Amazing faces at FACE 2015 – the Society of Portrait sculptors exhibition

Face 2015 - Society of Portrait Sculptors exhibition_poster

I am absolutely fascinated by faces and portraits and I’d been looking forward to the Society of Portrait Sculptors exhibition ever since I found out about it several months ago. It’s been marked in my diary and the time blocked out so that I could go. Sadly just because the time is blocked out does not always mean that I get to go to things I want to as I am never sure what work I will have when the planned event arrives, but I was determined to visit this. Although I wasn’t really sure what I was going to see.

Obviously portraits, that’s a given.

What kind of portraits though? I had half an expectation of rows of highly detailed bronze portraits, all very realistic and somewhat staid. A very rigid idea of how a portrait should be done.

Boy was I surprised when I got there, so many different styles of portraits and in a variety of mediums. There was even one portrait made out of bicycle tyres! It was a really pleasant surprise.

As with most exhibitions I go to see different sculptures spoke to me for different reasons, some just resonated, I liked them even if I wasn’t sure why, others I could see the skill in them but they just didn’t float my boat in the same way.

‘Baby Silver’ by Kyung Hwan (Kay) Woo just made me smile, I include it here for no other reason than that, although I do think its a very good reason.

Baby Silver by Kyung Hwa (Kay) Woo
Baby Silver by Kyung Hwa (Kay) Woo

I was quite surprised to see such a different portrait as ‘Eve yawning’ by David Gunther, I am not sure what style you would say it was, abstract springs to mind but I’m not so convinced that is right. I was really pleased to see it, something a bit different, both challenging to the viewer and very intriguing. You could tell it was a head but not whether it was male or female, only the title gave that away. I love the fact that the sculpture feels so alive, and I especially like the way the hair has been done. I think it would be an interesting style to try out. Actually what would be really interesting would be to see the  sitter and see if the sculpture captured the essence of them.

Eve yawning by David Gunther
Eve yawning by David Gunther

The two carved figures by Guy Reid, ‘Philip Pullman’ and ‘Dame Jacqueline Wilson’ were the highlight of the exhibition for me (‘Dame Jacqueline Wilson’ was the winner of the Society’s prize). I have followed his work for quite a while after finding out about him in Woodcarving magazine several years ago. I have admired his sculptures on the internet but never managed to see any of them ‘in the flesh’, they were very very  beautiful. It was difficult to remember that they were carved in wood, I can’t tell you how pleased I was to find some carved wood pieces included. For some reason I never expected to see full body portraits, not sure why really.

Full figure portraits of Philip Pullman and Dame Jacqueline Wilson in wood by Guy Reid
Philip Pullman and Dame Jacqueline Wilson by Guy Reid

‘Sarah’ by Stephen Heckling is another that really caught my eye. I love the flow of the hair and the looseness of the face, it looks like she might turn and look at you at any moment. Is it ok to say that I didn’t realise the portrait was of a woman until I read the title on the sheet I was given?

Sarah by Stephen Hickling
Sarah by Stephen Hickling

While I was looking closely at the portraits by Guy Reid I got talking to a lady who was also visiting the exhibition, she was telling me that she takes a portrait class. She was so very inspired by what she saw and very enthusiastic about the work she was doing. Conversations like that are such a joy.

The serene and gentle look on the face of ‘Harriet’ by Nina Cairns is what caught my eye.

Harriet by Nina Cairns
Harriet by Nina Cairns

I also spent a little time talking to Robert Hunt, who from his name badge is Honorary Secretary of the society. His insights were fascinating. Amongst other things he told me that Guy Reid is giving the society lecture in November, talking specifically about the use of colour on sculpture. What a lovely man to chat to.

It was great to see ‘Sir Nigel Gresley and Mallard’ by Hazel Reeves, this will eventually be a larger than life size statue at Kings Cross station in London. I am following the progress of the statue on her blog (Hazel’s blog) and can’t wait to see it when its finished and in situ.

