Artist of the week: Withington sculptor uses willow and chicken wire to mould mammal masterpieces

By James Metcalf

Following the completion of a specially commissioned horse sculpture displayed in a Tameside museum, the popularity of artist Juliette Hamilton has soared with people craving their very own ‘Joey the Warhorse’.

The 42-year-old from Withington turned to sculpting after experimenting with various forms of art and has been inundated by orders from people who want a smaller version of the artpiece which is now displayed at Portland Basin Museum.

After studying textile design at university, Juliette turned to creative courses across Greater Manchester before developing her own ‘look’.

She credits attending workshops for her passion in sculpting and helping to hone her skills into one particular branch of art.

“I’ve always been creative,” she told MM. “All of my careers, from designing embroidery for Marks & Spencers to garden design have been creative.”

Citing Tracy Emin as a particular influence, she added: “I love her Bed, and people are always saying they could have done that, but they would never have come up with it; the idea is clever, and that’s what’s creative.”

In spite of her recent success, Juliette doesn’t consider herself an ‘artist’. She said: “Being called an artist is something quite new. I’ve just always done what I enjoy and the word ‘artist’ is more of a means to an end.”

Even so, Juliette’s sculptures, made with willow and chicken wire, are quirky and individual – something uniquely artistic, but with a great deal of thought behind them.

Describing her own technique, Juliette said: “There are other willow artists, but I weave with two pieces of willow together, starting from a ball and working up from that.”

Along with her art, she now teaches her own applied design courses at Arley Hall, Northwich, delivering invaluable workshops on particular sculpture forms twice a month.

Unfortunately, Juliette is currently working on private commissions and is booked up until Christmas. She does, however, hope to return to public exhibitions in the near future.

She said: “My favourite sculpture is the horse. I’ve made two horses for public display, and it’s this public aspect that I really love.

“What’s nice about it is that people can see it evolving, and the feedback is lovely. I’d really love to do another.”

The theme of animals and wildlife dominates Juliette’s work: “People mostly ask for animals”, she said. “I enjoy looking at the different shapes and personalities for a big sculpture in an outside space – something that requires several people and scaffolding.

“But I hate doing foxes. They’re really difficult, but everyone asks for them. The easiest things to make are the animals with obvious features, like a stag or a hare, but it took me awhile to discover that whiskers would make the fox look like a fox. Even now I’m hung up on them.”

She said: “When asked to cut government arts funding, Churchill replied: ‘then what are we fighting for?’ It would be a miserable, boring world without arts funding from the government.”

Juliette’s art promotes the compelling ideal of an innovative imagination combined with the natural world. She does, however, recognise the powerful social message of art.

You can find out more about Juliette’s workshops and her future projects here.

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