Every made object carries a story: the sculptural narratives of Nick Duval-Smith

Motueka-based sculptor Nicholas Duval-Smith makes eye-catching bronze sculptures from Oamaru stone originals. His work reflects his love of clean lines, textural contrasts, narrative, and art that can be played with. He has also recently returned to working with ceramics, producing a range of unique, personality-filled porcelain portrait brooches.


What do you make?
I like to make things people can interact with. Mountains and trees lately, in small moveable groups.

How did you get into your craft?
I’ve been sculpting since I was twelve. I’ve always loved making things with my hands. Both my parents are creative people, so I was lucky there.

Do you have formal training or qualifications in your craft?
I have a Diploma of Fine Arts (1990), and a Bachelor of the same (2007) from the Otago Polytechnic School of Fine Arts.

Your favourite materials, tools and processes?
Oamaru stone, bronze, paper. An angle grinder, a Dremel. A concrete mixer. Grinding, cutting, wearing down.

Tell us about some of the techniques involved in producing one of your pieces
Carving, casting (which is done by Giltech Precision Castings, in Dunedin), patination, waxing.

Video by Wayne Johnson.


What inspires you?
Natural form. There’s so much beauty and drama to be found in Nature. I love contrast, the play of light across a landscape, the way textures can accentuate form.

Is there a philosophy behind your work?
My aim is to synthesise natural form with my thoughts. To make things people can connect to, and play with.

Describe your creative process:
New ideas spring from mistakes, or (seemingly) random scraps of leftover materials. Also, the work I’ve made in the past is constantly suggesting new iterations, so it’s a case of making the next version of an idea without copying the previous one. “Work makes work”, my friend Brent Hargreaves used to say when we were at Art School.

Describe your workspace:
It’s in a big shed owned by Darryl Frost, that also contains his studio and the Frost and Fire Gallery. My space is simple, with plenty of elbow room and headspace. A desk for writing and drawing at, that looks towards the big double doors that face East. Lots of dusty tools.



Five words that describe your mind:
Busy. Fanciful. Expansive. Comic. Twisty.

Your favourite feedback from a customer:
“Am really pleased with it – such a lovely object to hold and handle – as well as look at. It’s intended as a gift for my coffee loving husband – I think he’ll love it too. 🙂 -Jo.” (Regarding a Bronze Baby Bean purchase.)

What are you currently listening to? Angus and Julia Stone.

Recommend an album: You can’t go wrong.

What’s your favourite childhood book and why?
Where the Wild Things Are. I love the illustrations, the flight into the world of imagination, the safe return home. It’s a perfect cycle from home to the wide world and back.

What are you reading now? Girl in a Band by Kim Gordon.

Who is your hero/heroine? Why?
Leonard Cohen because he brought great beauty to sadness.

A favourite quote:
“There’s a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” (Leonard Cohen)



What would your advice be for those starting out in a crafty business?
Make what you love.

Why do you think it’s important to buy handmade and/or locally made goods?
The relationships are more real, more immediate, and more meaningful. Every made object carries a story, and those stories have more relevance when they are local.

What does it mean to you when someone buys your creations?
It means I am loved and respected, and it means I can make more! 🙂

What was the last handmade item you bought and what attracted you to it?
A wallet, made by Vanessa Cruse of the Del Sol Leather Company (Motueka). I love its simplicity, its solidity. It works, and it feels great every time I hold it.

What’s in store for the rest of 2019?
Getting ready for the Summer busyness. There’s a new Family Tree in the pipeline, and a new set of Mountains. I’m hoping to make a new Bell Bowl, but the way things are going, that may be a 2020 project.


Prize draw for Felt readers!

Nick has kindly offered a very appealing prize for one lucky Felt reader, of one of his gorgeously tactile baby bean bronze coffee bean sculptures (see below). These solid bronze coffee bean paperweights, weighing 300 grammes, feel lovely in your hand and make the perfect gift for a coffee lover! To be in to win leave us a comment below telling us what you like about Nick’s story and art.

The draw closes at 5pm on Monday 25 November and is open to New Zealand residents only. Thanks Nick!

14 thoughts on “Every made object carries a story: the sculptural narratives of Nick Duval-Smith

  1. I love buying local and like that Nick makes what he loves, so that you know each piece of artwork has been lovingly created. I like that every unique piece of local artwork has a story behind them, so that when I gift a piece of artwork to my friends or family, the act of giving feels more thoughtful than just buying some trash from K-mart.

  2. I love the honesty to way Nick creates his art and expresses himself. The tactile nature of his work also really appeals. Motueka and Oamaru are two places with special significance to me and his work combines them both.

  3. I love that your artwork makes me want to reach out and hold it, and not be concerned about doing so.
    I saw my friends in your faces (even if the names weren’t the same).

    1. I love the depth Nick conveys with such simple yet refined forms. I find his works so pleasing to behold, in particular his mountain and trees works, but also in the faces for his brooches. Love your work Nick

  4. I love your favourite quote “There’s a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” (Leonard Cohen), we all have ‘cracks’, but it is important to enjoy the light they let in!

  5. Great to see the persistence in Nick’s practice, and the tangible objects he is creating. Would love and appreciate one of his creations to travel back to his old home village down in Broad bay
    Kia Ora koutou

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