20 minutes with Andy Hibberd
Friday 11 March 2011
Woodcarving goes behind the scenes with wood and stone carver, Andy Hibberd
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.