About Sharon

 
BACKGROUND

 

I was born and brought up in the Bridgend area of South Wales, UK, and got into carving because my husband had been taken ill and could no longer work.  A couple of years later he needed to mix with people and he fancied woodcarving at Adult Education classes.  As there was nothing else for me to do I decided to have a go myself and, as the saying goes, out of every grey cloud there is a silver lining, and where I am today is because of his illness, so I owe a great deal of indebtedness to him for choosing woodcarving and for his constant encouragement along the way.

 

Until approx. mid 1997 when I became a semi-professional woodsculptor/carver my interest in carving was purely as a self taught hobby carver and, with everything else going on in my life – looking after Geoff, working full-time in an office, looking after the house, plus many other things, I didn’t have many pieces of work to show for the years that had passed.

 

THE EARLY YEARS

 

In 1990 I joined the British Woodcarvers Association and a few years later became Regional Leader of the Welsh Region.

 

In September 1996 I took a year out of work.  I decided that one of the things I intended to do during the year was to enrol on a City & Guilds Woodcarving Course with Dick Onians, which I began in October 1996.  When my sabbatical was over I began to think of getting a job (I had resigned my previous one) when I was approached by the Local Authority Adult Education Service to teach computers and woodcarving (on a part time basis).  That beginning led me to where I am now.

 

As the 1990’s progressed my Adult Education classes increased, not only in number but also in different Local Authority areas so I decided to set up my own business called Heartwood.  Heartwood epitomised everything I did - the medium I worked in (wood) and the fact that I put my heart and soul into everything I do; heartwood is also the centre of the tree = as it is the centre of my life.

 

In 2000, I suggested to my friend, Clive Griffin. that we publish a book and, as is typical of Clive, he asked if it was another of my “hair-brained schemes” and would we sell any?!!!  Two years later in 2002 our book “Celtic Carved Lovespoons – 30 patterns” was published by the Guild of Master Craftsmen www.thegmcgroup.com/page--Woodworking--Magazines-Books-DVDs-Videos--Woodworking.html#quicklink or www.woodworkersinstitute.com/page.asp?p=1299   and proved to be a great success with emails congratulating us on our book coming from far and wide.  What a great thrill it was to see our book on a shelf for the first time (we were actually taking some Japanese visitors to Brecon Museum to see their lovespoon collection when Clive spotted it on the shelf).   -   www.art-search.co.uk or www.powys.gov.uk .  I have also written a few articles for woodcarving magazines namely, Guild of Master Craftsmen Woodcarving Magazine and Chip Chats, - the American “National Wood Carvers Association” magazine - www.chipchats.org.

 

During the writing of our book we were invited to America with the Welsh Tourist Board (now Visit Wales) to promote Wales and the custom of Lovespoon carving.  We were there during September 11th and what a shock that was to everyone.  Six weeks later we were invited to Japan with the Welsh Assembly and since then we have visited Ireland, Holland, Belgium, France and different states of America, being lucky enough to be invited to the same venues more than once.

 

Some time back Clive and I did a 5 day Digital Storytelling workshop with BBC Wales.  This was a new venture for BBC Wales and they wrote/visited various venues within the area they were intending to target looking for people to apply for 1 of 10 places.  Clive and I were selected as a joint story.  What a fabulous opportunity and experience -   http://www.bbc.co.uk/wales/audiovideo/sites/yourvideo/pages/sharon_clive_01.shtml 

 

During this time, on top of my Adult Education Classes, my teaching commitments increased.  I began running woodcarving courses for Model House Craft & Design Centre, Llantrisant; at Crafts in the Bay, Cardiff, then for Adult Residential Centres - at Earnley Concourse, Chichester;  at Burton Manor, Cheshire; at Alston Hall, Preston; at Missenden Abbey, Buckinghamshire; and at The Hill, Abergavenny.  Unfortunately quite a few of these Centres have since closed.  So you can see my workload increased substantially.  If you are interested in attending my courses/classes please feel free to contact me – by clicking  Contact Me

 

On top of that I began accepting commissions.  Initially, I didn’t want to do commissions as it tied me to price; to another person’s timescale; and to their preconceived ideas, but one thing I have come to learn about myself is that I need deadlines and by having a commission I work to that timescale/deadline.

 

My semi-professional status turned into professional when I gave up my work with the Adult Education service.  I continued providing weekly woodcarving classes on a self-financing basis and I’m pleased to say my students keep coming back.

 

COMMISSIONS

 

My commissions are one off bespoke pieces of work – unique for the person they are being carved for.  Whilst in the early days I didn’t want to specialise in lovespoon carving as I liked carving all styles of work, the commissions I have had are mainly for lovespoons and each one tells a story about the lives of the person(s) it is being carved for and is designed after chatting with the people about what they’d like included on the spoon.  But, whatever commission I do, it is a bespoke/unique design and not copied from anyone or for anyone else so the person receiving it is getting something that no-one else will own.  Each lovespoon commission usually takes between 50 and 60 hours and other commissions take longer - so a lot of me goes into every piece of work.

 

I have been very fortunate in where my commissions now reside. If you look at the Gallery (Commission photographs) section   Commissions  you will see some of my commissioned spoons especially the ones I was commissioned to carve for Dr. Rowan Williams, on his enthronement as Archbishop of Canterbury; one that was presented to Prince Edward (for Lady Louise); for Rhodri Morgan (Wales’ First Minister at the time of presenting it).  Ikea too have a 5’ lovespoon of mine hanging in the cafeteria area in their Cardiff store.

 

Another commission I am proud of is a dragon that resides in the Pen-y-Cae Inn, in the Swansea Valley - www.pen-y-caeinn.com/home.html        Many hours of work went into this beast.  The wood of this was laminated (for strength) by Paul of Isca Hardwoods - www.iscahardwoods.co.uk  and, after collecting it, I discovered it was too heavy to get out of the car.  I had to have 3 workmates (benches) and keep swapping them from back to front as I slid the dragon towards the working area.  It was still fairly heavy at the end but at least, at that point, I could pick it up.

 

My commissions are worldwide and I am grateful to all those who have taken the time to write expressing their joy on opening their commission.

 

Shortly there will be a commission in the private Collection of Norman Stevens, a Collector of contemporary spoons and many other items/artefacts. He is an Emeritus Professor at Connecticut University and I am proud to be invited to join his collection - www.pinewoodforge.com/Stevens.html .  Norman now has had a book of his 'spoon collection' published.  It is called 'A Gathering of Spoons' and can be obtained from Linden Publishing and the ISBN Nos. are ISBN-10: 1610351304 and/or ISBN-13: 978-1610351300.  Mother Goose that was carved by me is featured within the book.

    

THE FUTURE

 

I still have plans to do another book but, at the moment, time seems to be escaping me although I hope to do something about it this year.

 

Other than that I don’t know what the future holds but what I do know is that I value and appreciate everything that has happened to me so far and have thoroughly enjoyed the journey.  I owe so much, to so many people, for their support; their encouragement to do what I’m doing now and their keenness in seeing me move forward and not stand still – thanks Pam for the 3 hour phone calls when I’m sounding out ideas! 

 

I also owe a great deal of thanks to the students that keep coming to my classes, both weekly classes and to those that travel long distances to my Adult Residential Centre courses throughout the country.  Most of all I owe a lot to Geoff my husband, for his support, and to Clive one of the best “best friends” a person could ever ask for as without his critiques the journey wouldn’t have been so enjoyable – even if he does nag!!. 

 

Thank you everyone.