My Approach to Working with Clients on Commissions

happyclientI do love it when someone enjoys my work enough to want to invest in it at a gallery or exhibition – it gives you a kind of affirmation I guess; but for me there is no greater joy than being commissioned to undertake a bespoke sculpture.  The client will have seen my work and feel inspired enough to want to have one of my sculptures made specifically for them and usually situated in a particular place.detail

Commissioning leads to a special relationship which I not only enjoy but influences me and takes my work in unanticipated directions – after all no two briefs are ever the same and of course the locations differ enormously.

Rhythmic Form2I always go into a new commission with an open mind and look to respond to the site specifically and also to draw upon the tastes and aspirations of my client – what style is their home, what artists do they admire and what do they have on their walls…


Generally I make about 6 or 8 sketch maquettes for a commission – simple little forms in basic media with a view to exploring my ideas and giving the client something to visualise.  These themselves are distilled from lots of sketching and playing with materials, trying to find a ‘way in’… It’s always interesting to see which forms resonate most with the client and surprising how often we are on the same wavelength.








With this feedback I am able to develop the maquettes to the next level, usually at a larger scale and things start to clarify.  It really is quite an organic process, I never know where it is going to lead, and takes on a momentum all of its own.  Generally it takes several months with numerous client meetings along the way, to arrive at a final form – depending on the chosen scale this is either moulded and cast directly or scaled up and then moulded and cast.


Left and right are my two latest commissions – shown in plaster and currently at the foundry being cast into bronze for installation before Christmas!



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Wooohoooo – Shortlisted for the Art Gemini Prize 2014

2 Figurative Abstraction1I’m really chuffed to have even been shortlisted for this prestigious Prize and Exhibition and wanted to share the news!

My sculpture ‘Figurative Abstraction I’ has made the cut and is now one of 120 works of art which will be whittled down to 40 by the judging panel later in October.

The Exhibition for those who make the final 40 will be at The Biscuit Factory in Bermondsey.  If I were lucky enough to make this, I will of course let you know the details – it’s just that making the shortlist at all feels fab!

2a Figurative Abstraction2

Please cross your fingers for me…

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Cork Street Open 2014

Hope some of you can make the Cork Street Open – 16 to 21 June. We selected from over 600 entries and the final cut was by 2 eminent gallerists
My sculpture ‘Torsion’ is being shown (and no, we weren’t able to vote for our own!)


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In the footsteps of Barbara Hepworth…

…Or to be more accurate, Dennis Mitchell, one of her best known assistants.

mejamesmayorTurns out that there used to be a sculpture at the entrance courtyard to St Nicholas Court, St Ives, Cornwall by Dennis Mitchell, a sculptor whose work I greatly admire. Legend has it that a young lad got his head stuck in it and that it was subsequently sold (in the 1970’s) – victim of early ‘health and safety’ no doubt! The space has been waiting for a new sculpture ever since…drillingkevjames

builderssurfI’ve done two earlier posts on this project to do with working up the commission and scaling up so I won’t repeat myself here, but focus on the final stages and the unveiling.

The final full size plaster sculpture of ‘Free Spirit’ was taken off to LS Sculpture Casting and some weeks later I collected the bronze resin casts which we treated with chemicals to accelerate the patination process – resulting in a gorgeous verdigris patina which will just get more blue-green with age, especially in the salt sea air of St Ives…

detailI have to say that LS did a cracking job and I couldn’t have been happier with the results

I stayed in St Ives in the run up to the installation and unveiling in order to oversee the erection of the plinth and the delivery of the slate from Delabole – all quite nerve racking but exciting too.  They did a great job and the slate itself is gorgeous with the memorial inscription to Kenneth Lindon-Travers nice and bold.mesmilinglooking

It all took a while so I didn’t get to install the sculpture itself until the afternoon before the unveiling (yikes!).  It all came together nicely though and there was a great gathering for the unveiling ceremony – James said some words about his father and the Mayor did his bit with a flourish…mayor

All in all a truly wonderful experience – a rare opportunity and a real honour to have a sculpture in my beloved St Ives and I was chuffed to bits to have my Dad there and my wife and our two boys to witness it all (and to remind me that it actually happened!).




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Scaling up my St Ives commission

fmaq10This post follows on from my previous one on working up my St Ives commission – it’s about how you get from the final 2′ working maquette (opposite) to the finished 6′ sculpture.

It is possible to pay others to do this but I felt that I wanted to maintain my ‘hands on’. Additionally I think it’s important that the full scale sculpture is not an absolute copy of the maquette because it is desirable to be able to make subtle changes – for example to take account of the effect of changing perspective with scale.  I also wanted to be able to use different textures in the surface treatment – something that wasn’t possible at maquette level.

For a sculpture of this type the best way of scaling up initially, to get the major forms in, is to use polystyrene.  This is common practice in the film industry and has been widely used by sculptors since it was pioneered by Henry Moore.

To get started and also because using a ‘hot wire’ (to cut the huge poly blocks) is a two man job, I enlisted the services of Richard Smith.  Richard has had a long career working with Shepperton / Pinewood / Ealing Studios on films as diverse as Star Wars, Quantum of Solace and Sherlock.

2013_1203polyscalingpics0002Under Richards watchful eye my first task was to ‘grid up’ photographs of the maquette and to reproduce at full scale the profile outlines on the poly block.  Once these profiles were in place we were able to cut into the blocks to reveal the full size sculptures.  At this point, because only the profiles have been cut, the sculptures are very ‘blocky’ but nevertheless have quite interesting forms (below right).2013_1203polyscalingpics0009

It was then back over to me to begin the process of sculpting into the poly (using saws, knives and wire brushes) to find the detail of the sculptures.  Once I was happy with the basic forms in poly, Cryastacal (a type of very hard plaster) was applied .  I guess the poly provides a kind of frame or base for the plaster which itself enables the sculptural details and surface textures to be worked in.2013_1203polyscalingpics0016

All in all a protracted and somewhat labour intensive process, but a deeply satisfying one.  The finished forms are currently being moulded and cast with installation at St Ives set for next month – as you can imagine, I’m very excited and also quite nervous at the same time – watch this space to see how the unveiling goes!




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Affordable Art Fair – Here I come

Black WidowReally excited to announce that I have a new gallery – Sheridan Russell Gallery – and to kick off with they will be taking 5 of my sculptures to the Affordable Art Fair in Battersea London.

Most of you will know this as one of the most prestigious Art Fairs where many top Galleries are represented and great contemporary work can be seen and purchased.

Hope you will have a chance to pop along and please take advantage of this half price ticket offer – HalfPriceEmail

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2013 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 16,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 6 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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