
For sculptor Martin Norman, who now lives in Holmfirth, West Yorkshire, the event marks a welcome return to his home town.
The 43-year-old grew up here, attending Gillotts School, The Henley College, and later Berkshire College of Art and Design in Maidenhead.
He gained a degree in design at the Colchester Institute in Essex but continued to live in Henley until the age of 26.
It was during his university years that he appeared on the front page of the August 5, 1994 edition of the Henley Standard after winning a national competition to find the weirdest way of eating a Cadbury’s Creme Egg.
Putting his design skills to use, he built a futuristic egg-eater headset complete with a robotic arm, flashing bulbs and sprouting antennae.
The resulting photograph beat stiff competition from an elephant at London Zoo and the Red Devils parachute display team — and won him a camcorder, a profile in the Daily Mirror, and a Spitting Image puppet of himself that he still has.
Martin’s creativity was there for all to see, but it would be several years before he emerged as a fully fledged artist in his own right.
After graduating he got a job at The Sculpture Workshop in Stoke Row, which is now based at Greys Court Farm in Rotherfield Greys.
Martin, who is married with two daughters aged 12 and eight, says: “It was there that I learnt the skills I use today. I had the honour of moulding and casting works by artists such as Antony Gormley, Anish Kapoor, Sophie Ryder and a lot more.
“I was there for four years and then moved up north. I wanted to set up in business myself up here, which I managed to do.”
Martin’s company, Sculptural Forms, specialises in moulding and casting, with his own sculptures starting life almost as a sideline. The initial inspiration, he says, came from working on other people’s artworks.
“I set up the moulding and casting business 12 years ago and I always thought about doing my own, but some of the stuff I’ve moulded and cast over the years I’ve just looked at it and thought ‘Oh, I could do better than that and they’re selling it.’ So that’s kind of what spurred me on to doing it.”
Martin’s wife, Lindsay, is also an artist specialising in screen printing and illustration. The two met when they were living and working in London but later decided to move to live near her family in Holmfirth.
As Martin says: “It’s cheaper to live and easier to do what I do, really.”
The Holme Valley was famously the location for the long-running BBC sitcom Last of the Summer Wine, which was filmed in the area from 1973 to 2010.
“People try and gloss over that now,” says Martin. “That’s how it became famous but one of its strongest attributes here is the arts. As soon as I get back from the Henley show we’ve got our local art week, which is the largest charity open art event in the country.”
It was the partly the Holmfirth Artweek that encouraged Martin to develop his talents as a sculptor.
“I started 10 years ago when I started doing our local art week and I got to put in two pieces a year. So for a few years I put a couple of pieces in and I started to build the range up — and it’s only in the last five or six years that I’ve really put myself out there and gone for it.”
One of the benefits of living in an area richly populated by artists is that they can pool their resources.
As Martin explains: “I work in a shared workshop, really, with 12 full-time artists in this building, all working in different disciplines. It’s a bit like being at university — you’ve kind of got the best of everything. There’s people doing ceramics here, there’s a guy who works in metalwork — welded and laser-cut metal — and we all feed off each other, we all help each other in certain aspects of what we do and, yeah, it really helps.”
Martin’s preferred medium is cold-cast metal resin, which yields finished works that can be displayed either indoors or outdoors.
“I prefer working in 3D, definitely. I can’t draw very well. I can visualise stuff and how to make it physically. So, yes, I prefer this technique. I mean, ceramics is a different ball game. If you were making an animal in ceramics you’d have to make it hollow — you kind of work by pushing the object out to make it, and I don’t work that way.
“I work with a block where I can add to it or take away from it quite easily. But again that’s from working on other artists’ work and seeing how they’ve treated the surface, how they’ve come up with their original piece, and learning the different techniques.”
The tricks of Martin’s trade are intriguing, to say the least.
“I sculpt my pieces out of clay or tough plasticine and then once I’ve got the original I take a mould of that which I then cast into. It’s a cold-cast technique — there’s no heat involved.
“This telescope, for instance, is an edition of 12, so I can then make 12 copies out of that mould. Various bits of my work are limited edition, some are open edition — it depends what I choose to do.”
Full details of the Craft and Design Experience can be found online at www.craftexperience.co.uk
Martin Norman’s website is www.martinnormansculptures.co.uk