I consider myself a sculptor of minuscule things; simple rings, earrings and the occasional weird link for a necklace. When I start a wax project it’s with the notion that the block or tube I’m carving holds an unknown object inside that my scalpel blade will eventually uncover, one slice at a time. This process of removing mass sometimes results in an interesting form, or the beginnings of one and I whittle away at it until I’m happy with it. At other times, if the blade slips or I make too deep a gouge I have to decide whether to repair the mistake (easily done with wax) or abandon the project. If I decide to abandon it it’s usually because I find the scraps I’m removing are more interesting than whatever I’m trying to uncover in the block or tube. I think that’s why I find the work of sculptor Almuth Tebbenhoff so interesting; her pieces are about removing mass, allowing light into and onto solid stone or metal, illuminating the intrinsic qualities of those materials. Gad, my wax is so boring now. I’ve decided that in my next life I’ll buy her ‘Indensity’ piece (see below) and put it in our garden where I’ll admire it for the rest of my days.
Tebbenhoff was born in Germany. She credits her father (a hobbyist blacksmith) with instilling in her an enduring awareness and appreciation for the vastness of the universe and our seemingly small place in it. It may be this aspect of her early years that informs her work as a sculptor today.
At the age of 18 she left Germany to relocate to the UK. She studied ceramics at the Sir John Cass School of Art, Architecture and Design in London (1972 -75) before setting up her own studio where she produced ceramics for the next six years. In 1981 she relocated her studio to an unused church hall, naming it Southfields, producing pieces made in clay or wood. And five years later, maybe bored with the contraints of the pottery wheel she enrolled at South Thames College in London to study metal fabrication (1986 – 88). Fast forward to 2018 and after much experimentation and risk taking (learning) you’ll find her amazing pieces installed or exhibited across the globe. The list of her achievements and accolades are longer than both my arms, including being elected a Fellow of the Royal British Society of Sculptors (2002) and receiving an Honourary Doctorate from the University of Leicester (2013). I’ve pulled this from her member profile at the RBS…
‘I weld steel, carve marble, build with clay and wax for bronze and I draw, because…..
One part of my story about sculpture making is to soften a hard and resistant material, to create a flow of energy. Whatever material I sculpt with, that intention is driving from the back of my mind. The other part is to grapple with the invisible and totally mysterious side of life. And then there is the concept’.
If you’re fortunate enough to travel to or live near where her work is, visit it. And if you’re like me (waiting to win the lottery) you can find her on Instagram here.