Wayne Hart - craft&design Selected Maker of the Year 2013

by Angie Boyer

We were fascinated to watch the votes coming in early this year for designer makers entered in our craft&designSelected  Awards.  Who would poll enough votes to reach the final six in their category? Who would the judges choose from those Finalists for the Gold Award? And which of the six Gold Award Winners would gain the most votes and become our craft&design Selected Maker of the Year?
The competition is lively, the judges are experienced professionals in their field, and the top accolade carries huge prestige for the winner. So how very special it is that this year's winner of that coveted title is a young man who is literally at the very beginning of his creative career. Indeed, he had only applied - and been accepted - for our Selected online gallery just weeks before the voting began. This Award will undoubtedly add to his already impressive achievements as an accomplished letter cutter, lettering artist and typographer.
By the time Paul and I visited Wayne in his studios in Manchester, he had become used to the idea that he had won this prestigious award, but when we first notified him of his success in early May, he told us that the news "hadn't really quite sunk in yet!". Wayne's workplace is a compact, well organised studio that he's occupied since last October at AWOL Studios, a former cotton mill and listed building that now houses a variety of creative businesses. As he talks to us about his work, it's easy to think that he's been doing this for many more years than he actually has, his is a mature head with a clear vision and sincere dedication to his craft.
I asked where his interest in this specialist craft originated. "Well, my Nan always did calligraphy," Wayne recalls. "And I remember visiting the British Museum whilst at secondary school, being fascinated by the Rosetta Stone. I've always had a passion for Egypt - I still have - and for ancient history."
Wayne first discovered his love of letterforms whilst studying Graphic Design in his native county of Norfolk. He later studied the world-renowned Typography course at the University of Reading. "Everything I did at college, I approached from a typographical point of view," he says, recollecting the inspiration and encouragement he received from his tutor there, Christopher Skinner. Indeed, so impressed were his tutors at the University of Reading with Wayne's work, that they now employ him once a year to teach the MA Type Design students.

