We’ve launched an open call to find new outdoor sculptures for our Lyme Regis and Bridport sculpture trails. We’re always looking to support new, upcoming talent and so our Arts and Environments lead Cleo, and marketing officer Jaz have put together some top tips, tricks and advice for emerging artists who make, or are thinking of making, outdoor sculpture.
What’s special about outdoor sculpture?
The outdoors provides an exciting space for sculpture and can affect the work in a very different way to the white walls of a gallery. Outdoor sculptures become part of the landscape; they play with their surroundings and reframe and reimagine the environment.
Artist Barbara Hepworth created abstract sculptures inspired by relationships, particularly between people and the Cornwall landscape. Her sculptures’ forms and textures often mirror the sweeping hills, sheer rocky cliffs and movements of the sea. When displayed outside, the holes through the sculptures frame the landscapes and coastlines beyond and bring art and the environment together in playful, compelling ways.
Pictured: Two Forms (Divided Circle), 1969, Bronze
Outdoor sculpture makes art more accessible. People who may not visit galleries and museums regularly (or at all) can experience art on their walk to work, trip to the beach, or on their way to the shops. This experience can spark a new interest in art and inspire them to see more.
Things to consider when designing and making your sculpture
Your sculpture will be outside in a public space and so the materials you use need to be:
- Safe and secure for people and animals to interact with. The public may try to touch your sculpture, and we also need to consider the wildlife. Materials should be non-toxic with no sharp edges.
- Safe, or even beneficial, for the environment. We all have a responsibility to source, create and install environmentally friendly and sustainable artworks. Consider where your materials are coming from, what impact their production and travel has, and how you could reduce this. Find out more in the Environmental Sustainability Toolkit: Making Outdoor Arts Sustainable, written by Julie’s Bicycle. Pages 10 to 15 outline some guidance for artists. Focus on the ‘how you do it’ column on the right and see if there’s one or two things you could do to make your practice more environmentally sustainable.
- Durable against the changing weather. Your sculpture may need to withstand rain, sun, snow and wind. Changing temperatures, humidity, wind speeds, and rain water will all need to be considered when making your work. On the other hand, you could embrace the changes weather will have on your sculpture if it suits the themes and concept of the work.
Artist Katie Paterson created a participatory work titled ‘First There is a Mountain’ on U.K. beaches throughout 2019 that highlighted coastal erosion. She created five sand pails from five U.K. mountains which participants used to build sandcastles from. Katie created the sand pails using fully compostable bio-plastic derived from corn starch; at the end of the project the sand pails will be composted.
Johanna Berger encased excerpts of poetry in pebbles created by Dr Uwe Dornbusch of the University of Sussex’s geography department. Normally used to assess coastal erosion, the 11 artificial pebbles were scattered on a French beach – exposure to the elements will reveal lines of a poem.
Even if the final installation of your work is out of your hands, it’s important to consider how you’d like your work to be presented and to propose some ideas for this. It can be an important factor in how your work is interpreted and can help to communicate the themes and concept of the work.
‘In Search of Connectedness’ is a sculpture currently displayed in the Lyme Regis sculpture trail by artist Isla Chaney. Her abstract forms are designed to hug something, to create a connection between the sculpture and the environment. These playful sculptures have been wrapped round trees and have the sense of movement and connectedness.
Outdoor sculpture can seem to be costly to make, because we tend to associate public art with expensive materials like stone, bronze and marble. However, there are some inexpensive options out there. Wood, fired and glazed clay, canvas, polyester and nylon fabrics, chicken wire, willow and found materials are all cheaper options that would withstand the outdoors.
You may also have to make other compromises to keep costs down, such as scale.
How to overcome rejection
There’s a common misconception that if your application is unsuccessful it’s because your work isn’t good enough, or the quality or idea is lacking. However, applications are rejected for a number of reasons. It could be the sculpture didn’t quite fit with the others chosen, or your application wasn’t clear.
We recommend you ask for feedback if your application was unsuccessful so you know what to develop for next time. Don’t be afraid to ask for clarity and to note it down for future reference. It can be hard to hear, but it gets easier the more you do it and acting on honest feedback will help to improve your artistic practice.
Top tips for our Lyme Regis and Bridport sculpture trails open calls
- We are especially looking to champion work that is environmentally-friendly and considers the impact on the environment in its design and execution.
- Your artwork it will need to be suitable for all ages. Make sure the subject and themes are appropriate for children and adults.
- Visit the sites for the sculpture trails to help you plan how your work will be presented. Take photos and use those to illustrate where you’d like your sculpture placed, and to remind you of the space.