If you visited festival of crafts over the last weekend, you will have seen the fantastic installation in the back stairwell of the Maltings. ‘Perception’, the unique sculpture by Oliver Olsen is still in the building, so why not take a stroll through to see it, whilst you can. We caught up with Oliver and talked more about the amazing sculpture, that has had visitors intrigued…
Please can you tell us a little about when and how your interest in craft began?
I think it’s fair to say that my interest in craft was not immediate. I had this presumption about what craft was and what it meant to me, and at the beginning of my studies I just assumed that craft was something that was done at home or in a private study. I assumed that craft was not professional and dismissed it in turn. Obviously now my opinion has drastically changed, but this is only because my understanding of craft has drastically changed as well.
My interest in craft began when I started to create, make and build things in the workshop, it was this time working and building with my hands that I truly started to understand the meaning of craft and in turn associate myself with it. For me craft means skill or the ability to make on your own. It’s something that gives me real enjoyment, the ability to share what I have with the world.
What does this piece of work mean to you?
The sculpture created represents the beginning, or you could call it an awakening of, the realisation of my abilities. When I started working as an artist I had this doubt of my abilities, this feeling that I was never going to be able to create anything large or impressive. So what I did was I started small, making small samples, creating small objects to try to get a feel for materials. I started comfortably and experimented with materials and techniques I already knew. But this inevitably derived some fairly generic solutions that were neither inspiring nor creative.
However, I still had the drive and the determination that I wanted to create something myself, that people perceived as inspiring. The next logical step was to start talking to people, discussing my ideas with professionals, in workshops and at universities, to get their opinion, thoughts and ideas on what I could make. Slowly working with these people I was able to learn new techniques. It’s not the techniques that I learned that help me to create this piece, but the ability to find others who were able to inspire or direct me. Learning new techniques is important but the ability to source new ways of working, to approach a project with an open mind, this is what this piece means to me.
What inspired you to make this piece and can you tell us more about the approach you took to its design and making
The inspiration behind my project was derived from two things. The first thing was my own ability, I wanted to create something myself. This meant not buying parts and assembling them but creating each individual part myself. I had to understand each individual component, the way they interacted with each other. It meant that I had to have a deeper understanding of the processes and the time requirements.
The other aspect that inspired me was working with Giles Miller in London. As part of my masters, I did a one-week internship with him. Miller’s works with repeat pattern is mainly ceramic; I wanted to create a piece that echoed a sample of his work but was still unique to me and my particular personality.
What element of its craft and design did you enjoy most or find most challenging?
I had two difficult obstacles to overcome. The first issue was developing a design that was ultimately unique but also feasible; I was working to a particular time constraint meaning I had to manage my own aspiration in regards to the size and scale that I was working to. I had to downsize my design at least two times, to make sure that I was going to be able to make everything in the time I had before the show.
The other issue I had was learning all the skills to a professional level in such a short amount of time.
Can you tell us some more about your next project or future plans?
Looking forward I would like to keep working with metal, I am now training in steel and welding and I would like to make a sculpture for Farnham Heathland. I want to keep working with repeat pattern but develop my work to large scale as well as some smaller sculptures that people would be able to buy.
I would also like to start setting up my own studio, so at the end of my residence with The University for the Creative Arts ends, I have a creative place to keep developing my work.
What or who do you find inspiring or an influence on your work?
This is a good question, and if I’m honest, it changes all the time. When I started this project I had just finished working with Giles Miller, he works with small tiles and that had a big impact on my work. The metal tiles I created where based on some of Miller’s work. However my inspirations are never fixed they change all the time. The one thing that stays constant in my work is the usage of repeat pattern.