Inspired by Purbeck

PUBLISHED: 12:00 20 July 2011 | UPDATED: 19:43 20 February 2013

Robert Mileham
Photo: Andrew Thomas

Robert Mileham Photo: Andrew Thomas

Andrew Thomas, one of the founders of the Purbeck Sculptors group, reveals the inspiration behind their inaugural exhibition

Andrew Thomas, one of the founders of the Purbeck Sculptors group, reveals the inspiration behind their inaugural exhibition

Iam often asked what inspires me as an artist. I believe that inspiration and creativity are very closely linked and are, up to a point, inner mechanisms that naturally develop over time, just as technical skills are. As we become further accomplished in our art, we spend more time immersed in the creative cycle of conception, development, researching, planning and execution. Inspiration can come from any inner thought, feeling or emotion as well as from observations of life.

I feel that my surrounding environment plays a major role in providing the psychological foundation necessary to exercise my creativity. I have lived in Wareham for 28 years and think of Purbeck as a unique beautiful gift to all of us who live within the area. The Isle of Purbeck is a Utopia that offers an abundance of creative energy to the soul, through which I express my art.

My sculptures are spread across the country in galleries from Harrogate to the Isle of Wight, and I often make trips, for exhibitions and private views, but on returning home, I always get a warm feeling of calm, peaceful belonging. When I see the Purbeck hills in the distance I am almost compelled to drive directly to Kimmeridge or Worth Matravers, just to absorb the stillness and tranquillity and to let the sea breeze blow away the high energy of city life.

I have learned since living in this area, that sculpture has always been part of the fabric of the Purbecks, with many artisans as busy today as they were in the past. This abundance of creatively talented individuals produces amazing works of art in many different styles and forms, all with the natural inspiration that seems to emanate from this incredible isle.
Recently I brought together a group of these talented three-dimensional artists under the banner of The Purbeck Sculptors. Currently I am in the process of organising an exhibition, purely showcasing sculpture in all its many different styles and mediums, featuring works by the group and also inviting a collective of guest sculptors from across the South who will be adding a different dimension to the exhibition.

The exhibition, which is called Red Orb, will be held from 30 August to 5 September in the heart of Purbeck, at the magnificent historical Leeson House in Langton Matravers. The house has three indoor galleries and a sculpture trail to explore and is the perfect setting for this exhibition. It will showcase an eclectic mix of contemporary sculpture, from some of the Souths most accomplished three-dimensional artists, working in a diverse variety of mediums and styles, from willow to wire, and from the classical to the contentious.

As curator, this has been a thrilling project to be involved with and a totally new experience for Purbeck, as an exhibition of this kind has never previously been organised in the area. Visitors to the exhibition will be able to see the diverse range of incredible talent, absorb and engage with the forms, and experience the dynamic sense of presence radiating in the space that the sculptures occupy. Sculpture has been my life and my passion and it gives me immense pleasure to share this with the local community and visitors alike.

Focus on Andrew Thomas

To sum up what ones work is about is a question that is quite complex to answer. The most important elements for me are the original creative concept, something that really inspires me and that I want to invest part of my life in. If I am passionate about the form that I am trying to create, then this will naturally become rooted in the life that will emanate from the piece.

Other important areas are the balance and proportion of the solids and voids within the form. They bring life, movement and elegance to the sculpture, creating a dynamic unity between the various volumes. Harmony within a sculpture is when all of its compositional volumes, parts or surfaces are complementary to one another, creating a well-balanced and well-proportioned shape that brings unification to the form.
The final important element of my work is the finishing. This crucial process fuses together all the details of the sculpture, producing the crisp sharp lines and smooth flowing contours, where highlights and shadows play their part in bringing life to the form. (For more information: or e mail Andrew at

Andrews instrument sculptures:

I have always thought of musical instruments as functional works of art with their beautiful designs and dynamic harmonic ranges. I was inspired to design these sculptures, which reflect the instruments classic heritage combined with the interpretation of the tonal waves.
I look at each part of the instrument and visualise how the vibration of the notes being played would resonate from it. The physical movements of the musician were an important factor in the design as their passion for their art affects the mood of the music and the feel of this visual information of sound form.

Focus on Jonathan Sells

Jonathan has been carving stone for 37 years and says he still loves it. He trained with Portland stonemasons, though as an artist he is self-taught. He has been lucky enough to secure many commissions, both public and private and his work can be seen at Christchurch Priory, Wareham Market, Highbridge (Somerset) and outside the Bournemouth BIC, amongst many other places.
My latest commission is carving a large name sign for over the entrance of a new school in Portland. I also teach carving, working with people of varying ages and abilities, and also with disability groups, says Jonathan, who is currently teaching at Burngate Stone Centre. From September he will be running workshops at Holton Lee, a disability centre near Poole. (For more information visit

Focus on Carlotta Barrow

Living in Covent Garden in the 60s was an exciting time! says Purbeck sculptor Carlotta Barrow, who at that time was creating kinetic sculpture out of perspex. With sponsorship from ICI and a grant from the Arts Council she was able to have an exhibition in a Mayfair Gallery. Later, with fellow artist Mike Hannaker, they opened at the Woodstock Gallery and this led to their creations being shown on Tomorrows World, Dr Who and the UFO TV series.
Since moving back to Swanage an interest in stone carving was born. Living on Peveril Point I am surrounded by stone, the house is actually on the site of an ancient Roman marble quarry! says Carlotta, who started exhibiting at the Square and Compass Stone Carving Festival, then the Portland Sculpture Trust. Carlotta exhibits regularly for Dorset and Purbeck Art Weeks with fellow artist and husband Christopher Burke and her
work is in many collections around England and abroad. (More details on

There is a diverse variety of mediums and styles, from willow to wire, and from the classical to the contentious

Focus on Robert Mileham

With a major commission for a large garden in Berkshire, Roberts work is increasingly in demand. Robert caught sculpture at a turning point in his life. He describes it as infectious, demanding, selfish and totally compulsive. It has become his raison dtre. Sculpture is in our time and place. It exists; it is more than an image. You should engage with it, touch it and see it from all angles. It has the advantage of presence, he says.
Robert, who was elected a Member of the AFAS in November 2008, has work in private collections from New Zealand and Hong Kong to Europe. He works in the countryside, using an old tack room as a studio, surrounded by horses, dogs (he is particularly fond of spaniels, which feature in his sculptures), cats and an abundance of wildlife. (More details on

What: Red Orb Exhibition
When: 30 August 5 September, 10am-5pm
Where: Leeson House, Langton Matravers, Swanage, BH19 3EU
Admission and parking: Free; refreshments available
Featuring: 10 Purbeck sculptors, 9 invited sculptors, 5 selected sculptors, showcasing work from Andrew Thomas, Marzia Colonna ARBS, Jonathan Sells, Greta Berlin, Robert Mileham, Vivien Mallock ARBS, Scott Taylor, Richard Atkinson-Willes, Moira Purver ASWA, Emma Pickering, Martin Debenham, Carlotta Barrow, Chris Burke, Robin Beuscher, Sue Lansbury, Kim Creswell, Jo Burchell and Jamie Hart.
More details:

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