First time exhibitor at this year’s festival of crafts, wood carver Sophie Walker was kind enough to talk to us about herself and her work. Here’s what she had to say!
Hi Sophie. Please could you tell us a bit more about yourself and what you do?
I’m a wood carver based in Bristol – I studied Contemporary Applied Arts at Hereford College of Arts and create one-off sculptural pieces designed to intrigue the curious. They often feature a hollow area within the piece, sometimes hidden by a door, that contains a phrase or line of a poem or a little curiosity.
Do you have an achievement within your career/ business that are you most proud of and why?
It might sound odd but I’m actually quite proud of myself for just starting and maintaining a creative business. It can be very intimidating starting out on your own and it can be a very steep learning curve. I’m so glad I’ve been able to persevere with it though because nothing compares to seeing someone’s face light up because of something you’ve made.
We love Bristol – what do you particularly like about being based here and what’s the craft scene like?
There’s always something happening in Bristol – it’s a constant hive of activity! When I first moved here people told me that it was a city mainly for graphic artists, but it has wonderful independent shops and galleries full of beautiful contemporary craft wares and lots of gift fair events (especially in the lead up to Christmas!)
If I’m looking for inspiration (or a nice Sunday walk) some of my favourite spots are Arnos Vale and Ashton Court – when you’re picking your way through the calm of the trees it’s hard to believe that you are actually still in a city!
You work with a range of woods – is there a specific wood that you particularly enjoy working with?
I really don’t think I can pick just one! It’s great being able to pick from a variety to work with as every wood carves in a slightly different way – for this craft fair I’ve used a lot of Apple wood for the larger pieces as it tends to carve very smoothly and has a lovely rich grain. Magnolia wood is a stunning grey colour and Rowan wood has a beautiful rich purple core – it’s always really exciting when I get to work with a new timber because until you start peeling back the layers of the bark you just don’t know what will be underneath!
You make your gorgeous wooden sculptures to commission. Have you got any particularly memorable commissions or has anything you made for commission really challenged/ moved/ or influenced your future making?
The most memorable piece I have made was a wedding present for a couple getting married. Making a piece to commission and working to make something perfect for someone is always a joy but this was extra special because the customer who commissioned me sent me a photo of the couple as they opened the present bawling their eyes out – I’d used a line from their First Dance song in the piece along with a few other personal details – being able to see how much it meant to them was so incredibly special.
Do you have a particular process to follow when starting a new piece of work? My process can vary depending on what moves me first. A lot of my work includes a language aspect to it – either a line from a poem or a phrase that I identify with and then I develop the look of the interiors around that, or I’ll find some little treasure or curiosity (an interesting stone from the beach, an interesting piece of bark, etc) and construct the piece around that.
This is your first year at festival of crafts and we can’t wait to see you there. What do you most enjoy about exhibiting at shows and what are you looking forward to most about joining us here in October? I’m really looking forward to seeing the space and community at Farnham – it looks like such a wonderful supportive environment and I can’t wait to see what all the other makers are bringing to the festival – I always really enjoy having a little look around the stalls just after everything has been set up but just before any visitors have arrived when everything is at it’s calmest!
festival of crafts takes place on Saturday 27th and Sunday 28th October 10am to 5pm at Farnham Maltings. The full exhibitor listing, workshop details and information on what else is going on throughout the weekend is available on the craft website or click to buy entry tickets to the festival for Saturday or Sunday