Branching out

Meet Robert Lawrence of Ingrained Culture.

Although I come from a long line of cabinet makers and wood workers, the advent of flat pack furniture and chipboard meant cabinet making didn’t look like a viable career option. Instead, my wife and I worked in managing, restoring, constructing and maintaining buildings. Eventually, we built our own eco house in Johnshaven.

As a boy, I was given razor sharp chisels and carving projects by my father. As he let me make what I wanted, I had a lot of model boats. He also taught me to draw everything by eye, an essential skill if you are to properly understand something.

At 54, I’m now a full time maker. I’m not comfortable with the word artist. I think it has to be earned from your peers, probably posthumously. I prefer to be known as a woodcarver and artificer – an individual creative manufacturer.

I enjoy the design process as much as the making itself, especially when my clients are involved throughout the project. My job is to make what the client actually wants, rather than offer a choice of finished works, in the hope that someone likes them. Whether it’s a garden sculpture or a simple house sign, I start with some questions and at least three concept drawings and regular updates with photos as the job progresses. If I’m doing a sculpture of a figure, sometimes it’s difficult to see the potential and recognise the progress until a face is finished. I can stare at the wood for hours imagining the face within, but I only get one chance to get it right.

As well as sculptures and commissions for community groups, I make a wide range of signs, anything from simple house numbers and names to climate change awareness panels, conservation and litter signs. My sculpture is suitable for private collectors for their gardens or architectural ornamentation. I’m happy to make just about anything from wood, particularly where a little style and deeper thought is required.

My business is fully certified by ‘Grown in Britain’ and licensed by ‘Scottish Working Woods’. My work methods ensure one of the lowest possible carbon footprints without sacrificing practicality.

In March, I created a free community art installation in Johnshaven. Covid Clouds consists of 12 white painted wooden clouds, each with a phrase or question relating to a kinder, cleaner, more compassionate future. It has been extremely well received and since gone on tour around Scotland. It’s still available to any community council or other organisation, free of charge, via www.ingrainedculture.co.uk/covid-clouds-pop-up

I’ve spent years developing techniques to make the use of wood a viable, up to date, useable alternative to high carbon, high polluting materials. The use of bronze was perfect for Victorian heavy industry and Gothic splendour, steel and concrete were perfect for modernist sculpture in times of brutal architecture and science fiction, but today? Really? Wood is low carbon, has an air of real life and warmth, sustainability and longevity.

You can see my work on my website and I have a few examples which can be viewed by appointment, though my workshop is not open to the public. If I’m taking part in an exhibition, the details are always on my home page.

I like being an artificer, so I’m not trying to become famous or earn a fortune. I just want a living and I want to be known for good quality, well made, Scottish wooden sculpture and signs.

Find out more about Robert’s work at ingrainedculture.co.uk

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