My Space

An­tique tools and found ob­jects crowd sculp­tor Ben Pearce’s Napier spare room-stu­dio.

North & South - - Contents - BEN PEARCE JENNY KEOWN

Look up at the ceil­ing of sculp­tor Ben Pearce’s stu­dio and you’ll see a clus­ter of tiny marks, made by fine steel blades sent flying from his old scroll saw. “I know it’s time to stop when the blade breaks off and hits the ceil­ing,” says Pearce, who of­ten works at night when it’s quiet and his two young chil­dren, Os­car and Olive, are in bed. “When it goes, it goes, and it usu­ally wakes up my son.” But he likes an­tique tools, with their own quirks and ways of work­ing. Scroll saws were tra­di­tion­ally used to cre­ate jig­saws; Pearce uses his to sculpt wood into art­works. For one se­ries, called “Wal­nuts”, he col­lected shells gnawed by rats who live in the wal­nut tree in his gar­den, cast them in bronze, then added wooden twig shoots, which seem to sprout from the shells. Pearce’s stu­dio is in the spare room of the fam­ily’s 140-year- old home on Napier’s Bluff Hill. An old-worldly house, with big sash win­dows and a nar­row, wind­ing stair­case, it looks as if it were in­spired by an Enid Bly­ton chil­dren’s book. The stu­dio’s shelves are stacked with an eclec­tic col­lec­tion of parts and tools. A bro­ken French scooter Pearce bought 20 years ago lies above a gi­ant an­tique lathe. A bench grinder dat­ing from 1915 sits on the main ta­ble. Sta­ples for a sta­ple gun spill out of a box crammed onto a shelf. Pearce is drawn to such bro­ken, found ob­jects with “a past life”, which he trans­forms into thought-pro­vok­ing sculp­tures re­sem­bling ge­o­log­i­cal land­scapes such as moon craters, or sci­en­tific ap­pa­ra­tus. “I like al­ter­ing some­thing over a long pe­riod of time into a work of art that lasts for­ever, and sits in a home and is en­gaged with on a daily ba­sis, and is trea­sured.”

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