Wild and wonderful

Sculptor, Mary Richardson, from Edingthorpe.

Sculptor, Mary Richardson, from Edingthorpe. - Credit: Archant

“I have taken over half the conservatory, the shed and the garage,” laughs Mary Richardson, at her cottage in Edingthorpe Green, near North Walsham. “I would definitely say sculpting has become an obsession.”

Sculptor, Mary Richardson, from Edingthorpe.

Sculptor, Mary Richardson, from Edingthorpe. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

Having worked as an accountant for more than 40 years, she decided to take up art as a hobby and enrolled on a course in sculpture.

Little did she know that two years on, her striking ceramic and metal cast animals would be exhibited and sold all over Norfolk.

“I did art at school but I had never done any sculpture before, then I suddenly felt a real urge to try it,” she says.

“I didn’t really know what to do or where to start. So on the course at Wensum Lodge in Nowich they taught us all about the practicalities of working with clay, the different types and technical aspects of sculpture, they didn’t tell us what to sculpt.”

Having travelled all over the world on various adventurous wildlife trips, it shouldn’t have been any surprise to Mary that it was this love and fascination of the natural world would influence her subject matter.

“I was bought up in Sheringham and our playground was the common and it was just full of wildlife, so I think it was inevitable that I would grow up with such an infinity to it.

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“On the course they said just make some shapes and my first attempt was a hedgehog which looked like it had been made by a small child,” she smiles. “But I got better.”

She began experimenting with different animals and started capturing the grace and power of hares – now, her work includes otters, hippos, barn owls and badgers. But the hares remain her real signature pieces.

“I really struggled with my first hare’s face, and I asked advice from a local sculptor, but ultimately it is about practising it over and over again until you get it right. I found myself going from one hare to another, just wanting to get that expression right.”

She has since gone on to work with metal, including cold cast bronzes, after completing a course to learn about the complex moulds needed to create the sculptures.

“It was very challenging. You have to see the problems from the reverse and it takes a while to get your head round the process, but I have found it so fascinating.

“When I now look at the moulds I have created and how complex they are, I feel really proud of what I have achieved. I have just done a polar bear, and have cast in marble for the first time.”

She has journeyed across the globe with her husband of 47 years Tim, and she says she never tires of the power and beauty of the natural world.

“Watching David Attenborough in the 1950s, I never dreamed I would go to these places. I have been to all the continents, including the Antarctic and Arctic, where I saw the polar bears which was an incredibly experience. The Antarctic was just amazing, the light is just so stunning. We have been to see the gorillas in Rwanda too.

“But most nights I still go for a walk at dusk where I live, just to see what I can see. I get just as much of a thrill if I see a barn owl, or deer as I do seeing any wildlife anywhere.”

She says that despite still working as an accountant, she is spending up to five hours a day sculpting.

“Tim is incredibly supportive – thankfully he doesn’t mind helping with the housework,” she laughs.

“I have sold 80 pieces since I started and if you had said that to me two years ago I would never have believed you.”

Mary Richardson’s next exhibition is at The Forum in Norwich, between February 15-19, followed by a show at the Hobart Gallery at Blickling Hall, near Aylsham, from March 28 to April 19. Her work is also available to buy at the Norfolk Wildlife Trust, Cley Marshes Visitor Centre.