box in the back of the garage, contains an assortment of tools and shelf
brackets. The wood-carving chisel was given to me by Bernard Larrad,
a local man, who died about 20 years ago, who made inventive, sometimes
It's good to use tools which have some personal association but I have
to admit that I've never done much with the wood carving tools.
Eye and Hand
Yesterday, my mum went for what, for most people, is a routine cataract
operation; to replace the lens in her right eye. There were complications
and it might be two months before she's fitted with the replacement lens.
As a teenager, obsessed with drawing, I wondered what I
might do when my sight begins to fail. At the time, my grandad,
approaching his 90s, was no longer able to read. Grandma had to
give him a running commentary on any television sports - such as
the Saturday afternoon wrestling.
My imagined solution to this was that, as my sight failed, I might
switch to sculpture and, using rasps, files and sandpaper, make
objects which were intended to be picked up and felt as much as
This piece, a little over 9 inches (23 cm) tall, was the second,
and last, piece of wood sculpture I carved in the woodwork class
at school. This was in 1965, when I was aged 14.
I was trying for something geometrical in this piece of fine-grained
timber (it looks like beech to me) but I think I must also have
had in my mind a small African warrior figure in ebony which my
godparents had sent me from Tanganyika (as it was called at the
The Henry Moore/Barbara Hepworth references are pretty obvious
but probably not intentional; I probably just assumed that this
is what modern art should look like.
'It was a general conversation piece in the Ossett Grammar School
woodwork exhibition' where this photograph was taken by my classmate,
Michael Hart (wonder whatever happened to him?)
From an article I wrote in 1965
'A good sculpture' said Michelangelo, 'is one that can be rolled
down a hill without anything being broken off.' I am sure that is
true of mine, although no-one has got that desperate with it yet.
To make it I was given an oblong piece of Scots pine and I kept
it to this shape. To begin with I chiseled out holes, then decided
to join them up with grooves. Mr Healey (the art master) told me
to follow the grain. I tried my best to do this. When I had done
all this I rounded off the corners with a rasp. This got it roughly
smooth so I glass papered it. To finish it off I gave it three coats
of French polish and one coat of bee's wax.
Richard Bell, email@example.com