Who is Colin and why does he carve?
A dozen years in the corporate world, an MBA and a brief stint in consulting were enough to drive me into independence. I started my business in 1985 and after three fabric related product lines, I had an idea for a collection of moiré fabric angels in 1991. For reasons I can't explain I decided they should have porcelain wings and heads although I knew nothing of porcelain or carving. Fortunately, I grew up in a creative family that assumed you could do anything until you proved otherwise, so I dove in. I find designing the animals and carving them extremely satisfying and would continue to do it even if I won the lottery.
The collection began with sheep in late 1991 when I read a blurb in a magazine about some antique German sheep figures that were mixed medium as were the angels. (To this day I have still yet to see one of those German sheep). My knowledge of sheep was limited to what I'd absorbed from the James Herriot series of books and programs. I began my research with breeders associations and have expanded to visiting farms and attending sheep shows in the U.S. and the U.K. I continue to add new breeds and positions with great pleasure, but thanks to new sources of fur and new production techniques, we will be straying creatively further and further afield from the sheep. It is fascinating to learn about different kinds of animals, not just the details of how they look but the little behavioral oddities that make them a sheep, or a bear, or a penguin, or a ........ Each of the animals has opened up a whole new world.
Why multiple materials?
I chose to design my animals with a mixture of materials (porcelain - head, legs; hydrostone - body; and a "woolly" fur), because they are more visually and tactilely pleasing than a solid porcelain animal. Also, many animals with their contrasting areas of wooliness and short hair or skin, lend themselves to this method. In addition, because the pieces that will be porcelain have to be carved 14% larger than intended due to shrinkage in firing, and the pieces that will be hydrostone must be 3/8" smaller than the final profile to allow for the fur, it makes for a wonderful puzzle.
From idea to animal!
Occasionally, an idea comes from a fur sample that speaks to me, but more typically it comes from looking at every animal I see and with an eye for how I could recreate it. After thoroughly researching the animal, I carve all of the pieces that will be porcelain first, based on the scale determined by the fur. The carvings are molded and cast and the body is then carved and fitted to them. Once a rubber mold is made of the body a template for the fur is made.