Let there be life

Bolling­ton artist Jane Rob­bins takes in­ert ma­te­ri­als and brings them to vi­brant life through her very touch, gift­ing the joy of phys­i­cal me­mory to her clients. Cheshire Life: Novem­ber 2018

Cheshire Life - - Special Feature -

In times gone by a por­trait, whether painted or sculpted, was very much the sole purview of those with wealth and an el­e­vated per­spec­tive of their place in the world. Then pho­tog­ra­phy hap­pened, and sud­denly ev­ery­body could ac­quire a vis­ual me­mento of a life. Por­traits formed in paint or bronze be­came rel­a­tively rare, even among those whose stair­cases were lined with them. Hav­ing met Jane Rob­bins and seen her work, I can only feel that this is a huge shame, but I also feel con­sid­er­able joy in my dis­cov­ery of what is pos­si­ble when one looks a lit­tle fur­ther.

‘I de­scribe my work as tra­di­tional, but with a con­tem­po­rary twist,’ says Jane. ‘I work with bronze, but of­ten add a mod­ern medium such as resin to en­hance the fi­nal fin­ish. A small girl may hold coloured bal­loons, for ex­am­ple, or a bronze bust might sit on a trans­par­ent pol­ished plinth. As well as bronze I work in stone, resin and clay. What this all means for the client is that the cost of a sculp­ture can be sur­pris­ingly good!’

In be­tween ma­jor, pub­lic com­mis­sions such as her re­cent sculp­ture of Em­me­line Pankhurst for The Pankhurst Cen­tre in Manch­ester or the bust of Ken Dodd, com­mis­sioned by his wife Lady Anne Dodd to sit in the Read­ing Room in Liver­pool Li­brary, Jane works on pri­vate com­mis­sions and pieces that spring from her own imag­i­na­tion.

‘I work with North­ern Makes gallery in Bolling­ton, where they spe­cialise in con­tem­po­rary paint­ings, sculp­ture and ce­ram­ics. My gallery work in­cludes nudes, hand and bal­loon sculp­tures and a series of danc­ing, shall we say ‘com­fort­ably sized’ ladies. Some­times in bronze but mostly in resin. A re­cent de­vel­op­ment has mixed mar­ble dust or bronze dust into resin, to cre­ate some­thing that looks just like the real thing, but weighs and costs like resin.

‘I have just com­pleted a sculp­ture of a cat for a lady some dis­tance away, who has man­aged the whole process via email. I’ve also been work­ing on an in­creas­ing num­ber of briefs from Ro­ma­nia, for busts of de­parted loved ones that will be en­cased in a clear win­dow within a grave stone. One in­ter­est­ing com­mis­sion was for a bronze moon-gaz­ing hare, with a re­mov­able head, in which ashes will be stored and the hare then placed in the gar­den.’

Not all of Jane’s work is ‘in memo­riam’, as it were. She has worked on bronzes of chil­dren, adults and an­i­mals that are still very much in their fam­i­lies’ arms.

‘I think that to cre­ate a sculp­ture of a child, to cap­ture them in that mo­ment of life, is a beau­ti­ful thing. Un­like a photo, in sculp­ture you can ac­tu­ally bring some­thing of their char­ac­ter to the piece and then it’s held for­ever in place. It’s tac­tile, peo­ple love to hold and touch them – and it’s a real talk­ing point too!’

Jane would love, she says, to help peo­ple feel that sculp­ture is to­tally ac­ces­si­ble.

‘It’s not an ego­tis­ti­cal thing,’ she says. ‘A con­tem­po­rary style over­comes all of that. And then peo­ple say, “oh bronze, I can’t af­ford it,” but there are so many dif­fer­ent medi­ums in which I work that this sim­ply isn’t true any more. With me­dia such as clay or resin you can have mul­ti­ple pieces made from the same cast, and ev­ery mem­ber of the fam­ily can have one.

‘Peo­ple can come and see me in my stu­dio or we can work re­motely. Cus­tomers are al­ways sur­prised at just how easy it all is.’

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