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Sculpting a new way of being
Dec 12 2018

When I was little, about 10 years old, I started sculpting a ballerina during art class.

Two of my friends came over to see, presumably everyone was sculpting something or other, and they giggled and called others to come see my piece. Perhaps I had reached her bottom and this may have caused some controversy, nervous pre-pubescent giggles and what not, but being the over-sensitive person that I was, I decided to crumple my ballerina into a lump never to be sculpted again.


I was 16 when  I made this microscopic doodle of a piece during lunch.

I enjoyed working the dry clay, sanding and carving into the piece, which I had never really experienced- I  felt the urge to tidy up my lines.

The bust ended up revealing a body from a different angle.

This happened organically- the figure appeared before me and I traced the shape with my blade.

Thus I realised deep down I had a little place I could call peace.

Years went by and I had to choose a career to study, got caught up in illustrating and generally trying to find my way being an “artist” in a new country, and I forgot about this little peaceful place.



Several years later, when Ali needed a sculptor to sculpt the African puppet faces for Thames Festival in 2001, Murphy said I would be able to do it.

“Now, hold on a second … the last thing I sculpted was peeny weeny!”

“Not to worry,” he said- “we are here to help you.”

I relished every minute and found a new sense of pride.

After that day, I thought more about sculpting than anything else.

But it wasn’t until 2006 that I dabbled in clay during my technical effects degree.

Work wise- sculpting was definitely not on the agenda.



National Theatre


In 2013 I was let loose at the National Theatre with a heap of magical green foam.

With my sanding tools, rasps, serrated edges and a vac form and I sculpted 8 Medieval helmets for Edward II.

Once again the call to pursue this fantastic medium.

Once again to be reminded  it was not the right moment and off I went to continue making costumes, props or dressing camels!





The wait is excruciating. I know deep down I want to sculpt.

Dolls mostly, women or people in general.

Characters in movement. Dancers specifically.

My fascination and obsession with ball jointed dolls is a healthy aspiration and inspiration and one day my dream will come true.

I am reassured by the observation that everything I do is a form of sculpture, be it wire work, foam work, costume…

My hands still ask for that little something else





This  year I have been rewarded with two presents , both have allowed me to cross a giant bridge :


At last! Emily asked me to create a 4m Indian lady puppet.  I got to revisit the joy I felt all those moons ago for Celebrate South Africa.  With only two days to sculpt this piece, and make it look like my reference, I pulled in my resources from all angles and made it work. From building the armature, to measuring, to working the clay and decifering the face as a sum of planes and shapes.




An incredible  starting point for what was about to come as a surprise that has left me stumped because now that I know this information .. how will I approach my next sculpture?

The information I acquired in Andy Sinlcair’s figurative sculpture class.

No more guessing, a fierce indoctrination of muscle names  and body points that have found sanctuary in my mind, making sense of what was understood but not delineated.


I am scared. But very, very excited because if I look from the outside I see that the ballerina that was, will come.

Just a little more to go….





One Response to Sculpting a new way of being

  1. Kay Harman July 11, 2019 at 4:15 pm

    What a great website Iola,
    Lovely to see all your work and read about your journey, from way back before we’d met.
    Amazing work, amazing connections with people.
    Would be wonderful to see you again sometime.
    Kay x

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