If you go down to the woods in Thackley today you are sure of some beautifully carved surprises! Bradford School of Arts & Media’s Foundation in Art & Design Lecturer and formidable artist/sculptor Ian Taylor has applied his particular brand of magic to stones and rocks found within Buck Wood. Nothing has been moved or imported and the sympathetic addition of script or animal carvings simply enhances the physical landscape. Visitors simply happen upon these hidden treasures as they wander through the woods. As the day ends and shadows lengthen they take on an ethereal quality.
Ian’s artistry has been commissioned by Artworks Creative Communities. Ged Walker, from Artworks revealed, “We first got involved in this project through Thackley Urban Village in order to develop a creative piece of work to reflect the history and heritage of the area. It seemed like Buck Wood was a logical place to create a number of pieces of work with different groups based on some of the most interesting and beautiful parts of Thackley. The Open Air School, the archaeological site and the stunning natural beauty of the woods all lend themselves to the creation of a project that a range of local groups can engage with, and visitors to the wood can enjoy for many years to come. We are hoping that the project will be completed by the summer so that it can be enjoyed by as many people as possible over the sunnier months. The appearance of the carvings changes with different lighting, so they will look different in summer, winter and with sunny or cloudy weather.
So far Ian has completed four animals: a deer, a ram’s head, a squirrel and a hare, plus a Latin quotation and the word ‘dappled’ on a stone beneath a canopy of trees. Ian disclosed, “I am planning to do another two or three from the list of suggestions. I am keen to include a boar’s head as it is on Bradford’s coat of arms and also because boars would have roamed in this wood many years ago.”
This was a challenging project for Ian who explained, “I started in February and initially spent hours just walking round the wood matching the ideas suggested by school students and the Friends of Buck Woods to the stones and vice versa. These are very ancient woods. Some of the oak tree branches are like a kid’s fairy story and I wanted to capture that magical feel. It is a very time consuming process. The stone is not faced like gravestones and I have to work with the fault lines.”
Carving in situ is also awkward, entailing lots of uncomfortable crouching and contorting into back straining positions, whereas when Ian works in his studio at home he can just turn his carving table - much easier than squeezing in between a rock and a tree on a slope! But working amid the woods has considerable compensations. Starting carving early one morning Ian watched a deer close by.
The woods have also been a surprising sociable workplace. The Latin phrase solvitur ambulando which means ‘it is solved by walking’ has provoked much interest. Ian said, “Everyone agrees that this quote from St Augustine is true as your head clears when you walk along, but people told me they had googled the phrase, or discussed its etymology. Something obscure became a source of learning and a great talking point. The wood is so well used. As I have worked I have seen cyclists, horse riders and walkers of all ages. Someone will pass me on horseback and then return later in the day with their family to look at my latest carving.”