20 minutes with Andy Hibberd

Monday 9 July 2018

When did you start to carve?

After a rather eclectic mix of careers, including insurance, working on the gas rigs, store management and electronic service engineering, I finally left the rat race in 1998 and became self-employed. I had always enjoyed working with wood and so after a few trial periods with turning, upholstery, carpentry and finally violin making, I settled upon woodcarving.

What made you continue carving?

From an early age right up until today, I have always been interested in the creative process. I have found from the beginning that carving, and the associated skills needed to progress from conception to completion of a work, to be a mixture of frustration and exhaustion, but also the most rewarding work that I have ever done.

What inspires you when you carve?

With each new piece of work I find exhilaration in the early stages, taking an idea, sketching it up and creating a maquette if necessary. Even before I have finished carving it, my mind starts to wander to ideas for the next project, influenced, I am sure, by the surroundings I live and work in.

I have a large collection of art, sculpture and woodworking books. I also trawl through car boot sales, junk shops and collectors’ fairs looking for any interesting broken pieces of old carving, mirror frames, etc. Ideas often spring from these sources.

Whilst on holiday or at weekends, we tend to visit art galleries and museums, or spend time with other artist friends, which I find always gives me a buzz and the desire to start working in my own workshop.

Often though, the best ideas and carvings come from a simple watercolour sketch of a flower.

What are you currently working on?

In wood: a memorial with a simple low relief flower and a lettering design using classical Roman script.

In stone: several pieces for a sculpture trail, which includes a large nude, some lettering, and a design incorporating a grapevine with grapes.

Which tool wouldn't you be without and why?

A very difficult question as every stage a different tool is used, starting with a finely sharpened pencil and ending with the last cut of the chisel. I do, however, have a beautiful Addis gold medal winner with a boxwood handle, which is a

particular favourite of mine.

Which is your preferred style of carving and why?

In wood, I would say that the baroque style of floral carving, as depicted by the great Gibbons in his mouldings at St Paul's Cathedral.

In stone, letter carving in slate or limestone. In madder moments, carving direct into the stone!

What do you think has been your biggest carving achievement?

Technically, I would say copying a piece of Gibbons' strap work whilst studying at the City and Guilds of London Art School.

In terms of my own development, I would say making the transition from carving as a hobbyist, into the professional world of designing and selling my own work.

Whose work do you most admire?

Having studied under the last carver at St Paul's I would have to say Grinling Gibbons, although Tilman Riemenschneider would have to come a close second.

In stone the work of Jacob Epstein and Gaudier-Brzeska, and of course Eric Gill for his lettering.

If you weren't a carver what would you be?

Probably an art historian. I have developed a fascination with not only the great work that has been produced in the past, but also with the people who created it. Drawing and painting have taught me to look.

Describe the view from your workbench and the area you live?

I live in a small village in rural Norfolk in a former pub with a clay lump barn attached, which is now my studio. With the barn doors open I have a wonderful view of our garden, which stretches out into fields belonging to the farm next door.

Do you listen to music when carving?

Depending on what I'm carving, this dictates the type of sound that I listen to. I tend not to listen to rock music whilst letter cutting! Generally, the radio is on for most of the day; Jeremy Vine is good and sometimes I will take a break from carving and join in the debates!

Who would you most like to carve for?

Every year as part of Art Alive in churches, I spend a few days demonstrating in one of the wonderful churches or abbeys of which we have so many in Norfolk; 659 I believe at the last count. So I would like my work to be present in some of these buildings for future generations to look at and perhaps wonder who carved it.

Are you a self-critic of your work?

Absolutely, I am always totally aware of even minor mistakes, which always appear to be the size of elephants. It sounds rather cliched but I think if you ever reach the stage where you are truly satisfied with the work you are producing, then its downhill from then on in. I like to think that my best work is yet to come.