TÊTE de FAMILLE
My ex–wife Auriol and I bought ‘Graingers’ in 1994. We were already collaborating as The Lawson Baker Partnership, producing corporate sculpture in our own studio. We often got Robert Haligon to enlarge our works in Paris. Robert’s grandfather had worked with Rodin as a plaster moulder. Casting in bronze was done by the Burleighfield foundry near High Wycombe in Buckinghamshire. The three directors there had branched out to create a new foundry after working for many years at Morris Singer, in Basingstoke.
Eric Gibbard ran the business, with Ted Knell overseeing the foundry and Dennis Ball, the finances. They had already had an interesting career, casting most of Barbara Hepworth’s bronzes after 1952. They also worked with Elizabeth Frink, Chadwick and Armitage. I met all of those amazing sculptors in their foundry, together with a host of other well known names.
One day, in the early 90’s, Auriol was driving our old Range Rover. I was playing with a ball of wax, sitting beside her in the passenger seat. Our son Tom was in the baby seat behind us. After a while I suddenly saw an interesting shape appearing as if the wax had formed itself into a small human head. In the middle was a man, woman and child erupting from it, as a family.
I showed Auriol. We were both amazed and rather liked it. It was us with our babe!
And so to bronze!
Eventually I had this small wax moulded and a bronze cast made. It was about 14cm high x 8cm wide and 7cm deep and was patinated green/black and waxed. For years it has sat in my studio and I often thought of that moment when it suddenly appeared in my hands as if by divine intervention. Interestingly enough I often start sculpting with no particular intent, looking for inspiration and the wax and some other power seem to just direct me and tell me what to do.
In 2015, I decided to enlarge that small maquette and had a cast made in bronze at The Morris Singer foundry in Basingstoke at 44cm high x 24cm width x 21cm deep.
The next step is to take a deep breath and make a heroic work of ‘Tete de Famille’ at, say, four times that size. The work to produce it is huge and the expense enormous, but it will be a strong statement.