Kent sculptor Victoria Claire

PUBLISHED: 08:33 08 April 2016 | UPDATED: 08:33 08 April 2016

Victoria Claire and her Westie, Ralf

Victoria Claire and her Westie, Ralf

Archant

Battling with adversity, sculptor Victoria Claire creates works of a great tactile nature

My own keys to painting are either abstract or figurative, but with the sculpture that Victoria Claire creates in her Minster studio, the key terms are Modernist and symbolic.

Her crowning success has been a sculpture exhibition held in the House of Commons in November last year, featuring 12 pieces, both large and tabletop-size, in a variety of woods.

Victoria Claire was set for a stellar career in art. She won a place at Staffordshire University for a course in Figurative Sculpture, for which there were only 28 places in the whole of Europe. However, diagnosed with an eye disease at the age of 19, Victoria had to walk away from all this.

She returned home, got rehabilitated and took work with the Kent Association for the Blind (KAB). Subsequently she set up as a freelancer and, combined with some teaching, at that time with the Mental Health Department where she worked three times a week for three years, 
continued with her sculpture work.

Victoria took a decision that while her sight was still good enough, she would travel, so a period of backpacking ensued. On her return, she got married, worked as a classroom assistant before eventually deciding to sculpt freelance. “I have been blessed with success,” she says.

Victoria does paint and describes her style as “bold and vibrant with large canvases,” but mainly she sculpts. “I have a love for wood and love to use it in its natural coloration. If it demands a stain I might do so, but if I want dark, I will use a dark wood like mahogany or sapele (or sapelli), which is a hard wood from Africa.

“I recently did a piece called ‘Leap of Faith,’ a fish jumping out of the water, and did this in tulip wood, which has lovely subtle colours running through it.”

She sources wood from a supplier in Ashford, and one in Tunbridge Wells, but will also use found wood. “This is not ideal because wood take seven years to season and you can’t use unseasoned wood because it will crack.”

However, found wood is less critical for pieces destined for the open air, as outdoor pieces will always weather.

Victoria has also used quartz. This does not pose a problem because it is not carved. “I may use some crystals, like amethyst. I like to spin things. I will put a piece in a setting so I don’t need to carve, the setting will be of wood.”

Victoria likes to sculpt the human body and tells me: “One of the reasons is because of the flow and curves of the body, one of the most beautiful forms. I’ve done quite a few embracing pieces, which show the importance of love.”

Her other inspiration comes from trekking, which she enjoys with her husband. She also cites “spiritual awareness,” but inspiration may also come from nature. Touch is massively important: “Shapes, curves and flow can’t be experienced without touch,” she tells me.

The finish is refined like glass with a lot of sanding, going down in grades. “There are two ways to achieve the finish: first of all with a durable piece, I’ll laqueur the finish. Secondly, and nine times out of 10, a piece will be waxed. This may then need some attention as repeated waxing is necessary,” Victoria explains.

Now more than ever, however, she is studio based. Originally working in the garage near her house, four years ago her husband created a studio which she describes as being “like a little beach hut, cosy and insulated. It is about 10 foot by eight and appropriate for what I do.” There is specific lighting too.

The process involves an idea, a sketch, and a design which can evolve. A tabletop piece may measure one or two feet and can take a month or six weeks to create. A large, floor-standing sculpture may take 10 to 12 weeks. Victoria works a nine to five day, but may also be in her studio later in the evening.

Art is important for Victoria (“I wouldn’t be doing it if it wasn’t”) and she believes it should be free for all, with no museum entrance charges. She also believes that for public art; it is just the artist who should be funded by the taxpayer.

This month you can see Victoria’s sculptures on show in Herne Bay.

Get in touch

Victoria Claire’s sculptures are to be seen at Beach Creative, Beach House, Beach Street, Herne Bay CT6 5PT, 0300 111 1913, from 18-24 April.

For commissions, contact Victoria via her website www.victoriaclairesculpture.com or email victoriaclairesculptress@gmail.com or call her on 07543 634256.

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