Local sculptor Dawn Conn has had her busiest year to-date, as people elevate their gardens post-pandemic. Here she talks about her creative journey and an epiphany that changed her life forever.
Tell us a little about your work and your background.
I am a figurative sculptor living in Bix, just outside Henley on Thames. I have been working commercially as a sculptor for nearly 11 years in 3 different countries (Australia, Ireland and UK - yes, I have moved a lot!). I never dreamed of being a sculptor. Growing up in the 1970/80s on a farm in New Zealand, practical skills were valued more than creative pursuits. I followed a traditional path of study, work, travel, marriage and motherhood, working mainly in the travel industry.
What made you decide to start your creative business
It wasn’t until I was nearing forty, with my father’s death, a work injury and marriage separation, I reached a low point. I began trying to find something that would make me happy. I sought many experiences and it was by chance I went on a sculpture retreat. In that time, I experienced an epiphany - something magical happened. I felt an absolute joy, deep inside my heart. I knew it was a sign. Soon after that time, I started nearly a decade-long journey of academic art education (including art and design studies at the Central St Martins College in London) and combined it with an organic approach of self-instruction to create my own unique artistic style, fusing techniques, mediums and inspiration. I took a ‘leap of faith’ and left my secure job with a good pension to become a full-time sculptor.
I won’t lie – it has been the toughest thing I have done, going from a hobby to a business; however it has become the most rewarding decision I have ever made.
Where do you find inspiration?
My wholesome and humble childhood in New Zealand, we practically lived outdoors, relying on imagination and creativity. I love to draw on the simplicity of childhood stories - recalling the childlike feeling of possibilities and living each day full of simple pleasures.
I love folklore stories and fairy tales. ‘Alice in wonderland’, to me is no longer just a story, but an experience, an adventure into the golden moment of childhood - a childhood that children imagine and we adults remember.
Describe your typical working day
No two days are the same. As I make about 12 – 15 pieces a year – each sculpture is a considered creation. I spend time online and at markets finding discarded textiles and interesting treasures. I combine that with reclaimed timber or steel, which I source at timber mills or forges to create each piece. This takes time, I travel far and wide for that special something. It’s always a joy to hunt for treasures, it adds authenticity and charm, whilst becoming part of the storytelling. At the moment I am getting more of my mixed media pieces cast in bronze, which is an exciting process and the detail that comes out is amazing.
What has been the biggest highlight and biggest challenge to date?
Biggest highlight has to be winning BBC1's “Home is where the Art is” – ironically, I didn’t want to do it and declined when the casting agent made contact. After some time, I thought ‘why not?’. I decided to give it a go to boost my confidence and learn to work under pressure.
Biggest challenge has to be trusting other businesses too much. During my busiest time last year in over 10 years, I had was presented with poor quality bronze pieces that I refused to give to my clients. I felt my reputation was worth more than this. It was a battle that took nearly 10 months to resolve.
Best nugget of wisdom you can share with your fellow Creative Ducks?
Firstly, I think customer service is ultimate element of being in business. I have a very strong customer service background and I think that has worked to my advantage.
Say “yes” to giving things a go. I can’t tell you how many events, workshops, exhibitions I have done... It is amazing how things happen, at the right time and place.
Find out more at:
Instagram / Facebook: @dawnconnsculpture