My early tuition in the Art and Craft of stone carving was from my father Peter Watts FRBS. Peter was a sculptor in the Gill tradition with a firm belief that, while his work was clearly ‘of the 20th Century’, this was built on a continuity of tradition extending back to Romanesque and Medieval times. Peter taught me the basic skills of the handling of tools, the shaping of stone and the cutting of letters. Much of what I learnt was ‘caught’ rather than taught through being around the studio as Peter worked.
At the same time I learnt the art of good gardening from my mother Anne and a love of the Somerset landscape through many days ‘helping out’ on a local farm and exploring the hedgerows meadows and woods of the valley where we lived.
EDUCATION, TRAINING AND CAREER PATH
I decided that the best way to combine my interests in Sculpture, Gardening and the English Landscape was to study Landscape Architecture and in 1976 I was accepted onto the two year Post Graduate Course in Landscape Architecture at the University of Sheffield. This was followed by a career of over 30 years in Landscape Architecture working for Sheffield City Council. During this period I continued in my spare time to carve stone producing a variety of work including figurative pieces, relief carvings and lettering, sometimes working to commission. I also continued to improve my lettering skills attending a 6 month part time course in calligraphy under the tuition of Peter Halliday (CLAS) and a number of Letter Cutting training courses run by the Memorial Arts Foundation under the tuition of Tom Perkins and Eric Marland.
In my work as a Landscape Architect working for Sheffield City Council I had particular joy in working collaboratively with those who shared a passion for the various arts and crafts associated with the working of stone. I also worked with a wide variety of other artists who also shared an ethos of ‘truth to materials’ and the production of work in which the art and craft of working with these materials was taken to the highest levels of excellence. In 1996 I was asked to lead the Design Team working on the development of Sheffield’s new Peace Gardens coordinating a large multidisciplinary team including 6 Artists (Brian Asquith - Metals, Tracey Heyes - Ceramics, Richard Perry - Stone, Tom Perkins and Ieuan Rees - Letter Cutting and Andrew Skelton - Furniture). Subsequently I led the detailed design stages of the Sheaf Square and Howard Street project working with the Artists Consortium ‘Si Applied’ on the integration of the Cutting Edge Sculpture, with Jeremy Asquith on Street furniture and with the Mosaic Workshop on Mosaics. I also gained considerable experience through these (and many other projects) in working with a wide variety of design professionals engaged in the design and delivery of large public projects of this sort.
Most recently I worked as part of a large multidisciplinary team (and in particular with the sculptor Stephen Broadbent) on the delivery of a large sculpture project outside the Crucible and Lyceum Theatres in Sheffield. This involved the development of large sculptural forms in Pennine sandstone which echoed the upland boulder forms of the local Pennine Hills which were such a source of inspiration for Moore and Hepworth in the 20th Century.
I am now moving into a new stage in my career where I am refocusing on the development of my own work as a Sculptor and Letter Cutter and the integration of this work with my skills as a Landscape Architect. I have a particular interest in the relationship of sculpture and the landscape seeing the landscape itself as ‘sculptural form’ and the careful placing of sculpture and lettering in the landscape as a way of enhancing the meaning and value of places. I have a particular interest in the creation of sculptural work, lettering and landscapes which give pause for reflection and contemplation. I also have an interest in carving and lettering work associated with churches and churchyards and have experience of working with a number of Diocesan and Church organisations through my position as nominated Artist on the Hallam Diocese Historic Churches Committee and also through applications to various Church organisations for the placing Memorials which I have carved.