Sir Nigel Gresley by Hazel Reeves
Sir Nigel Gresley and Mallard by Hazel Reeves

‘Alice Labant’ by Suzie Zamit was a portrait that stopped me in my tracks, more for the fact that I was convinced I knew the face from somewhere than anything else. Though I have looked the name up online since the exhibition and it is not who I thought it was, so no I don’t know her!

Alice Labant by Suzie Zamit
Alice Labant by Suzie Zamit

I found the whole exhibition to be very inspiring, such a range of work and all to a very high standard. My only regret is that I didn’t get catalogue. I was a little overwhelmed I guess and just didn’t think of it until I was on the train home!

I really enjoyed the exhibition and I will definitely seek out more portrait sculpture work in the future…..

The Society of Portrait Sculptors website is full of information, have a look if you’d like to know more.







Jutta M Stiller is a wood carver and sculptor specialising in Sculpture, Netsuke and Couture frames click here to subscribe to her newsletter ‘Tales From the Woodcarving Bench’ .


Printmakers Exhibition at Avocet Gallery


Shooting Star over the Long Man by Ian O'Halloran
‘Shooting Star over the Long Man’ by Ian O’Halloran

We popped along to Avocet Gallery and Tea Rooms the other day to have a look at their current exhibition – Printmakers.


I have always been drawn to printmaking ever since my dad showed me a book of Aubrey Beardsley’s work when I was quite small, I know maybe something a little odd to show a small child? I never really understood what I was looking at back then, I just loved all the swirls and trails. I think it could be responsible for my love of Art Nouveau.


Much as I like printmaking  it’s not something that I have ever really tried. I like to go and look at prints and am especially drawn by work with lots of texture, I love texture.


The textures in this print ‘Shooting Star over the Long Man’ by Ian O’Halloran called out to me. Even though I know it is depicting the countryside around the Long Man of Wilmington (well I hope it’s that Long Man!), to me it feels like I am looking at a roiling sea shown in that beautiful red light you sometimes get at sunset. All the patterns and textures allow your eye to flow around the image, it took me quite a while to find the shooting stars as I was a little bewitched by following the flowing and turning of the earth.


Another by Ian O’Halloran that drew me towards it is ‘Folkington Hill’. The fantastic texture of the ploughed field pulled me right into the print deep enough to follow right to the back and make me wonder what is around the corner behind that hill. You could spend quite a while just sitting and wondering that, working out the wondrous things that are hidden just out of sight.


Folkington Hill by Ian O'Halloran
‘Folkington Hill’ by Ian O’Halloran


Hester Cox’s ‘Autumn Field’ is also depicting a ploughed field, see the textures are just sucking me in. The ploughed furrows lead your eye straight to the horizon at the back of the print, again making me wonder what is there just over the horizon, tucked out of sight. It looks like a pretty desolate landscape and to my eyes a very flat one, I wonder if he spends any time on Romney Marsh at all. The round circles in the ‘sky’ of the print are actually the lights in the gallery reflected in the glass, they are not a part of the print, though it does make it look like it is an alien world with several suns in orbit. I am completely fascinated by ploughed fields, there are so many round here, I think maybe one day I should try carving one, but that is a topic for another time.


Autumn Field by Hester Cox
‘Autumn Field’ by Hester Cox


This is, I think, the first time I have seen work by Flora McLaughlin and I seriously have to wonder if she is a field archer. A couple of the prints shown here are so like archery shots it is uncanny, made me stop and look for a very long time, especially ‘Deer Drop’. This print makes me feel like I am standing in the heart of the forest in amongst where the trees are the most ancient and densely packed. Sneaking a look around a tree and seeing the deer in the clearing ahead, the dew drop caught on the branch right in front of me, threatening to drip onto my nose.


Deer Drop by Flora McLachlan
‘Deer Drop’ by Flora McLachlin


‘Hastings Old Town’ by John Russell is not strictly a print, being described on the label as a ‘paint-ink collage’. It watched us while we ate and I spent quite a long time looking back, I’m not sure what it is I like about it, maybe it’s the colours, maybe it’s the slight randomness of the buildings. It’s something I know that I could live with and spend a lifetime looking at. Sadly at the moment I can’t justify the purchase so it will have to stay where it is.


