Turning a Woodland into a Creative Hub in the Outdoor City
14 April 2016
Andrew Vickers on how he left his career as a dry stone waller and bought a woodland to create his very own outdoor art gallery.
I've always had a love of stone. I set myself up as a dry stone waller when I was 16, but soon got bored of its repetitiveness. I didn't like how I was building all these walls, yet no one knew who made them. So one night, I decided to carve a face in stone and sculpt it into one of the walls to make my mark.
I just knew I wanted to do something where I could be creative and let my feelings be known, so I started to edge towards a career in sculpting. I had to continue dry stone walling for a bit, but now I am a full time sculptor and have named my gallery Stoneface Creative after that night.
I've always wanted to own a woodland and ever since I started sculpting full time, I actively looked for places to buy. About four years ago, when I was shopping in one of the local stores, I just asked the women who owned Storrs Woods before me if she would sell it, and she said yes!! It's crazy but that's how I got to own my own woodland.
I'm from Dunworth in Sheffield, which is only half a mile away from Storrs Woods, so I've known this woodland for a long time and played here as a child. I love that on the hillside you can see more trees than houses. Having the venue in a valley means I'm just surrounded by trees and water all day and the connection to my childhood and family means it's a particularly special place for me.
I’m an outdoors person in general; even when it's snowing I still carve outside. I just think; why would you choose to shut yourself in a box-like studio when you could be surrounded by nature? It's the best place to work; it's so quiet and protected by trees. The nature of the valley, how it is enclosed, sheltered and protected, provides me with so much inspiration for my sculptures, I feel like I'm at one with nature. I suppose my art is a way of making interventions, introducing forms to coexist with natural beauty. The venue also makes me want to do all the things that are natural, like cooking outdoors.
Little by little I have been working on the woodland. Everything here has been made by me, from the sculptures to the walls and flooring. Things are going well and I have a variety of customers. People tend to know about me through word of mouth, but after I went on the TV show Posh Pawn the floodgates really opened. I even have rock stars and TV personalities, including Rick Allen from Def Leppard come to buy my work!
My customers say they like the originality of my work, and of course, the location. I don't copy anything; I feed on people's emotion and create it. I wouldn't, for example, carve a person or their dog; everything comes from my emotion and expression. I suppose art has become my communication, a diary of my life through expression. You only need to come to the woodland and you'll see; I've left my mark everywhere!
I have lots of plans for the future. I rent land across the road where I plan to renovate a stone barn there and turn it into a gallery with fully glassed walls so that you can see all around you when you're inside. With this, I want to start exhibiting my own work as well as showing work from guest artists each month. I also hope to build my own water wheel to create electricity so that the place becomes fully sustainable! Other plans include running event days for children, adults and people with disabilities where they can learn to sculpt, look around the woodland and the sculptures, and then make pizzas in our outdoor pizza oven.
If you fancy a trip to Yorkshire's best kept secret or want a unique sculpture for your own garden then why not head out to Storrs Wood, take a look around at the art, have a chat and a cup of tea with the local artist and stroll along the beautiful, peaceful river side.
For more information see: www.stonefacecreative.com
Or contact us on: 0114 232 3534
Follow us on twitter: @StonefaceCreate
Have a business idea or wanting to set up your own company? You can get free and impartial advice to help you set up and grow your business here in Sheffield. Contact Business Sheffieldon 0800 043 5522 to learn more.