“I first choose a subject that appeals to me, predominantly animals native to Britain.
Then, with the help of anatomical drawings and photographs, I work up some preliminary sketches. Once happy with the form and posture, this is drawn up full size on a wall in the workshop.
Normally starting from the feet up, I offer cut lengths of steel up to the drawing and the sculpture starts to take shape as each piece is welded together.
The works are normally made in ¾ inch square solid steel bar. Each piece is cut roughly to size and then is cold forged until the right shape is created.
There can be eighty or more components to a sculpture, and each specific piece needs to correlate with the next."
Excerpt from The Field Magazine April 18 article by Janet Menzies
Ever since Hamlet instructed his players to “hold, as ‘twere, the mirror up to nature”, artists have tried to achieve this ideal. Cumbria wildlife sculptor Andrew Kay goes a step further, making nature itself the mirror for his work. His canvas is the sky, a hillside or even a full moon, against which he sketches with steel.
Though his sculptures are permanent and three-dimensional, their impact is of something fleeting or glimpsed, often ephemeral, as with his two hares boxing in front of the full moon. It would be easy to obsess over the question of whether the landscape defines the sculpture or whether the sculpture provides a punctuation on the landscape, but Andrew insists “I am spontaneous about the work. They do want to be seen in the context of the landscape. I want you to see the silhouette of the form of the sculpture. And so the backdrop of the landscape delineates the work itself. I try to be immediate when it comes to the making of the sculptures- just to suggest the feeling of a flexed hock or the bend of the neck. I am focusing on getting life in the sculpture. When I am making an alert hind I try to capture that she is looking up and she’s watching you. I want to catch the essence of that moment of her watchfulness.
“I like the spontaneity of working in metal. It is very quick. You can sketch with it in a way – the way you bend the metal is like making a charcoal sketch on paper. The material is pretty forgiving and it is great fun to work with. I use mild steel mainly; it is quite soft to work with and yet it has permanence.”
Despite having a degree in design, and travelling quite extensively, Andrew returned to set up a small sculpture workshop a few miles from his home town of Kirkby Lonsdale. “Even as a child I used to be whittling a stick or something,” he remembers. “I am so lucky to live in the middle of nowhere surrounded by all this scenery, so that my inspiration is all around me – you can see nature just by looking out of the kitchen window. When we close down the workshop in the evening everything quietens down and that’s when the wildlife comes out and makes itself known.”
Now, twenty five years on, Andrew’s work can be seen all over the world. “We have several sculptures in Singapore, remarkably! A client in Mauritius sent me photographs of a herd of my deer with the Indian Ocean in the background which looked most inviting, and we have recently had a Stag and Hind delivered by helicopter to a chalet in the Swiss alps!” But he confesses “Times were lean when we were getting started and then, around 15 years ago, my wife suggested we take an advert in the Daily Telegraph, which we couldn’t really afford but 14 commissions came in from that one advert and that was the start of it all.
Viewing’ Kay’s sculptures “in the wild”, as it were, is a little more difficult. “I recently exhibited in Notting Hill but with the nature of my work I don’t often have collective exhibitions. The big plan for the next couple of years is to create a sculpture park here in Cumbria – my dream is to have an amphitheatre as well.” In the meantime, Kay is happy to welcome visitors and give tips for those who want to track down his work in its natural habitat.