Hastings Old Town by John Russell
‘Hastings Old Town’ by John Russell


Looking back at the photographs I have taken of the work in the exhibition I have realised that I have done the one thing I hate about images in art books, I have left out the frames!!! Considering I am a frame maker I think it’s terrible of me, I must try to remember next time to include the frames.


The exhibition is on until the middle of October and the gallery is open Wednesday till Sunday from 10.30am – 5pm. Go along and have a look, Avocet is a lovely gallery and the owners are so welcoming.


And finally, as they say, as mentioned before yes we did eat while we were there. I mean who can resist the lure of homemade cake? A stronger person than me obviously. I succumbed to the lure of my favourite fruit cake and Mum can highly recommend the cheese platter, yum.


Cheese platter at Avocet Gallery
Cheese platter at Avocet Gallery








Jutta M Stiller is a wood carver and sculptor specialising in Netsuke and Couture frames click here to subscribe to her newsletter ‘Tales From the Woodcarving Bench’ .



Avocet Gallery 4th Anniversary show

'Slapton View' by Caroline Raffan. Painted and fused glass panel
‘Slapton View’ by Caroline Raffan. Painted and fused glass panel


I visited the Avocet Gallery the other day to have a look at their current show which they have put on to celebrate their 4th anniversary (fantastic news that they have reached this milestone) and I wasn’t disappointed with what I saw.


The first thing that caught my eye was this painted and fused glass panel ‘Slapton View’ by Caroline Raffan. It is hanging in the conservatory part of the gallery where we were sitting having our hot drinks and cake (more about that later) as you are allowed to bring a dog into this part of the gallery. My dog loves it there as he gets loads of cuddles!


Anyway I digress. I have no real clue where the landscape is, I’ve never heard of ‘Slapton View’ but I could sit and look at the panel for a long, long time. I love the way that you can just about see the sea between the two far away hills.


There is another panel by the same artist ‘Apple Trees’ in the other room of the gallery. I’m finding at the moment that I am very drawn to things with trees in them, I think its as I’m planning a few ‘tree based’ pieces of my own so it is always at the front of my mind when I go anywhere.


'Apple Tree' by Caroline Raffan, fused and painted glass panel
‘Apple Tree’ by Caroline Raffan, fused and painted glass panel


Another piece that took my eye is ‘Owl and Twigs’ by Emily Goddard, sadly my photo does not do the piece justice (apologies for that its the reflections you know, and yes that is me in the reflection!). In real life the blue is really intense and the barn owl just pops out at you.


'Owl and twigs' by Emily Goddard
‘Owl and twigs’ by Emily Goddard


Sometimes I like work just because I like it, I have no further explanation. This is one of those times. ‘Dungeness Colours III’ by Geoff Cooke is something that I just like, the colours and textures appeal and I can’t quite put my finger on why.


'Dungeness Colours III' by Geoff Cooke
‘Dungeness Colours III’ by Geoff Cooke


Last but by no means least, the cake recommendation this visit is the Apple and Walnut upside down cake. Thoroughly recommended by both my mum and myself (it was actually her slice I just ‘stole’ a corner) and 100% homemade, if you go to the gallery do try it.


Apple and walnut upside down cake
Apple and Walnut upside down cake


Once again a lovely selection of work by Peter and Morgan, if you’re in the Rye Harbour area go check it out , its a lovely friendly gallery. This exhibition runs until 12th May 2013 and the gallery is open Thursday to Sunday, 10.30am – 5.30pm, for further information visit the Avocet Gallery website.

If you do visit do come back and tell me what you thought and which piece was your favourite.









Jutta M Stiller is a wood carver and sculptor specialising in Netsuke and Couture frames click here to subscribe to her newsletter ‘Tales From the Woodcarving Bench’ .

