Emma Rodgers Sculptor

Can you expand on the importance of people, places and experiences in your life as an artist?

People who have influenced me

There have been  so many people who have supported or had influence on my work an amazing tutor at school Stuart Dimalow , who encouraged me to go to art school and believed in me and encouraged me from such an early age. My Mother who took me to galleries and allowed me to constantly turn our kitchen table into a studio space. Sue Tucker who when at art school help me to develop my work through constantly show me so many aspects of these processes. David Jones at university who took me out of my comfort zone and made me engage with the public and apply for everything! My husband and family who has always supported my projects, no matter how bizarre they maybe. Henry Jabbour , we bonded over our love of art and have become great friends along the way.

Henry Jabbour and Emma Rodgers

Castle Fine art foundry, my work would not have grown this way if I didn’t have the security of your technical skills. And so many others Thank you all , my path would not have been as rich and diverse without your influences.

Places and Experiences

I travel a lot and think it is my greatest luxury , to experience other countries, cultures, history and wild life has had a huge influence on my work.

Museums.  When visiting museums, I find the artifacts that are not fully restored the most interesting, allowing the viewer to fill in the gaps. Often the negative space is just as interesting as the form that remains. Some sections maybe well preserved while other extremely eroded and when they are reintroduced to sit next to each other after the passage of time, the contrasts are quite beautiful.

There is a piece in the British Museum of a horse and rider. All that remains is the horses head and torso with the rider’s hand tenderly placed on its neck, it shows such intimacy that for me, if it was ever fully restored it would destroy the piece.   Nature is incredible in all its raw, yet intricate beauty. The more you peel away the more you find and Clay with its earthy characteristics is the perfect medium to translate natural form.

Museums and medical books are the perfect inspiration for working out how to display a piece.  From the simplicity of the stands through to quite complexed forms when the artifact needs more support, some of these structures almost become part of the form, enhancing it, but without being too intrusive.

Reconstructed Figures

When considering displaying my work I look at what each piece needs.  Some require the elevation of a stand to give them more presence and allow the viewer to see all angles. Whereas other for example the mother and child monkey, I want to appear to have climbed up into the show and are taking a rest. To achieve these holes are inserted at the correct angels and size in construction stage and stone is chosen by which best colour and surface finish suits the piece.

You mention two places Veterinary Theatres and Marvels space ships as important places in your career.  Can you give a brief synopsis of each and their involvement in your art practice.

Through giving talks and demonstrations At Leahurst Veterinary school about how much nature inspires me. I was invited to view the facilities which were fascinating, as they are often striving to develop and improve methods within the practice with state of the art technology and a dedicated team. It is a privilege to have access to their daily life, from sketching in a field through to watching an autopsy and seeing how beautifully nature is constructed.

Marvel

Marvel

I was approached by Marvel Films to create work for a Film called Guardians of the Galaxy. The pieces needed to feel other worldly as they were to be placed in the Collectors spaceship. This is a character that travel around the galaxy collecting artifacts. I loved working on this and seeing how the sets were made was amazing, such attention to detail. They even made space sweets!

Bull

Marvel featured this sculpture in the Stark Towers penthouse of the character Iron Man, played by Robert Downey Jr, Avengers Age of Ultron.

I was then invited back to designing and producing sculptures with Marvel films for the sets of Avengers Age of Ultron. My children were invited on set and met Robbie Downey Jr and Chris Helmsworth whilst seeing a whole new perspective of what goes into a film. Wonderful memories for them.

Mother and Child

If you are willing to explore various routes of art, one of the huge perks of this job is being able to venture into other worlds.

Owl

One of my friends has a pet owl, so I often visit to sketch, photograph generally observe. The sketches range from close fine detail to very loose often charcoal drawing whilst they are moving, jotting down just a few marks will give me the essence of what I am aiming to capture.

Being able to handle her and feel her joints really helps me to understand how she moves.  When I feel I have enough to work from I will arrange everything around me in the studio and start to construct small quick studies in clay and wax, not really a maquette, more of a 3d sketch. I will then develop one of those poses either in wax or clay. With Luna, I wanted her wings to be made from her environment , but not necessarily include feathers as I felt that to obvious. I gathered bark, branches, moss and shard of slate and working from them developed her wings.  Once I was happy with the form it was moulded, and a wax was made from this of which I hand cut and was then cast in bronze. I patinate all my own work, so the pallet was again inspired by the environment with very loose brush marks on the wings to emphases movement, and more refined marks to define the face and expression of the bird. The piece is then sealed and wax.

