The Carvings of Pensthorpe

Monday 9 July 2018

I arrived at Pensthorpe on a decidedly chilly evening towards the end of March 2005 to help set up the annual exhibition of carvings and sculptures, and to take photographs of the exhibits. The rest of the usual team had already been hard at work setting out the display stands to Paul Kedwards' exacting standards, and unpacking sculptures that had been sent by carrier.

The following morning we all reported to Pensthorpe bright and early, ready to continue cataloguing and photographing. Around half the exhibits had already arrived, and it was apparent that artists had been hard at work during the past year, creating some stunning pieces for this year's show.

Setting the scene

Local carvers Des Rouse and Derek Tipping were on duty as usual, Jenny and Terry Getley were checking, labelling and cataloguing as sculptures were unpacked, and Paul Kedwards and Philip Nelson were arranging carvings on the tables when I had finished photographing them; the whole operation being organised this year by the Pensthorpe Marketing and PR Manager, Mark Noble. By the end of the day, virtually all the promised 252 sculptures by 38 artists had arrived, the only hiccup being the non-delivery of Mike Wood's work because of a problem at the carrier's depot!

The next day was spent finalising the arrangement of the sculptures and making sure all the pieces were labelled and priced correctly, then on the day of the private preview, only last minute adjustments were needed when Mike's work finally arrived! The addition of wildlife pictures by Norfolk artists Chris Wright and Michael Morley, and some Gouache and Acrylic pictures by Jane Brewer, enhanced the whole display area.

Professionals at work

I have been photographing exhibits at Pensthorpe since 1996 and this was the first time I had been able to stay for the private view and witness the extremely favourable reactions of some of the 300 visitors attending this evening. BBC presenter Chris Packham gave a short, relaxed speech to open the proceedings, and the serious business of viewing and buying began.

During all ten days of the exhibition, visitors were able to watch various artists at work. Paul Kedwards, Philip Nelson and Des Rouse were carving most days, joined at various times by Derek Tipping, Terry Getley, Ted Oxley and Mike Bowles while Gill Parker demonstrated some of the techniques needed in the production of her bronzes.

The winners

By the end of the exhibition, visitors had voted Paul Kedwards' Row of Swallows on a Beam as best in show, with Philip Nelson's Charismatic Smew coming second.

This was, once again, an excellent exhibition enjoyed by many visitors but the owners of Pensthorpe have decided not to include the event in their calendar again so sadly this was to be the last Wildlife Carving and Sculpture show at Pensthorpe. Let's hope the wildlife carvers are able to find a new venue to exhibit their work in the future.