In A Nutshell – Netsuke Exhibition at the Japanese Embassy London

In A Nutshell - Netsuke Exhibition leaflet and exhibit list
In A Nutshell – Netsuke Exhibition leaflet and exhibit list

I was in London for a few hours the other day and took the opportunity to pop into the ‘In A Nutshell’ Exhibition at the Japanese Embassy. I say ‘pop in’ but unless you work round there and can do several short visits it really is worth giving it an hour at least to have a really good look as there are 218 catalogued exhibits to look at.

I had heard about the exhibition from the International Netsuke Society website and forum, it has been organised to coincide with their convention in London (10th – 14th May).

To be honest I have walked past the Japanese Embassy on Piccadilly many times without even realising it was there (its near Green Park Tube station) so it was really nice to have an excuse to go in.

Being an Embassy you need photo ID to gain access to the building and you also have to pass through security scans, though the exhibition is free to visit.  There are restrictions in that you are not allowed to take photos (hence the photo with this post being of the flyer and exhibit list!) but this is a minor inconvenience. There are even comfy sofas so that you can sit and mull over what you’ve seen and watch the film on the TV screen.

The exhibition space is lovely and bright and the pieces are arranged so that the majority of them you can see all the way around which is really refreshing as you can fully appreciate all the work that has gone into them. Obviously you can’t see the bases as they are standing on them. I was really impressed by the quality of the work on display.

It is always odd seeing work ‘in the flesh’ when previously you have only seen it in a book or on the internet. I am mostly surprised by the size difference, although the sizes are stated with the photographs I never seem to quite take it in. The photographs are usually close ups which make the work seem huge and can also make larger work and smaller work seem like they are a similar size. For example the first case on the right contains mainly figures and to me they look massive, I sometimes forget that Netsuke come in varying sizes just as do the humans who wear/wore them.

There were several Netsuke that I would have loved to have taken home, had I had the chance to and the money to afford them! Not that these are for sale but the ‘would you take it home’ feeling is one I often use when deciding whether I like something or not. My absolute favourite is number 82 a Kudan carved in wood by Masayoshi, early – mid 19th century, I was just fascinated by the extra eyes on both the head and the body and the fine carving of the hair although I had no idea of what a Kudan is or should look like. I’ve just looked it up and it is a humanoid monster in the legends and folklore of Japan, more research is necessary here I think.

A couple of Tigers caught my eye, number 136 a Tiger carved in wood by Tomokazu, early 19th century, looked really strokeable, you know that you’d be able to feel the fur when you held it in your hand. Also number 139 a Tiger carved in Ivory by Sekiran nanjuroku (sai) (Sekiran at the age of 76), mid 19th century, I really loved his eyes and the, I can only call it a cat like grin on his face. If you see it you’ll know what I mean.

I was immensely pleased to see a piece by British Carver Michael Webb displayed (203 Frog on Lily Pads carved in wood, 1982) as I am a fan of his work and have been lucky enough to hold a couple of his pieces. His work is very intricate and you can really see the time that has gone into the creation.

The run of 9 snail Netsuke in a row was a lovely display choice, it looked almost like they were all sleeping on a wall in the garden.

If you have read the book ‘The Hare with Amber Eyes’ by Edmund de Waal, that hare is on display in this exhibition. Although I must say, not sure how controversial I am being here, that I actually prefer the photos of it to the actual piece. If you go and have a look at the exhibition do let me know what you think. It is in the display case directly opposite the poster featuring the hare.

Through visiting this exhibition I have confirmed to myself that I prefer the animal subjects to the humans and also have discovered that I am really drawn to the more highly carved pieces.

Would I recommend that you go see the exhibition? Yes I do, it is a really nice exhibition showing a wide variety of subjects and one of the few places where you can see all the way around the majority of the pieces. Whether you have seen Netsuke before or not if you are anywhere near the Embassy go and have a look.

The exhibition is open Mon – Fri (not bank holidays) 9.30 – 17.30 at the Japanese Embassy, Piccadilly, London. For further details visit the Japanese Embassy website.

If you do go, do come back and tell me what you thought of it. I’d love to hear about it…..








Jutta M Stiller is a wood carver and sculptor specialising in Netsuke and Couture frames click here to subscribe to her newsletter ‘Tales From the Woodcarving Bench’ .