Stoneface is a creative sculptor currently living and working in Sheffield. Working on both abstract and figurative projects and regularly taking on a wide variety of commissions, he often explores the natural world and its relation to mankind through his work, tying in themes of birth, death and rebirth, as well as pseudo-pagan symbolism.

We chatted to the man ahead of the Heroes exhibition at S1 Artspace, 6th-11th July, which will feature his ‘Paper Boy’ papier mache sculpture, made of pages from old comic books.

What initially drew you to sculpting? Have you tried your hand at other art forms in the past?

I wanted to mark the dry stone walls I was building so people would know they were built by me. That’s how Stoneface was born. My sculptures are like a diary. From my anxiety of not being able to communicate well – I’m dyslexic – I found a way to release things, to channel my energies through both physical exertion and artistic expression.

I like the challenge of using different media such as metals and reclaimed stuffs. I also paint and enhance my sculpture in digital form, such as ‘Naked’. She stays along the bank of Storrs Brook hidden within a tree trunk, but this way I can carry her on canvas to different venues under my arm.

What type of stone do you primarily work with and why?

I work with any stone – sandstone, gritstone, limestone – but primarily reclaimed, although it’s not always possible nowadays. I love the idea of creating an object of beauty from something people discard.  I like the permanency of stone as there’s a chance it will survive in nature for hundreds of years.

What’s your working process when starting a new piece?

I always look for a piece of stone that’s interesting to me, that I can see a form in already and that determines what it’s going to be.

How much does the final resting place of a sculpture inform its creation?

For a commission it’s important for me that I see where it’ll go as it determines to a greater degree what the form of the sculpture will look like, as does talking to the client. It’s important it sits into its surroundings and I get a gut feeling about how things should be.

Many of my sculptures are placed in and along Storrs Brook and are symbolically connected to many of my waymarker sculptures across the city. For example, I carved King Canute standing in the River Don on Nursery Street, but to me the flow of the water connects and bonds him to his spiritual home in the tributary at Loxley Valley.

What themes and motifs do you find yourself returning to?

I like the female form, but my carvings aren’t seductive. They reflect more the cycles of birth, death and rebirth, transient experience or emotions in a permanent form. I carve many but I like faces, if I get a block then I can just carve a face and get back into it.

Carving in my natural woodland environment I’m drawn to more abstract work, where on first sight a piece appears to be something completely different to the subject matter, as it is with nature – nothing is what it seems.

You own a wood in Loxley Valley. Has it helped to have a private outdoor space to keep your work?

It’s actually helped keep my sanity as much as my work, but I work outside in all weathers. I’m working on a management plan approved by Sheffield City Council and the Forestry Commission to naturalise the woodland. I didn’t buy it as a place to keep my work but it’s become the most natural place to share it.

How has your art changed over the years?

I have learned to trust my instinct when carving. When I’m working well it’s almost as if something else is at work, as if I’ve stood in these shoes before.

My work has grown in size as I’ve grown in confidence. I’m now in a place where I’m happy for people to look at my work, but it is a journey. Carving the ‘Many Faces of Meadowhall’ still takes me right out of my comfort zone, carving a new face every year.

What do you dislike in art?

Being asked to critique others work.

Which other artists or art forms inspire you?

I’ve always made a conscious effort not to study others work in order to keep my own identity. The Stainless Steel centenary has inspired me to work in mixed media for ‘The Hedge’ and in bespoke design. Creative landscaping and furniture making around a customer’s desire can be seen in my stone and stainless steel table at Thornbridge Hall.  My son has shown me what can be achieved using digital form.

What are you working on at the moment?

‘The Paper Boy’, created in papier mache from old superhero comics will be headlining the Heroes exhibition at S1 Artspace from 6th to 12th July. I’m working on a female form to represent popular culture in the digital age.

Good advice you wish you’d been told earlier?

Be yourself.

stonefacesculpture.com

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Interview by Sam Walby.