Nick Roberson

Nick Roberson is one of the foremost figurative stone carvers in the UK.  As president of the Master Carvers Association he represents forty of the top wood and stone carvers in this country and abroad.  His portfolio has seen him work with councils, churches, charities, community groups, universities and private clients.  He is one of the most prominent portrait artists working in both marble and bronze.

His memorial and letter cutting work is represented by The Memorials by Artists register which is run by the Lettering Arts trust.  They represent a body of the finest letter cutters working today.

My grandfather was a signwriter, gilder and bookbinder and as I grew up his curiosity and enthusiasm for craft rubbed off on me.  As a young man I used to visit the home of the Sussex based sculptor and letter carver John Skelton when he opened his studio and garden to the public each year and it is influences such as these which helped to shape my interest in craft.

When I left school I enrolled on the art and design foundation course at Eastbourne Art College where the influential artist John Meadows taught life drawing.  The discipline of drawing forms one of the building blocks of craft and the ability to communicate ideas.  Having concentrated on sculpture I travelled to Sheffield Polytechnic to complete a degree in sculpture. In 1998 a chance visit to the John Rylands Library in Manchester changed my life.  This imposing and elaborate gothic revival building  genuinely showcases some of the very finest masonry and carving in the UK.  I was so struck by the virtuosity of the craft  on show and such was its impression on me, I knew I would have to explore  further. I persuaded a local stonemasonry firm to let me watch their carvers at work and try it for myself.  I was able to build up a simple portfolio of work that allowed me to apply to study craft at college. I did my stone carving training at Weymouth and Portland College where the emphasis was firmly on the discipline of stonemasonry technique rather than virtuosic carving.  Here I was taught lettercutting and inscription design by the renowned letter cutter Andy Whittle.

When I meet new clients to discuss a commission regardless of the subject, I bring enthusiasm, the willingness to listen and no preconceptions. By starting with a blank sheet of sketch paper I am able to visualise by responding to what I hear and feel. People are after all unique and I hope my work reflects the fact that every commission must acknowledge this.

Having left college it was important to consolidate my skills and began work as a trainee stonemason and carver at Mather & Ellis of Manchester.  Subsequently I joined the heritage restoration company Treasure & sons of Ludlow working closely with English Heritage on listed buildings and monuments including Compton Verney, Hill Court,  Berrington Hall, Richards Castle Church & Hampton Court ( Herefordshire ).  During this period I developed my love of figurative carving and realised that this was the direction  I wanted my career to follow.

Another chance encounter at this time gave me the opportunity to learn figurative clay sculpting and portrait modelling.  Mackinnon and Saunders are world renowned model makers for the film and animation industry. During my time with them I sculpted models for TV adverts, Children’s TV animation and feature films leading to a three year period working with Hollywood film company Warner Brothers as a sculptor developing new projects with director Tim Burton. This culminated in seven of my sculptures being seen on screen in the film ‘Corpse Bride’.

Though exciting and challenging this period was, I needed to return to my love of stone.  The experience of working in the film industry was crucial in underpinning the skills needed for ambitious figurative stone carving and portrait commissions.  I now had a clear direction and the skills to start my own company specialising in figurative work.  I am  now one of the only portrait artists working in stone in the UK today.  As well as using Italian marble and bronze, my work showcases the breadth, quality and range of colours found in indigenous stone in the UK.

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In 2012 I was elected a member of The Master Carvers Association.  This prestigious body represents masters in both wood and stone carving and I am one of only eleven members specialising in stone.

I am now serving  three year tenure as President of the Master Carvers Association.  My aim is to promote our craft and the wealth of talent and traditional skills still at work today.  As an organisation we support training and encourage students and apprentices as they begin to build their careers which is so vital to the survival of the craft in the modern world.

I have enjoyed demonstrating carving and interacting with the public at garden shows and country fairs over the years.  In 2019 I was accepted to show my work at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show.