Other would-be lettercutters would be envious of the time Wayne spent literally learning at the hands of the masters. He learnt to shape stone during his training in basic masonry skills with lettercarver CharlotteHowarth, and says that the three weeks he spent at the Richard Kindersley Studio, "was absolutely invaluable."
A three year lettercarving apprenticeship with Pip Hall in Cumbria followed, which had just ended when Wayne won our award. "I'm very grateful to the Memorial Arts Charity Apprentice Scheme for providing funding for my first year with Pip. I learnt so much from her and we worked on some wonderful commissions."
Most of Wayne's work is commission based, often commemorative pieces, and his sensitive nature plays an important role."I usually begin by establishing the client’s wants and needs. Personable skills are essential in this initial stage, especially when dealing with clients in mourning. Memorials can be both the most difficult and the most rewarding projects to work on. It's important to find out about the deceased to create a memorial that, through shape, style and content, is significant to them. This is the case for all my commissions.
"For all projects I begin by producing a series of thumbnail sketches to get a general idea of good lettering compositions," he continues."When working to commission I then develop two of these ideas to show the client. Once an idea has been selected I draw a full-scale version either directly on the stone or on to paper, tracing it on with carbon paper. The lettering and any imagery are then highlighted with a coloured pencil and photographed for approval prior to carving.
"Other pieces allow for a more organic approach, especially when the structure of the stone is to be determined. In such cases, I like to develop stone shape and letterform simultaneously, allowing all components of the piece to beautifully mesh together. One example of this is a pebble I’m creating to celebrate a friend's successful completion of his degree. The course title is lengthy, but I wanted to create something small enough for him to handle due to his suffering from ME and being unable to lift heavy items. Thus I decided on a squared-off pebble shape to give a larger surface area for the text to wrap around and designed the lettering to match the shape of the stone, pulling the different components together."
Wayne's skills extend beyond his chosen craft though, he has a remarkably mature business head on his shoulders. During his apprenticeship with Pip Hall, Wayne realised that he'd require funding to complete his final two years with her and dedicated many hours to writing up applications for grants and awards. It reaped rewards and he was successful in securing an enviable sum in excess of £24,000, having obtained support from various charities and individuals, including the Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Trust (QEST), The National Association of Decorative and Fine Arts Societies (NADFAS), The Finn Family Fund, the Bishop of Norwich and a number of smaller charities - no mean feat!
The Worshipful Company of Masons has also recently provided a second grant to go towards his studio costs, in exchange for which Wayne will be demonstrating for the Guild in London next year. The Split Infinitive Trust, The Golsoncott Foundation, the Eaton Fund and the York Consortium of Conservation and Craftsmanship have all given awards towards Wayne's studio costs as well, and the £1000 prize money that he received from us as part of his award has also contributed to the setting up of his studio.
For one so new to his trade, Wayne has already worked on an admirable and diverse number of pieces.  He is currently creating a memorial to C.S. Lewis, to be sited in Poets' Corner in Westminster Abbey. How did he receive such an important commission I asked. "I am very fortunate to have been noticed by some prestigious institutions such as Westminster Abbey and the Victoria & Albert Museum," he replies, with a completely unassuming manner that is a clear indication that this young man will go far.
"Westminster Abbey contacted me direct, they were interested in using a young craftsman with a fresh approach. My lettering styles tend to break free from the rigidity of traditional works, although I am also capable of creating more formal pieces. It depends on the context of the work. The C S Lewis memorial lends itself to something more adventurous to mimic Lewis's writing style and sense of fantasy."
Whilst we were chatting, Wayne showed us some images of a substantial commission he'd just completed for the Maison de la Culture in Amiens, France featuring a poem in Picard, the old language of the region. Having drawn on his skills in typography and lettercarving to draw the lettering by hand, the three metre high piece was painstakingly traced on screen and then water-cut in corten steel. His background in graphic design and particularly his training in type engineering with Andy Benedeck greatly helped with this process. The piece now stands, sunk one metre deep into the ground, in a public place, a wooded area with rivers and streams, alongside other sculptures created from different materials. "The material I chose for this commission will rust over time, which fits perfectly with the environment it's now in, a landscape dominated by water," says Wayne, adding somewhat wistfully, "Months of work and stress went into creating that sculpture and, in a way, I'm a little bit sad to leave it behind in France."
Wayne talks of his ambitions. "I’m really keen to be pushing lettering forward in my lifetime and one way to achieve this is to work on public art projects. This will successfully place the craft in the public domain, especially when carving on-site. Architectural lettering is something else I’m very interested in, as well as the merging of sculptural forms and letterform. I will be attending a short course in sculpture later this year to further develop my skills and I have been successful in receiving a bursary from the institution in question, Dartmoor Arts.
"As one of only a handful of young carvers working in this specialist area, it is imperative that I both maintain the tradition and develop the craft for future generations. Once my studio becomes established and I am at a point where I feel ready to do so, I will take on my own apprentices and keep the art of fine lettering alive for future generations to enjoy."
Wayne's passion for his craft reflects the place that his work will take in history, "I can't make a mistake, I know that the work I complete will be here forever, my name will be associated with it for a very long time, so I have to make sure that it is as perfect as it can be."
Listening to Wayne talking about his work, you could be forgiven for thinking he's been running a successful business for very many years. But although he is a young man, still in his mid-twenties, he is remarkably focussed, knows what he wants to achieve and is determined to do so. "It's incredibly important to not only have the skills of my trade, but to also have the ability to run a successful business," he wisely acknowledges. "Time management is important, and so too is the skill to manage money and to not be afraid to charge what the work is worth. I've made a good start and have a great deal of ambition and determination to achieve my dreams."
We're be proud to say that we were amongst the first to recognise Wayne as one of the masters of his craft for the future - many congratulations on being our 2013 Selected Maker of the Year!

You can see Wayne talking about his work in this interview with him at the National Funeral Exhibition, which was sponsored by Leverton & Sons, the Crown furnishers.

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