Meet the Hampshire sculptor who crafts stunning creatures for top celebrities
- Credit: Michael Turner
Sculptures are an exciting way to add flair and fashion to any home and garden. And with his speciality in dramatic animal sculptures, Lymington-based artist Michael Turner knows how to create pieces that make a real impact. We chat to him about the art of the craft, celebrity commissions, and what to expect from his work at Beaulieu’s exhibition that opens this month…
Looking through Michael Turner’s portfolio, it’s easy to see why his work has won him acclaim across the world. You don’t have to be an art specialist to feel the powerful depths of the stunning shapes and striking stares of the creatures he carves. Working for the best of the best in their fields, he manages to capture that sense of pride and power they have through the eyes of nature’s kings of the jungles and skies.
But a masterpiece is not made overnight, and neither was Michael’s rise to fame. His artistic skills were first brushed up during his time at Bournemouth and Poole College (now Arts University Bournemouth). ‘I realised I had a taste for metal work, but when I finished my degree I didn’t have a clue what to do – but my parents helped set me up in the garage and bought me tools, which then led to me putting together nuts and bolts, and creating creatures and bugs just for fun.’ After selling these at an arts week and selling out, his career soon began to take flight.
From this his creatures have grown up the pecking order, and so have his clients. After working with the Terminal 5 gallery at Heathrow Airport, he began to create statement pieces that would attract first clients. And they did. ‘I was in complete awe of the fact that people would want to buy my work, and I still get that feeling. One of my coolest meets was the head of Burberry at the time, Angela Ahrendts – she made me tea as I set up this eagle and was so down to earth and inspiring being at the top of her game,’ Michael explains.
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‘Another fantastic person was Gordon Ramsay, who I was very nervous to meet, but who also ended up being down to earth, and whose food was easily the best I’ve ever had.’ As well as these famous faces he’s also been commissioned by real royalty in the form of Prince Aga Khan and racing royalty Formula 1’s late Charlie Whiting.
All of these clients are the head of the packs in their respective fields, which is also reflected in the work commissioned and bought, with the Prince opting for a crocodile, Gordon Ramsay a gorilla and Charlie Whiting choosing an iguana and falcon.
‘I always try and pick animals that are powerful in nature, like falcons being the fastest and crocodiles being the most evolved creatures. Sometimes I’ll veer away from that and do other things, but generally that’s my rule of thumb.’
A similar falcon to the one Charlie Whiting had is being displayed at Beaulieu at its sculpture exhibition. ‘I feel very privileged to have my work displayed at Beaulieu as it’s so exclusive and is such a beautiful part of the country,’ Michael says. ‘From me there will be a few falcons, a giant cheetah's head and a horse’s head too.’ He also finds Hampshire itself a fine place to get inspiration from. ‘We’ve got some beautiful places here, and we’ve got deer all around us where I live – there is almost too much to get inspired from!’ he laughs.
READ MORE: See the beautiful prints by Hampshire artist Jo South for Liberty of London
Currently, Michael is working on numerous pieces, ranging from a giant shark all the way to more affordable pieces like dragonflies. But in terms of the future, Michael finds it hard to predict, particularly with being an artist. But no matter what he ends up doing, his passion for his pieces and his appreciation for his fans remains the same.
‘It never wears off that people want to buy my work – if I put my heart and soul into it, hopefully someone will always want it at the end when it’s finished and polished. It never tires, and that’s something I’m very grateful for.’
Visit Michael Turner’s website at michaelturnerstudios.co.uk to see more of his work and book in to see his exhibited pieces at beaulieu.co.uk