‘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.
I carve the sculpture from a block I’ve made in solid plaster, and extend and alter it by adding wire armature and fabric soaked in wet plaster. It’s a method that suits the way I work: I’m a carver not a modeller. I like the way hard plaster responds to carving, honing, scraping and polishing; it’s not so different from stone carving. In the finished bronze the subtle marks and textures of making are captured within the patina.”
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.
‘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 these become the reservoir I draw upon for new ideas, new sculptures. I develop my ideas through drawing, and I often carve hand-held blocks of hardened clay to see how they will look in the round. Sometimes these will grow to a whole series on my studio shelf before the form feels right.’
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.’
An MA in ceramics followed by stonemasonry training in Bath led Emma into sculpture , and for the past twenty years she has been exhibiting and selling her sculpture in stone and bronze, most recently at the Fine Art Society, London, and Brian Sinfield Gallery, Burford.
‘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.’