In this work you have a limited edition of 9.  Can you say where they have all flown to?

Some have stayed in the UK, others have travelled to New York, Singapore and even Beirut.

Who is Lucy?  Discuss this bronze.

 Lucy

Lucy was originally commissioned by a client in N.Y.  She has a dachshund named Lucy which is very social and can often be found perched on her back legs to be fully involved with conversation. It pose is what inspired the composition of the piece. The clients has commissioned artists from all over the world to make Lucy in their own style and is planning an exhibition of these.

Way back in 1996 you were the winner of the prestigious Victorian and Albert Museum Prize.

How did this come to be?

I was a student at Wolverhampton University and the tutors would we were regularly encouraged to apply for various exhibition and projects, to help take the fear away from filling out form and encouraging us to start to plan and how we would develop out careers.  Luckily one of those forms was the V& A ceramic contemporary. I was accepted and won two prizes, which astonished me.

Rabbit 1 Ceramic, Contemporary prize winner Victoria and Albert Museum, 1996

How did this propel you into the art world?

One of the prizes was an exhibition, and with the exposure the show gave me other galleries approached me to work with them. I realised that these opportunities don’t come along very often and acted on this. It was an incredible springboard for my career. Through the exhibitions I saved and had my first  bronze cast. And was luck enough to be accepted at the R.A. Summer show. With the sale from this exhibition I was able to buy a kiln which gave me so much more freedom to work and develop.

Rabbit 1 Bronze Royal Academy of Arts

Another award more resent has been your nomination to Liverpool’s ‘Top 25 most influential Women in Liverpool’ discuss this honour.

I was awarded Woman of The Year for Arts and Culture Liverpool and I think I was number seven in most influence women in Liverpool . I have also recently been awarded Gold and Platinum awards for arts and culture Wirral Life. These all feel slightly surreal, but were presented due to the attention from the public art I have produced and  my work with charities  using my art.

I am a patron of Clatterbridge Cancer Centre of which I works closely with in various areas.  In the last year my work has raised £100,000 for The Michael Josephson Ball of which I have been involved with for a number of years. I also support a range of other charities in the North West including, St Johns Hospice, Claire House and Variety to name just a few.

This leads us to two sculptures in Liverpool, Cilla Black and Liver Bird, discuss both.

In 2017 I was commissioned by the family of Cilla Black to create a public art sculpture of “Cilla” which is now a permanent feature outside the famous Cavern Club, Liverpool.

Cilla Black

In 2017 Rodgers was commissioned by the family of Cilla Black to created a public art sculpture of “Cilla” which is now a permanent feature outside the famous Cavern Club.  Cilla had worked in the cavern at the beginning of her career, so we felt it was only fitting for her to return.

Cilla Black, detail

In the same year I also designed and created the world’s largest Liver bird, standing at 11 metres high.

Liver bird

Large sheet of steel is cut to appear to be constructed out of Meccano as this is the site of the original Meccano factory.

Liver bird

Liverpool in the same year she has also designed and created the worlds largest Live bird, standing at 11 metres high.

Discuss the pros and cons on working as a sculptor of contemporary celebrities who we all recognize instantly.

With Cilla Black, her family wanted 1960’s face with 1970’s nose. So that face had never existed at that time. This was created by layering images of both decades and working from them.

Cilla Black, detail

Friends of similar frames were approached and asked to pose in freezing studios whist we measured and sketched from them.

We also worked closely with the family , they would pop in throughout the process and offer advice or extra images. Robert her son provided us with a … of the first time Cilla had her hair cut by Vidal Sassoon. This was invaluable, as it showed the cut from all angels , but also how exited she was at it was around the time her career took off.

Discuss the pros and cons on working as a sculptor of contemporary celebrities who we all recognize instantly.

With Cilla Black, her family wanted 1960’s face with 1970’s nose. So that face had never existed at that time. This was created by layering images of both decades and working from them.

Cilla Black

Friends of similar frames were approached and asked to pose in freezing studios whist we measured and sketched from them.

We also worked closely with the family , they would pop in throughout the process and offer advice or extra images. Robert her son provided us with a … of the first time Cilla had her hair cut by Vidal Sassoon. This was invaluable, as it showed the cut from all angels , but also how exited she was at it was around the time her career took off. I asked a hairdresser friend Alan if he would come to the studio with his scissor , and modelled clay as he explained how the hair would move and which angle to cut, to keep it looking as natural as possible. She had such a huge career that spanned decades I chose to hide details within the dress, but I didn’t think there would ever have been enough squares on her dress to tell the full story.

