Interview with Sculptor Jenny Pickford
30 Jul 2019
Sculptor Jenny Pickford talks about nature as her inspiration and being ‘blown away’ by Pensthorpe ahead of six-week exhibition
We are so excited to be welcoming some of Jenny Pickford’s nature-inspired glass and steel sculptures to Pensthorpe for a new six-week exhibition from Saturday 31st August.
Her works, which are inspired by plants and stand over three metres tall, will look stunning against the backdrop of the nature reserve and standing against the foliage of areas like the Millennium Garden.
Jenny is renowned for her feminine perspective inspired by the spirit of nature and we caught up with her to find out about her love of nature and how long it takes to make each of her stunning sculptures…
Jenny, can you tell us about some of your sculptures that visitors will be able to see here at Pensthorpe?
I will be bringing 17 sculptures, including Bluebell, Allium, Dandelion and Circles of Life to Pensthorpe. Some will be located in the Millennium Garden and others dotted around by the red squirrels and cranes, as well as in the Wetland Discovery Area. Most of the ones I am bringing stand at around three and three and a half metres tall.
And how did this exhibition come about?
Pensthorpe purchased one of my water features earlier this year, the Arum Lily, featuring blue glass flowers, which allows natural sunlight to pour into the glass. I was absolutely blown away by Pensthorpe and its beautiful gardens when I dropped it off. It is such a special place and the Millennium Garden is truly stunning and I am so grateful that Deb Jordan has allowed me to now showcase my work here for six weeks. What better setting than Pensthorpe to showcase some of my collection.
What inspires your work?
My sculptures illustrate the co-existence and co-dependence of strength and fragility in the natural world and I have a real childlike awe and wonder toward nature. So many people are disconnected from nature and I hope that my sculptures help reconnect people with it and highlight its beauty. Art highlights what is there and makes people notice its presence.
What are your favourite flowers?
I give sculptures floral names and my favourite flowers are the agapanthus and bluebell. I am also really inspired by wild flowers.
Have you always loved nature?
I am a country girl and grew up in a farm in Oxfordshire. I am most at home outdoors, surrounded by nature, and I now live in Herfordshire. My work is designed for outdoor installation to draw attention to the natural beauty around it.
Can you tell us about where some of your other sculptures are around the world?
I have public art in four continents, including Australia, China, America and across the United Kingdom. Cornell University Botanical Gardens has got one, Wimbledon and Westfield London. I also used to exhibit at the Chelsea Flower Show every year and have also had a commission from a Royal Palace in the Middle East.
What is the best compliment you have ever received?
When someone told me that out of all they things they had brought in their life that my sculpture would give them the most pleasure as they would see it every day when they looked out of the window. The best compliment though is through my Bluebell sculpture at the Royal Derby Hospital in Derby, where it is in place to connect cancer patients with the hope and beauty of nature. People have told me that patients going into cancer scans who are facing dark times have said that seeing the Bluebell makes them forget their problems for a moment.
How do you make these stunning sculptures?
I started in 2003 and use blacksmithing skills in my forge to transform industrial steel into a malleable form, bringing the piece to life. I have made some special tools and also have a fly press and a 1930s-era power hammer. The glass pieces I get through working with some incredible glass blowers. It takes me around three months to make each of the larger pieces and I make them on my own. I remember when I was studying and the first thing I ever made was a fork and I made it really badly! It takes a while to perfect.
Are there many other women doing this?
There are a few. I think that women have a tendency to showcase the delicacy of the natural world and have more fluid lines.
Is your job dangerous?
I am working with hot and heavy materials, so yes, but after all this time I know what I am doing so class it as safe. The sculptures get bigger as I get stronger!
What are your connections to Norfolk?
I have friends around Norfolk and have been to the county on many occasions. I love the quality of life here, it is really special.
Can people buy your sculptures?
Yes, and I also do smaller individual flowers, which look great in garden borders.
See the Jenny Pickford Exhibition at Pensthorpe Natural Park from 31st August until 13th October, which is included in the admission price.