Born in rural Hertfordshire, sculptor, Nigel Ross spent much of his formative years surrounded by trees and running wild in the county’s wonderful woodlands. So, it’s no surprise that his love of the outdoors, combined with his passion for art, led him first to a career in forestry, including his own fencing dyking and forestry business on the Isle of Arran, followed by a successful career, spanning 23 years, as a sculptor.
Nigel told Aspire: “I’ve spent half my working life working in the forestry industry, originally for Greater London Council, mainly on Hampstead Heath looking after the large trees, which were hundreds of years old. From London, I moved to Arran, where my family had lived since my father passed away when I was eleven years old. On Arran, I started my own forestry business, felling, planting and fencing trees, but in the late 80s I left and ended up in Edinburgh, where my sculpting career began.
“Many trees were being cut down across Edinburgh due to Dutch Elm Disease, and I saw all these trunks, laying in parks across the city and realised I could do something with them, so I contacted the council and as it turns out, they were looking for someone to turn these trees into something useful. I had experience working with a chain saw, so started making artistic benches that worked both as a piece of art and as somewhere to sit. By the mid-90s, I was working full-time as a sculptor and maker. In 2000, I moved to Perthshire, which is known as Big Tree Country, as I was craving the countryside, and set up my own workshop, where I have been ever since.
“I sculpt from lengths of fallen trees, creating abstract forms, which occasionally have a functional element. I work with Elm, Oak, Ash and Sycamore, whatever I can get my hands on really. Thanks to many years working with trees and surrounded by nature, the way I work is pretty intuitive; I have a connection and a feel for the trees around me and therefore the wood I work with. As well as being inspired by the material itself, as often a knot or a limb on the wood leads me some place, I am also interested in early cultures, such as the Celtics and the Picts tribes, who lived in eastern and northern Scotland during the Late Iron Age and Early Medieval periods. Sometimes I will sketch my ideas out before starting work because when working with such large pieces of wood, you have to be sure what you’re doing and what shapes and forms you’re going to be exploring. Much of my time is spent working on commissions and usually have new pieces that can be viewed at my workshop by appointment. I’m happy to work on projects with interior designers and architects.”
Nigel has sculpture, sculptural benches and furniture scattered all over the UK, from Inverness to the south coast of England, in woodlands, parks, gardens, schools, hospitals, gardens, and new developments, including Chatsworth House and Gardens, the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire, a new Sixth Form College in Stoke on Trent, and Canary Wharf in London. As well as creating outdoor functional sculptures, Nigel is also happy to create pieces for interiors, which can be incorporated in new architecture, buildings and homes.