Artist and stonemason Steve Clark is the man behind denHolm and Steven John Clark, where he carves both sculpture and functional art out of limestone. His ability to marry beautiful form with function resonates so much with us, with designs that are incredibly tactile and emotive. Through his genius of form Steve's work nods to the Bauhaus movement and possesses the playfulness and wonder of a three dimensional Picasso painting. Leaving his first job as a stonemason to study embroidery and fashion, we got on the photo to Steve to find out how he came full circle back to working with stone, along with his design inspiration and process.
Can you tell us a bit about your journey?
When I was sixteen I left school to be a stonemason in Denholm, Scotland. Soon after I decided that the village and countryside life wasn’t for me. Then I moved in to fashion, which was an eye opening change for my Mum and Dad. At the time I was going to a lot of festivals, seeing people wear costumes which inspired me to make my own and also led me to making some for my mates. I studied fashion in Glasgow which is where I met Robyn (Bobby Clark) my wife. Then we moved to Manchester where I studied a degree in embroidery.
We came over to Australia about nine years ago now. The plan was to move to London, but we wanted a break from the grey and to do a bit of travelling and at the same time. I had a friend who was out in Australia playing football.
In Australia I returned to the construction industry again, where I got stuck for the next five years. That’s when Bob's friend asked me to make her a stone plinth, at this point I hadn’t ever sculptured stone. Everyone got excited about that plinth.
Everyone got excited about that plinth
I thought it would take a month to make and it didn’t take anywhere close to that, which gave me the idea that maybe this is something I could do part time. Then it went from part-time to full-time to what it is today. It’s been an interesting and winding journey. If you asked me at nineteen if I saw stone as anything creative I would have told you no chance. When I left and went to study fashion, I thought I would never touch stone ever again. I hated being covered in dust, I just wanted to work with Alexander McQueen.
If you put (my journey) it in a blender, it all makes sense. I did textiles before fashion which was really process driven and about creating different textures, now instead of it being copper and silk it's stone. I took the skill level from being a stonemason, and took the design process from textiles.
Tell us about your sculptures. How do you begin your design process and transfer your ideas onto material?
The designs come from my drawings, whether I sketch it on the wall, I don’t know where the drawings come from. It’s just freeform and I know that what I’m drawing I will take in to 3D, I have that in my mind and maybe that pushes my drawings in a certain direction.
There is a particular cartoon that I used to draw all the time of a character who has this little neck, it’s always got this little neck. Recently I've noticed I have always included this little neck my sculptures, I’ve got this break point. Some people have referenced it as a neck and I definitely see it as one.
Inspiration is just everyday life - instagram, internet, books, side of the road, architecture, visually I am constantly putting stuff in and it comes out somewhere. I’ll reference anything from Nano technology, to embroidery.
I’m sure that will come to change over the years and I’ll begin to understand where it all comes from, but I don’t get uptight about that part - it is what it is.
Where is your favourite place to reside Melbourne or Scotland or some place else?
The best place for a holiday for me is Byron Bay. I love coming up, I’m just not ready to move there... not ready to be that chilled or that happy all the time.
How has the exposure to many different mediums formed your approach to design?
Knowledge is key to life, the more you know about any subject, material, process... we are constantly making mistakes here, we make way more mistakes. If you don’t make mistakes you never move forward, that's really the way I look at it. We’re constantly taking chances, that's just how we work. If something doesn’t work I don’t get upset about it.
What is your favourite project to date (besides working with us on our new studio of course)?
Probably, Raes on Wategos. It was a hard job but it was my favourite in how it helped propel denHolm forward.
How has fatherhood changed your creative output?
It has definitely made more point to my approach, my management of time has had to improve greatly. In terms of things to do with James I am certainly more emotional, but in terms of output — I get less done. I am really looking forward to the age where he can work, get him in the workshop, on the tools and into some smaller crevices. What is the legal working age for family, I am thinking 3 & up?
Who do you admire most for their sense of aesthetic and what inspires you?
Daily objects inspire me, trying to look at things and turn them on their head to make use of them as something they are not normally used for. I'm inspired by people like designer Max Lamb. People who are process driven, they will take a certain material and produce it in a different way and use it in a way it wasn’t normally used that's what I find exciting.
Tigmi is Berber for my home. In what way is your home an extension of who you are?
Bob makes it home, she is my home. The house that she makes is my home. It's not like I don’t like a home, but I would put more time in at my studio than my home. I’m glad that Bob takes that part over, or I’d be living in a bedsit with one bowl and one spoon kinda thing.
What's next for denHolm?
Next for denHolm…we’re developing different products, working with different manufacturers and experimenting with materials outside of Limestone. We’re opening different doors and exploring. There will be soon(ish) be a store, both physical and online.
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