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Exhibition: 'To make you smile, to make you ponder' by Sally Dunham

Fri 10 - Wed 15 July

I create each sculpture from my home studio in Soham, which over looks my garden. I enjoy creating a range of human and animal figures using my patchwork style of building with clay and have fun thinking of new adventures for Mister and Mrs Herbert!

All of my work is unique and is individually handcrafted from clay using a mixture of Earthstone and Porcelain clay. Each sculpture is constructed hollow using NO moulds or interior supports, using small slabs of clay pieced together almost like a patchwork quilt. The individual pieces of clay can be seen in the finished sculptures giving them a lively, distinctive finish and tactile surface. I enjoy working with a range of themes including figures and animals captured in a realistic way and in a more light-hearted, simplistic approach within my ‘A moment with Mister and Mrs Herbert’ collection.

Within my figurative sculptures (unless personalised to order), I base my work on an onlooker’s view of others existence. I intend to capture a moment in time of a situation or circumstance experienced by ordinary people, without becoming involved with complex human politics. My work is narrative; my intention is not to portray a specific person but an anonymous characterisation of a collective type. Each piece captures a tiny segment of a day in the life of somebody’s life experience. The source of my work comes mainly from memory, photography or quick on the scene sketches.

I have created a wide range of animal sculptures including domestic, farm and wild animals and also sea creatures. Each piece continues my patchwork style and I add texture to the slabs to represent animal skin and details of fur where appropriate. I study the animals where possible and take photographs to work from in the studio. Within each sculpture, I strive to capture the animal in a natural pose that best reflects the character of the species. I aim to use my construction method to enhance the sense of the animal skin and feeling of movement, almost as if the animal will move at any time.

Mister Herbert was born from an idea I envisaged in 2010 and named by my son who was 5 years old at the time. Mister Herbert started as a small figure 12cm tall. This ‘mini’ Mister Herbert is joined by a larger version and together they continue his adventures; I have great fun thinking of new ideas for him. Mister Herbert can also be seen joined by Mrs Herbert and their family and friends!
The wall mounted pieces in this collection often feature words. I love reading and think that words can really brighten our day and make us think about things in a different way. I use the wording as a background, something you can ‘dip into’ as you walk by to hopefully uplift you.
I also make use of photos on the background of canvases, these are applied using a special technique, the idea of the finished effect being that they are slightly faded, almost like a memory of a scene rather than a perfectly clear picture.
Many of the pieces in my ‘Mister Herbert’ collection have have a thoughtful, thought provoking sentiment, perhaps to make you reflect, or as a reminder to look for the positives when life throws its challenging days. I hope you find a piece that makes you smile!

Some of my recent work features pieces of shipwrecked timber. The opportunity to work with this inspirational material, which holds its own stories, has inspired me to create some more nautical and sea themed pieces. The timber used within my sculptures has been collected from various shipwrecks off the North Norfolk Coast, the majority in the vicinity of Wells Next the Sea, where it has been salvaged or collected by the present day Harbour Master. Some of the timber has been dated early as the 1600s ranging to the late 1800s, it is known during the great storm of 1880 eight ships were driven ashore between Wells Harbour and Holkham Bay with much of this collected in this area. Several of the timber pieces are from the wreck of the sailing vessel ‘Hickham’ which founded off the harbour entrance with the loss of three crew members.

I hope you enjoy my work and find a piece to ‘Make you smile, or make you ponder’.


– Sally Dunham, sculptor