Foundation in Art & Design lecturer and renowned artist, Ian Taylor, was commissioned by Artworks Creative Communities in partnership with Bradford Council’s Libraries Department to create a bespoke carved bench depicting various animals for Holmewood Story Garden at Holmewood Library.
The story seat was central to the story garden’s mission to inspire and engage the local community, encouraging families and school children to use the library, learn new creative skills, encourage a love of storytelling and increase family learning.
Ian’s carving emerged from the huge slabs of stone as the stones ‘spoke’ to him and local children and passers by watched his progress and made suggestions. Ian’s talent as a sculptor and gift for connecting with people has resulted in a magical seat which is etched on the hearts of the local community.
One day as Ian was carving, a man came up to him and predicted, “This will be the pride of Holmewood” and when the story garden was officially opened on 16th September Ian’s labours met with widespread delight.
Ian explained, “When the stone seat was in place but before the block paving was put down I carved the relief running hare into the side of the backrest. I was able to sit on the rough concrete working relatively low down. The hare is a wily creature with a reputation for seasonal madness and it was April. It is a signature piece and some children gave tacit approval.
I had chosen the stones at Bolton Woods Quarry and once they were in place I had to get to ‘know’ them. You look and see where the sun hits the stone and then start. It was a cat’s head that first became a possibility…so tentatively I started carving. I don’t use drawing much for this aspect of my work but I scribble on the stone with a piece lying around.
The cat took shape and Josh and friends rated it ‘sick’!!! (I later discovered that this meant ‘excellent’ according to the latest slang).
So … you would sit on the seat and stroke the cat’s head and tell stories, but there was a request for bottom sized indentations to be made in the seat top. I started work above the cat and as I progressed I ‘saw’ the dog’s head! It had to be done, it was so like the poet Adrian Mitchell’s signature – Polly the dog of peace! Together with another of the local children it was decided to make a complete dog. The indentations had to be part of this. The paws are crossed resting gently next to the cat’s head, and the cat’s back re-worked further into the stone.
The mouse had come next, but lying down to carve it took longer than the necessity of the idea. Charlotte and I talked about it being more obvious and so disregarding the breeze, he was gilded.
By now I was more than familiar with the stones and the horse’s head stood out with the waving mane integral to the piece. However it did not ‘just appear’ with the ease of the dog. The horse had to be right with so many equine experts, renowned for not mincing their words, looking on. As the head emerged I was shouted encouragement. I was still going back to finishing it whilst working on the lion. The ram’s head was a ‘gift’ – I just had to reveal it.
One day Elle came out of the back door of the library and said, ‘can you do an elephant please?’ There was an elephant’s ear lying in wait on the top of the stone, so ‘Elle the elephant’ became a free spirit. The squirrels and the lion were suggestions, as were eagles, monkeys, snake, plus a kangaroo. The sun reveals the stories of the animals as it tracks around the sky above the library.”
One of the children told Ian, ‘I bet the animals come alive at night.’ We think that they might!