Sculptor Nick Elphick's royal appointment for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee

A 'royal appointment' means that sculptor Nick Elphick is sure to be carving out a big reputation for himself in 2012 WORDS BY EMMA MAYOH MAIN PHOTOGRAPHY BY JOHN COCKS

Nick Elphick didn’t know what to do with himself. Neither did anyone else. He spent much of his childhood wrought with anger and frustration. As a teenager in Helsby he spent more time getting expelled and suspended from school than he did in it. His frustration was borne out of his dyslexia which made it difficult for him to cope in lessons like English and maths.

But when he joined Llandudno boarding school, St David’s College, he discovered his artistic talent and hit his stride.

He said: ‘I’d always loved drawing because it was an escape for me. It was my way of blocking out what was going on. It was only when someone looked over my shoulder and said that my works were good that it got me thinking.

‘I couldn’t stop then and I knew that this is what I wanted to do. I finally felt like I had something I could excel at. It was a fantastic feeling.’

Nick, who now lives in Llandudno, has not looked back. Since then he has devoted all his time to creating striking sculptures. As well as graduating in fine art, he took jobs where he could hone his craft. He worked on set design for theatres as well as working for bronze casting companies. He took on anything that would help him acquire the traditional skills that are now second nature to him.

The hard work has paid off, because at the age of 32 he has worked with artists Damien Hirst and Ryan Gardner as well as working at the Cartier Gallery in Paris with renowned designer, Jean Paul Gaultier. He also created the statue of HM Stanley, famous for the saying ‘Dr Livingstone I presume’, erected in Denbigh town centre in 2011. And there’s his series of punk sculptures.

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For the past few months Nick has been locked away in his workshop toiling away on a huge project to mark the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee later this year. The fine art graduate was commissioned by Chester social enterprise and organisers of the Chester Giant Parade, Giant, to sculpt a five foot high sculpture of the Queen’s head. As well as his own sculpture, he is also in the process of creating 60 cast replicas which will be used by community groups in towns, villages and cities throughout the county.

The cast replicas will be provided to the different groups – there are already more than 40 signed up – for them to decorate. They will then be displayed in London and around the county.

Nick said: ‘I have a strong belief in social enterprise and any projects that can help groups or individuals who need that boost or assistance. I want the heads to connect with the community and to reflect the love we have for the Queen. I’m a loyalist at heart and to have the opportunity to create an iconic model of our Sovereign is a great honour.

‘My work is not about a likeness but a representation of The Queen throughout her career, something that every person recognises as representative of our monarch and captures her pride and ours in her. A few members of the extended royal family have seen my sculpture and said they like it, which was a proud moment for me.’

Word of Nick’s skills has got around and he has been commissioned by a London opera company to create four, ten foot sculptures of Greek Olympic figures to be displayed in Hyde Park as part of the London 2012 celebrations.

Nick, who also teaches in workshops and at schools and colleges in the area, wants to use his skills to help community groups. Eventually, he wants to set up his own label and social enterprise.

He said: ‘It’s about trying to help those people who need it. I’ve been thinking of setting up a label called Punked. It would have images of my sculptures on everything from T-shirts to mugs and pens. Money raised could go to different charities or organisations to help people who, like me, have struggled or are struggling.

‘I’m no social commentator but I connect deeply with this need for help. I understand because of my own journey and my body of work has been generated from that. I want to be able to highlight the social problems affecting us, whether this be through fashion or looking at the problems from binge drinking and drugs to the need to be dutiful, to be rich or famous or to have to conform.

‘I’m the luckiest man to be able to do exactly what I’m passionate about and I want other people to feel that excitement. I’m not bothered about having my work in galleries up and down the country, I want to be able to enjoy what I do and help people. This year is going to be a big one for me and I am very excited.’

If you would like your community to be involved with The Queen’s Giants in 2012 please visit www.chesterthegiantcity.com or call Kristine Szulik on 07789 425468.

The print version of this article appeared in the January 2012  issue of Cheshire Life 

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