Andrew Frost - Derbyshire based wood sculptor

Sleeping dragons in the wood Photo: Claire Bore

Sleeping dragons in the wood Photo: Claire Bore - Credit: Archant

Claire Bore goes on a woodland trail in search of the creations of Derbyshire-based wood sculptor Andrew Frost.

Andrew with the completed chair Photo: Claire Bore

Andrew with the completed chair Photo: Claire Bore - Credit: Archant

When you think of art, perhaps an image of watercolours might come to mind, the soft movement of a brush sweeping across a page, or sculptures, carefully handcrafted – but probably not chainsaws. Yet for Derbyshire-based wood sculptor Andrew Frost, when it comes to ‘wood art’, power tools are a vital part of the process. Taking a tour of his work around the region, it’s easy to see how the art reflects the work of a forester. Elvaston Castle Country Park, for one, houses a beautifully carved dragon, a treasure chest and a sword in the stone monument. Children clamour over them, enticed by the magic, and adults marvel at the detail.

Andy is very clear that first and foremost he is an artist. ‘I’m actually a painter who finished his fine art degree and decided to work outside and fell trees. I became a forester, which I loved,’ recalls Andy. This talented sculptor started to experiment with the chainsaw, initially carving trees. ‘It turned out to be more fun than felling them.’ At first there was no real master plan. ‘I didn’t have any idea I could do it, but it’s working!’ he confesses. For his first piece ‘I just made triangular marks, but you’ve got to start somewhere. At the time I thought it was amazing, but looking back I have come so far,’ he reflects.

‘Drawing with a chainsaw’

Andrew at work Photo: Claire Bore

Andrew at work Photo: Claire Bore - Credit: Archant

Having built quite a reputation within Derbyshire, Andy has appeared on BBC1’s popular Countryfile. ‘I suppose that ultimately I’m classed as a local sculptor. I’ve been carving for such a long time, clients approach me because they’ve seen other work that I’ve done in the area.’ Andy’s customers range from private to corporate as well as a lot of work for county councils and wildlife trusts. ‘I normally draw a design so that the client can understand what I can see in the tree trunk. The rest is basically a mistake-making process, all based on the idiosyncrasies of the tree and what you find in it.’

Currently, he is working on a World War II commission in Markeaton Park which is based on the theme of ‘memories’. ‘The park was once home to a US Army camp,’ says Andy. ‘There is only one of its buildings left in the park. It was actually my mum, who used to live in the barracks, who inspired the collection. The camp is a little forgotten so it’s really important to evoke those memories.’ The new commission will be ready in the spring and will consist of a US soldier and army helmet, a wood stove and a Sherman tank turret. The process is organic – he lets the materials dictate projects rather than forcing them into a particular shape. ‘It starts with research, looking at photos and then working out how these ideas fit with the timber from the park.’ For Andy it’s then a case of ‘drawing with a chainsaw’.

The most unusual sculpture he has ever made is a furry monster table that now resides at The Climbing Unit in Derby. ‘It’s a truly quirky piece. It’s fun and quite surreal. You can even have a game of noughts and crosses on it!’ Sometimes he can be found in his studio in Crich National Tramway Museum, a workshop in the woods, but there are many areas that have been ‘Frosted’. There’s an ant transformed into a giant taxi, and a Wizard. ‘It fills me with joy to hear the kids say it looks like Gandalf,’ remarks Andy. There are sculptures galore at Carsington as well as at Elvaston. In fact, there is Frost wood magic all over the county.

Young fans admiring a completed sculpture Photo: Claire Bore

Young fans admiring a completed sculpture Photo: Claire Bore - Credit: Archant

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Soothing the mind

Andy explains that sculptures can be made out of practically anything, even sand. For him, though, the combination of art and wood is pure magic. ‘I think it’s the warmth of the wood and the majesty of the trees that are used. Some are ancient, some young, but all have a story to tell. I’d like to think we all respect them.’

Sustainability is extremely important to Andy. ‘All of the wood I have used comes from trees which had to be felled because they were diseased, decayed or windblown. Most of it is sourced from local tree surgeons and foresters.’ He also strongly believes in the holistic nature of wood. ‘I think wood as a material soothes the mind and people can marvel at the grain and dynamic of it. It’s also a very tactile material which can be used for both sensory and play sculptures. When it is placed in a natural environment it brings harmony to a place I suppose.’

Ultimately, for Andy there is no right or wrong when it comes to the art of wood sculpting. It’s all about that magic. ‘I love to create magic. I get joy from seeing others getting a little spark from my work, whether they are children or adults. I still believe in magic even though I’m no longer a kid.’

Andrew at work Photo: Claire Bore

Andrew at work Photo: Claire Bore - Credit: Archant