Feature Mondays – In the Workshop with Fred Marchant

Monday 9 July 2018

Fred was born and bred in Tooting, South London and made life-long friends there. He went to Chartersey School in Islington, hoping to make it to art school, but sadly that did not happen. On leaving school, he went into the print industry, where all his family worked. He then did his National Service and soon after met his wife and married in 1963. Fred had a major operation on his back when he was in his late-30s and was introduced to woodcarving when he was recuperating at the Wolfson Centre. The family moved to East Sussex in 1988 and Fred's son-in-law and son built him his own workshop – perfect. As well as his own carving, Fred also tutors for a charity called View Craft, which gives the blind and partially sighted the chance to work on the visual arts. The group do great work and cover everything from woodcarving to water-colouring to fabric work and weaving, and even some mosaic work.

How, why and when did you start carving?

I was in hospital, Wolfson Centre in London, for rehab after a back operation about 38 years ago. They had a woodcarving workshop and that's where I got hooked

What and who have been the greatest influences in your work?

The inspiration for the chess set was the statue of Charles I of Naples, featured in Woodcarving magazine. I also love the work of Bernini, particularly his use of drapery

If you were to offer one sage piece of advice to someone what would it be?

If you make a mistake, continue. The wood may possibly guide you in another direction. Don't think you can't achieve an end result, just persevere

What music and which book are you currently into?

I usually listen to bel canto opera, especially Callas, and traditional jazz while I'm carving. The book I'm currently reading was a Christmas present from my wife – The Wisdom of Trees by Max Adams. He mentions the oldest woodcarving in England – in Durham Cathedral, the coffin of St. Cuthbert

What is your silliest mistake?

I painted a lovely wood finished piece and ruined it. I've now decided that I cannot master the art of painting wood

What has been your greatest challenge?

The chess set, it took me around two and a half years to make, on and off

Name one thing on your carving 'to do' list

On my carving 'to do' list is making walking sticks for all my friends. I obviously do other things between, but I've made a few and have a few more to do

What is the one piece of equipment or tool you would not be without and why?

When I took over the woodcarving tutoring at View Craft, Steve Preston advised me to get a bandsaw to help with the Viewcraft work and my own. It saves me an immense amount of time and I wouldn't be without it

If you could change one thing what would it be and why?

I wish I had started woodcarving earlier and maybe had some professional tuition

What is your favourite type of carving?

The human figure, although I haven't done a lot of it. I'm very fond of carving animals as well

If you had one wish, what would you wish for?

To continue carving for many more years and a magic fairy to clean/tidy up my woodcarving shed!

If you could have one piece of equipment, what would it be and why?

Something that would magically sharpen my gouges; I do my best – but I'm not very good at it