A Sculptor’s Year – 2016 Highlights

2016 was a busy year here at Hamish Mackie Sculpture.

At the beginning of February, I flew to Kenya to stay at Lewa Wildlife Conservancy for a few weeks with the conservationists, Ian and Jane Craig. Lewa is a really special place for me. It was my first visit there in 1996 that inspired me to become a wildlife sculptor and Ian and Jane have supported my work ever since. I love going back – I take my travelling studio box and my Leica camera, borrow a vehicle and head off on my own to observe the animals.

Hamish with rhino at Lewa

There’s a real sense of freedom for me at Lewa. Although I love working in the peace of my studio in the Cotswolds, nothing beats working from life – getting up close and personal with wildlife in their natural surroundings. I can totally loose track of time, spending all day observing and following the animals – watching how they move, how they interact with one another, how they hunt and keep watch for predators. I get to know them. Without that knowledge, that understanding, my sculptures would be soulless. These research trips are absolutely essential to the integrity of my work.

March saw me exhibit at the Chelsea Flower Show, a regular event in our calendar and one which I look forward to enormously. I love to get out of my studio, meet with my collectors and chat to visitors about my work. I’m always interested in how the viewer responds to my sculptures – especially at Chelsea where there is such a wide variety of people from different walks of life, with different interests and opinions, many of whom stumble across my stand by accident.

Mackie stand at Chelsea Flower Show

This year my stand was created by Rachael White Designs. I am always excited to work with Rachael, as she completely understands how the relationship between wildlife and its natural habitat informs my work. I wanted to emphasise this and so she designed my stand to show off my pieces as garden sculptures. The hand-painted backdrop by Susannah Lampard and the sympathetic planting by Z. Laszlo Landscaping brought 30 of my sculptures to life, including my roe deer. It was also great to see how well my vessels worked in that outdoor space – really striking. The sun shone all week and we were awarded 4 stars!

On a tour of the Stately Homes of England, my monumental Andalusian Stallion arrived at Blenheim Palace in May from Chatsworth House where it had previously been on show. It spent the summer looking right at home in the Duke and Duchess of Marlborough’s formal gardens. Some four months later it was on the move again, this time to a fantastic spot on the Mall in London, opposite Horse Guards Parade, just in time for the opening of my triennial solo exhibition at Mall Galleries.

Andalusian sculpture at night

‘Life in Bronze’ opened its doors in October and included over 40 new pieces. It was born out of my extensive wildlife research in Australia, Asia and Africa. And obviously, also my continued study of the United Kingdom’s wild and domestic animals. It was a monumental effort to get everything ready in time. Along with the superb team of professional art handlers at Aston Spinks, we did it! We painted plinths and planted pots. We hung blown up photos of my work around the walls to add a different visual dimension. In all, over 90 of my sculptures were installed at Mall Galleries. They included the life size camel who stood in the cafe area. Visitors drank their tea at tables around his feet. It all looked incredible.

Hamish with camel sculpture in gallery

The positive response was overwhelming. Not only did the exhibition receive great reviews from the art critics but the feedback from visitors was heart-warming. We also ran a series of very popular private views during the exhibition, including three nights to raise funds for Tusk, the conservation charity. I have worked with them for 20 years since I started sculpting. They in turn support Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, so they are a very special part of what I do. Another great evening was hosted by the Countryside Alliance, Roxtons and Country Life Magazine. It is just as important to me to support our wildlife at home in the British countryside.

Monumental owl in gallery

In November, I was delighted to be awarded the Marsh Award for Excellence in Public Fountains by the Public Monuments and Sculpture Association for my Goodman’s Fields Horses. Brian Marsh OBE, of the Marsh Christian Trust, presented me with my award.

“I would urge you to go and look at this imaginative collaboration between a developer, artist and fountain engineers. It has created a new landmark for the area. There is no other water feature like this in the United Kingdom.

It was such an honour to have my work recognised by the PMSA.

Hamish Mackie and Brian Marsh

Then at the end of November, I headed out to the United Arab Emirates to research some new wildlife subjects to sculpt but also to take a look at what is going on in the art world in the Middle East. What an amazing place! I saw some fascinating modern pieces in the galleries there and some equally fascinating animals. All of this has given me a wealth of inspiration for my work in 2017.

Hamish with camels in UAE

The weeks leading up to the holidays were frantic. We had all hands on deck at the foundry to pack up and ship out orders in time for Christmas.  We resolutely decided that where possible (casting takes time!) clients would receive their sculptures before 25th December. This involved ridiculous amounts of cardboard boxes and foam and sticky tape. I ended up jumping in the van and driving some of the sculptures to their new homes. It’s always nice to see sculptures in their final positions. Also to meet clients away from the hustle and bustle of a busy exhibition.

It was certainly a landmark year. I finished 18 new sculptures and we also launched a brand new website and catalogue. It was both exhausting and exhilarating! Bring on 2017…