James Doran-Webb explores the art world with driftwood
James Doran-Webb gallops through the art world with moving pieces
There is a circus in his head. Or perhaps menagerie is the more appropriate term. Horses, lots of horses. And elephants and lions, bears and hares, hounds, geese, owls, meerkats, a hen, a squirrel, a boar. When they make it out of his head and into his terracotta- tiled studio, they appear to gallop, stalk, swoop, rut, race, and romp in full, threedimensional action, except they are all made of wood and stainless steel— driftwood, in fact, from long- dead trees sourced from Cebu and its neighboring islands, and scrapped stainless steel from junkyards, which he welds into his animals’ skeletons.
Meet James Doran Webb, ex- Ironman, ex- adventure racer, all- around outdoorsman, former antiques dealer, maker of fine furniture, and sculptor of exceptional driftwood animals. He moved here from the UK as a teenager on an extended jaunt, and has been a Cebu resident for 28 years.
Webb describes his younger self as “being totally uninterested and particularly mediocre in biology while at school.” Yet early on in his working life, he was coaxing life- sized giraffes, English bulls, and fairground horses out of papier- mâché and making “up- market animal mobiles out of wood, rattan, metal, and a whole rake of other materials.” His instinctive feel for anatomy and muscle movement shows through in his dynamic sculptures, and it was the proposal for such sculptures that he submitted for his first ever stand at London’s Chelsea Flower Show in 2012.
The Chelsea Flower Shop is organized by the Royal Horticultural Society ( RHS) and attended by no less than Queen Elizabeth II herself. “I was astonished to be accepted immediately at the Chelsea Flower Show, as the usual waiting list for sculptors and artists is eight- plus years,” he says. Acceptance into the show meant Webb had to throw everything into that first exhibit. But while the artistic aspect was brimming, the war chest was not, with funds badly required to transport himself and his life- sized sculptures from Cebu and set them up in London for the five- day show.
“I sold whatever I could: all my antiques, my sacred road bike, even my sala set, and when that wasn’t enough, I borrowed money
THREE YEARS AGO, JAMES DORAN-WEBB SHIFTS FROM UPCYCLING TYPHOON DEBRIS TO
CREATING LIFE-SIZED SCULPTURES.