‘My favourite sources of inspiration are museums and ethnographic collections in the UK and around the world. Objects from distant cultures and centuries fill my sketchbooks and become an invaluable reservoir of forms. I feel my way towards a new sculpture by drawing and redrawing until the form feels “right”, and I often carve hand-held blocks of hardened clay to see how it will look in the round.
Emma Maiden’s work focuses on themes of birds and dreaming heads. She draws her inspiration from ancient civilisation, studying and drawing ancient artefacts in museums brings her close to their anonymous makers and the rhythms of form and line used to create these timeless works. Her work is hand carved – form and surface evolving together – creating an intimate relationship with the stone. Her favourite materials are British limestones that can be sourced locally – Portland, Clipsham, Ancaster, Hopton Wood – their gentle colours and hidden shells and fossils connecting them strongly to their geographical and geological roots.
‘I like the fact that the stone is far, far older than the stories they tell. It has a sense of permanency and continuity which is both reassuring and challenging. Carving is a slow process, but each stage of working reveals new aspects of the stone’s nature: the block is square and uncompromising, but as the layers are chipped away the form softens and the material starts to take life. Then, with rasps and files and many grades of sandpaper the true colour starts to come through, along with – in the case of limestones – veins of quartz perhaps, or tiny fossils and fragments of shell, laid down in the stone bed millions of years ago.’
Recently she has been working in bronze but it is still a carving process. ‘I carve the original form for a bronze sculpture from solid plaster, and extend and alter it by adding wire armature and wet plaster as necessary. It’s a method that suits the way I work: I’m a carver not a modeller; I like plaster best when it is cured and hard and really enjoy the way it responds to carving, honing, scraping and polishing. In the finished bronze the subtle marks and textures of making are captured within the patina, and form and surface are unified.’
Emma completed an MA in ceramics at the University of Wales and later a City and Guilds in Stonemasonry at the City of Bath College. Since 1996 she has exhibited her work widely including, The Fine Art Society, London, the RWA Bristol, West Wales Arts Centre, Fishguard and the On Form Exhibition at Asthall Manor.