Cilla Black, detail

Thankfully on the unveiling she was greeted well by the public, but my main thought when creating her was that I was making a sculpture for a family of their beloved mother and if they were happy , then we had done our job.

I asked a hairdresser friend, Alan if he would come to the studio with his scissors , and modelled clay as he explained how the hair would move and which angle to cut, to keep it looking as natural as possible.

Cilla Black, detail

She had such a huge career that spanned decades I chose to hide details within the dress, but I dint think there would ever have been enough squares on her dress to tell the full story.

Discuss the pros and cons on working as a sculptor of contemporary celebrities who we all recognize instantly.

With Cilla Black, her family wanted 1960’s face with 1970’s nose. So that face had never existed at that time. This was created by layering images of

We also worked closely with the family , they would pop in throughout the process and offer advice or extra images. Robert her son provided us with a … of the first time Cilla had her hair cut by Vidal Sassoon. This was invaluable, as it showed the cut from all angels , but also how exited she was at it was around the time her career took off. I asked a hairdresser friend Alan if he would come to the studio with his scissors , and modelled clay as he explained how the hair would move and which angle to cut, to keep it looking as natural as possible. She had such a huge career that spanned decades I chose to hide details within the dress, but I dint think there would ever have been enough squares on her dress to tell the full story.

Cilla Black, detail

Thankfully on the unveiling she was greeted well by the public, but my main thought when creating her was that I was making a sculpture for a family of their beloved mother and if they were happy , then we had done our job.

Literature also inspires your work comment on one or two sculptures inspired by the Brothers Grimm.

Twelve Brothers

I do enjoy interpreting folk tales. I have recently produced a body of work based on crane wife a love story featuring the transition of her from a crane to a woman and the effect she has on the people around her.

How and when do you add colour?

Show Girls

I always add oxides , slips and glazes  after the first firing as it keeps the colours clean and enhances the surfaces rather than disguising them. The pieces can be fired several times adding to the pallet  each time. Reds are usually the last firing  and are fired lower to avoid burn out. I treat the sculpture as a 3d canvas using loose brush marks as if applying water colours, I start with darker tones were shadows would fall on your body and brighter colour were the sun would hit the body.

Where did the inspiration for ‘The Hunt’ come from – Chinese ceramics, Chinese painting or the Bayeux Tapestry?

The Hunt

Hunt was inspired by water colours of  Mongolian Hunting scenes,

As I make the brush marks translated such movement and strength. Then through research Ancient Nerge tribes I added further details to the piece. I also liver near Chester race course, so having access to viewing such highly tuned beasts in full charge was a great recourse.

Greek mythology is a recurring inspiration for artists, show one piece that fits these criteria and immediately comes to mind.

Story of Sisyphus

Most of my Exhibition for my solo show at Alice Mogabgab Gallery, Beirut was inspired by Greek Mythology starting of course with Beroe a nymph of Beirut, the daughter of Aphrodite and Adonis. Eros  struck her twice with arrows of love and a confrontation took place for her love Eventually marrying Poseidon. Poseidon’s horses on brazen hooves, The Story of Philomela and  the thankless task of Sisyphus were also interpreted in the exhibition.

You use Castle Find Art Foundry, expand on the importance of having these artisans to work with – the value of both their knowledge and artistic input.

I don’t think my career would have developed the way it has if it wasn’t for Castle Fine Arts Foundry. I have known Chris Butler and his team for almost twenty years, and I am lucky to call them my friends. Having access to such technical ability in so many areas gives me so much confidence in producing my work and approaching a new commission, as  these can vary from a small complexe piece, through to twelve-foot copper beaten radiators. They allow me to work in the foundry which I feel is important in my style of work as it keeps the hand of the artist throughout the process.

Lastly can you discuss your pieces ‘Finches’ inspired by Darwin and the connections that seen to keep connection us all.  (Darwin, Wedgwood – Your incorporating porcelain into your sculptures.)

My Darwin inspired work.

These pieces were inspired by Darwin I have hidden many stories within these sculptures from Researching specimens and research from his trip to the Galapagos islands through to his drawings with hidden porcelain pieces broke to appear as wing to represent his marriage to Emma from the Wedgwood family. the branch they sit on is based on his sketch.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Contact:

Emma Rodgers

http://www.emmarodgers.co.uk/

info@emmarodgers.co.uk

Deborah Blakeley, Melbourne, Australia

Interview by Deborah Blakeley, December 2019