Nic Webb creates stunning contemporary sculptures out of salvaged wood.
In a rural East Sussex barn, Nic Webb uses salvaged wood, traditional tools and elemental forces to create striking, contemporary sculptures
Highly regarded for his brave, unconventional and visually arresting interactions with wood, Nic Webb is crossing the boundaries of craft and fine art. With roots bound to heritage and tradition, his use of air, water and fire-finishing techniques are attracting a dynamic following of buyers and collectors. I graduated with a degree in painting from Brighton University in 1994, and have since focused on wood and elemental making. I started with a Princes Trust Youth Loan and have had various studio spaces. As a family we moved to Eastbourne four years ago, and the rural studio location gives me the creative freedom I had craved.
Working with local organic wood, every piece has its own lineage, character, flaws and features, like a living fossil. I look at the raw lumber and question what is inside: what shapes, form and orientation.
Each design begins with a chainsaw, then various high-octane, electric angle grinders. I work on the removal of particular areas of wood with extremely controllable fine tools – like chisels and cabinet scrapers. Until you take out the layers, you cannot foresee the nuances and landscape.
The initial rough shape is my canvas, ready for a more elemental,
potentially chaotic treatment – sandblasting, burning, submersing underwater, freezing or exposed outdoor hanging. Every finished piece is then either oiled or highly polished.
The process of making is very personal. It’s just you, the material, your environment, background thoughts and techniques, all in the moment. It
becomes your life. With the manifestation of a physical object I want to evoke a visceral, physical connection. The marks I make in the wood are so subtle, they look as if they could have occurred naturally: this sense of humanity within the natural world is the narrative I am looking for. Only a few pieces get close to that for me.
Working in unchartered creative waters, with air, fire and water, you have to be prepared to lose a piece. In the adventure of making, you don’t know where you are heading. You can read the signs, imagine and challenge yourself, but when you discover something new, that is amazing.
The buyer landscape is changing and there is a huge growth in the sophistication of people’s understanding and appreciation of made objects. People talk about the demise of craft and the loss of heritage practices. I am of the opinion that you cannot kill what is human. As long as there is human ingenuity, hands and minds will always pick up a tool and continue to create.
I have spent time this year working with a new young talent, Luke Fuller, who has just won the Business Design Centre, New Designer of the Year Award. Helping to inspire and educate others is important to me.
My head is full of new creative projects. Always bigger and better, never a pastiche of last year. I have just exhibited at Masterpiece, and am currently working towards shows in the UK and America.
Nic Webb, nicwebb.com. Instagram: @nicwebb1. To discuss commissions or projects, email [email protected] Nic’s work is available through Sarah Myerscough Gallery, sarahmyerscough.com.
Nic at work in his studio, hand-building and sculpting a clay vessel, surrounded by his much-loved tools.
CLOCKWISE FROM LEFT Nic chooses a piece of wood in East Sussex for his new work; a pit-fired ceramic bowl; wood-carving chisels that once belonged to Nic’s great-great grandfather.
CLOCKWISE FROM BELOW Oak Vessel is reflective of Nic’s pared-back style; an angle grinder adapted for producing his unique sculptures; built in the 1900s, this former sheep barn has become Nic’s peaceful studio and the ideal creative environment.