Tommy Rowe

Tommy Rowe

The sculptor Denis Mitchell came to teach part time and I started carving. It was then that Denis took me up to see Barbara Hepworth and ask if she would be willing to take me on. This she agreed to at the wage of 5 shillings an hour (equivalent of 25p today!). This was double what Denis was able afford to pay. Barbara taught me to carve marble and work with Plaster of Paris. She showed me how to work forms and purify them. She would caress the form with her hands and mark surfaces with a cross for a hollow and a circle as a high, or what she would describe as “an invisible hummock”. In the morning you would find your piece of work covered with circles and crosses, and arrows indicating which way the form should be worked. This went on until she was satisfied the form was perfect.

My grandfather and great grandfather and their brothers and uncles and sons were all fishermen so I was always surrounded by boats and things to do with boats. As a child we made and sailed model boats, we played at boats and went aboard the boats in the harbour when the men were not around. We would watch the boats going to sea. In the holidays, if the weather was fine we could go to sea with them overnight. We knew all the boats and could name them all. As many as 60 or 70 boats would go to sea from Newlyn and we would watch them passing Mousehole and name them all.

What has interested me, is not so much the single form, as that form in relationship to another.
I first became aware of this during life drawing at Corsham, how the curves of shoulders., arms, knees etc. related to shapes around them. The curves of a shoulder to the straight line of a wall. The rocks on the cliffs that sit on one another or lie next to one another or have been split by frost. Going up and down the coast while fishing, looking ashore and seeing the huge boulders that have fallen and cracked, the weight of these rocks.

All these things you try to portray but like the things I made as a child, they are never good enough and when one is finished it is put to one side and the next one will be better.

1957 - Met Denis Mitchell who taught part-time in the art department at Penzance grammar school

1958 - Started working with Denis Mitchell during school holidays

1959 - Started working for Barbara Hepworth during school holidays

1960-63 - Student at Bath Academy of Art, Corsham. Studied sculpture under John Hoskin and John Ernest while working for Barbara Hepworth during holidays

1963 onwards - Began producing my own work and exhibited at Penwith Gallery, St Ives and Marjorie Parr Gallery, London

1963-65 - Working full-time as an assistant to Barbara Hepworth

1965-66 - Left Barbara Hepworth to work in timber felling in North Wales

1967 - Started fishing and working part-time with Denis Mitchell. Also during this time worked for John Milne part-time and did some work for Robert Adams. Worked with Denis until his death in 1993

1993-97 - Finishing casts of work by Denis Mitchell

1997-2009 - Fishing and making sculpture

2009 - Moved up to the West Coast of Scotland (Lochailort) and continue to fish and make sculpture

Tommy Rowe