My carving starts with a pencil. Drawing, sometimes pages of drawing - pulling on a reservoir of shapes that has come from years of looking and sketching in museums and from life - working towards a shape I can half-see in my mind.  Next comes a knife, to cut and whittle a hardened block of clay, now working in the round to see how the flat shape translates into a three-dimensional form.  The clay maquette is small, and I can turn it in my hand to see how the idea is coming alive. I often produce a whole shelf-full of little clay forms before I’m ready to pick up a chisel. They are all related but slightly different, each a step on the road towards the form I’m looking for.

Then the stone: what kind? My favourites are English limestones, from the creamy fossil-rich Bath stones through grainy Clipsham and variegated Ancaster to cool white base-bed Portland. When I get the chance, French Caen limestone and African Serpentine are also a joy to work. It depends on the form I’m going to make and the size I have in mind - whatever it calls for in texture and tone.

Once I’m carving stone, the drawings and maquettes are put to one side. In making them I’ve anchored the look and feeling of the form I’m aiming for and I can approach the stone with a definite sense of where I’m going, or at least where I’m starting from. At the back of my mind are the myriad objects I’ve found and loved in quirky ethnographic collections and which fill my sketchbooks: from tiny Inuit animal carvings to pre-Columbian gods; from Brancusi’s smooth stone heads to a Romanesque mother and child carved high up in the eaves of a church. They have given me a lifelong taste for the humble, rather than the grand, in art. The strength and truth I find in them - in their form and meaning - are qualities I continue to pursue in my own sculpture.


© Emma Maiden 2013