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.
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)
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.
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!