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Historic Carving

The Art School provides the only UK, degree level, full time courses focused on the training of the technical, design and research skills required to work as professionals in either historic stone carving or ornamental wood carving and gilding. These courses play a crucial role in keeping alive and securing the future of specialist crafts’ skills essential for the preservation of historic monuments and buildings.

Carving has been central to the Art School since its establishment in 1879. Our alumni are very highly regarded, taking up commissioned work as well as positions in the heritage industry, playing a crucial role in the majority of carving projects undertaken in Britain and many other parts of the world. The workshops of St Pauls Cathedral, The Royal Collection and The National Trust regularly employ our graduates and use us for advanced training of their existing employees.

Alongside traditional carving techniques, students are taught observational drawing, anatomy, figure and portrait modelling and art history. Taught to a high professional standard by experts, the courses provide graduates with the manual skills and the aesthetic knowledge and understanding of the principles of historical design ornament. These attributes are essential for creating new work for historic contexts and to inform the restoration of sculpture and complex ornament both in collections and integral to buildings.

Final year and postgraduate students are encouraged to undertake live projects, which currently include:

  • The design, modelling and carving of 14 new grotesques for St Georges Chapel, Windsor Castle;
  • Modelling and carving the head of an angel for the Palace of Westminster;
  • The design, modelling and carving of four Coats of Arms for the Fishmongers Company.

Engaging in historically significant live projects enables students to experience the process of designing and creating new works for heritage contexts, and to develop the project management expertise required for professional practice.

Students benefit from a high ratio of staff to students, ensuring that each student has the regular contact and support that studying carving demands. All the tutors are well-established professionals who work on some of the countrys most prestigious projects alongside teaching in the department. This ensures that the courses are outward looking and highly vocational, while the tutors provide our graduates with a network of professional contacts that frequently supports future employment.

Who are our students?
Historic Carving students are diverse in age and experience. A year group will often include cathedral masons and contemporary fine artists but we have helped a skateboarding professional, a ballet dancer and at least one flying trapeze artist into new careers. What they all have in common is the ability to develop a good eye, an interest in the history of our craft and a great enthusiasm for carving. Whilst the majority of students come from the UK, we have also worked with students from Ireland, Spain, Holland, Italy, Bulgaria, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, India, Zimbabwe, Barbados, Canada and the United States.

What do our alumni go on to do?
Former students often find work in leading workshops serving the architectural heritage world and the antiques trade. Others set up workshops on their own or with fellow students.

The Art Schools alumni have carried out significant projects on historic buildings including the Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle, The Tower of London, St Pauls Cathedral, Worcester Cathedral, Lincoln Cathedral, Gloucester Cathedral, York Minster, the Globe Theatre, Temple Bar, Brighton Pavilion, Uppark House.

New work by former students can be seen in many major public commissions. Examples include the Modern Martyrs statues for Westminster Abbey, the Tibetan Peace Garden at the Imperial War Museum, the Lion and Unicorn for the spire of St Georges Bloomsbury, and the statue of Sir Hans Sloane outside the Natural History Museum.

Contemporary sculptors who have employed Historic Carving alumni as assistants include Anish Kapoor, Rachel Whiteread, Damien Hirst and Peter Randall Page.


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