Steve Howlett at work, 2018.
Image by Sharon Clark-Bogle © 2018
Steve Howlett at rest, 2018.
Image by Sharon Clark-Bogle © 2018
I have been working with wood professionally for over 40 years and, apart from two years training as a joiner in the early ‘70s, I am completely self taught. This is possibly why I have always followed my own artistic path throughout my career and continually felt to be an outsider in both the fine art and the crafts worlds. Between 1975 and 1985 I worked as a furniture maker, restorer and turner whilst also experimenting in a small way with sculpture. From 1985 to 2005 I focused exclusively on turning wood but, unfortunately, after 2005, my career and production of work slowly came to a halt due to my late wife’s deteriorating health.
From 1985 to 1989, I concentrated on functional work and during this period I designed and made a small range of kitchen utensils which was sold in the David Mellor design shop in London. I had no intention of becoming an ‘artist’, but I always tried to produce work of exceptional quality. However, in 1989 I started experimenting, out of necessity, with turning unseasoned wood. I had seen a beautiful holly bowl by Richard Raffan which had been green turned and had distorted with perfect symmetry. It occurred to me that if it was possible to predict the distortion of a piece with such accuracy then a whole new world of design was opened up which was not possible if one only used seasoned timber. It also struck me as an exciting challenge and, at this point, I could see no one who was developing this idea in anything but the most mundane way.
I ceased turning functional pieces in 1994, preferring the excitement and challenge of taking green turning as far as I could. The focus of this work has been on creating an aesthetically successful marriage between the predictable distortion of wood as it dries and the highly refined forms I had developed over the years. Examples of this work may be seen in the archive section of the website.
Whilst this work often resembled materials other than wood — ceramics, burnished leather or melting wax — most of the forms I created at this time could have been made in no material other than wood. It was at this point I realised the strange link between my work, which has always been reductionist, i.e. carving away to find the right form and some ceramicists who build up the material to find the right form. The forms often end up very similar. Well, I did say that I’d had no traditional art education. My learning came from gut instinct, always associating with creative people and my first wife, textile artist and brilliant dancer, Rita Howlett.
During 2005 my eyesight was deteriorating and it was becoming increasingly difficult to create the perfect forms I was trying to achieve. Combined with some very painful RSI in my thumbs and elbow, I was forced to abandon this stage of my career. I took a break from the workshop from 2006 to 2011 to focus on music in order to refresh my mind and aching limbs. Unfortunately, during this time, Rita, my wife of 42 years, became increasingly disabled so my energies were directed toward caring for her until her death in 2017. This turn of events led me to be out of the art world for just over a decade. Life moves on…
Early in 2013 I had a vision of one of my annular forms, 3 metres high, nestling in the countryside and realised that I needed to start casting work in bronze. Five pieces were cast and these were finally shown for the first time in 2018.
I now have a new workshop, beautifully sited on the banks of the Dyfi estuary, and I am creating, once again, new, sensual, organic, abstract sculptures in wood and bronze.
|2018||'Below the Heavens', Collection IV by Ini Archibong presented by Sé||London Design Festival 2018|
|2018||'Below the Heavens', Collection IV by Ini Archibong presented by Sé||Milan Design Week 2018|
|2014/15||"Unlocking the Spirit" — a retrospective of turned wood sculpture by Steve Howlett.||Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, UK|
|2006||"Welsh Artist of the Year"||St David's Hall, Cardiff, UK (catalogue)|
|2005||"new studio:new work"||54 The Gallery, Mayfair, London, UK - SOLO|
|2005||"Modern Pots: The Lisa Sainsbury Ceramic Collection"||Dulwich Picture Gallery, Dulwich, London, UK (catalogue)|
|2002||Artist’s House, New Art Centre||Roche Court, Wiltshire.|
|2002||"sculpture and silk"||54 The Gallery, Mayfair, London, UK - SOLO|
|2002||"Interventions in Nature", Landscape Works from the Derek Williams Collection.||Gallery in the Garden, Garden of Wales, Carmarthenshire, UK|
|2001||"Modern Pots - Hans Coper, Lucie Rie & their contemporaries. The Lisa Sainsbury Collection"||Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, UEA, Norwich, UK (catalogue)|
|2001||Society of Designer Craftsmen exhibition||Mall Galleries, London, UK (catalogue)|
|2000||"Sculptural Forms in Wood"||Plateaux Gallery, London, UK - SOLO|
|2000||Art Palm Beach, 20th Century Fine Art Fair||Florida, USA, with Goedhuis Contemporary (catalogue)|
|2000||"Aur”, Past Gold Medal Winners||Royal National Eisteddfod of Wales, Llanelli, UK (catalogue)|
|1999||"Contemporary Decorative Arts"||Sotheby's, London, UK|
|1999||International 20th Century Arts Fair||New York, USA, with Goedhuis Contemporary (catalogue)|
|1999||Beverly Hills International Art and Antique Fair||with Goedhuis Contemporary (catalogue)|
|1999||"Eloge de la matiere"||Carlin Gallery, Paris, France|
|1998||"vessels & forms"||Hyde Park Gallery, London, UK - SOLO|
|1998||Aberdeen City Art Gallery, Aberdeen, UK - SOLO|
|1997||"Vessels of the Tree"||Miriam Shiell Fine Art, Toronto, Canada - SOLO|
|1997||Solo exhibition||Hyde Park Gallery, London, UK|
|1992 -96||"Decorative Arts Today"||Bonhams, London. (catalogues)|
|1994||Solo exhibition||Alpha House Gallery, Sherborne, Dorset, UK - SOLO|
|2015||Featured in "Post-War to Post-Modern: A Dictionary of Artists in Wales", by Peter W Jones and Isabel Hitchman, published by Gomer.|
|2007||The Society of Designer Craftsmen's Gane Trust Award for excellence in quality of design and craftsmanship.|
|2006||Highly commended. Welsh Artist of the Year Competition|
|2001||Elected Fellow of the Society of Designer Craftsmen.|
|2000||Featured in "Modern Pots - Hans Coper, Lucie Rie & their Contemporaries. The Lisa Sainsbury Collection" by Cyril Frankel, published by Thames & Hudson.|
|1997||Special Projects Grant from the Arts Council of Wales.|
|1997||Three pieces bought by the Derek Williams Collection, Cardiff, Wales.|
|1996||Gold Medal winner, Art & Craft Exhibition, Royal National Eisteddfod of Wales.|
|1996||Three pieces bought by the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, UK for the 20th Century Collection.|
|1995||Invited to join the Crafts Council Index of Selected Makers|
|1993||Elected Member of the Society of Designer Craftsmen|
|1993||Prize winner, Art & Craft Exhibition, Royal National Eisteddfod of Wales.|
|1992||Prize winner, Art & Craft Exhibition, Royal National Eisteddfod of Wales.|
|1990||Special Award from the Welsh Arts Council.|
|20th Century Collection, Victoria & Albert Museum, London, UK|
|Sainsbury Centre for Visual Art, University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK|
|The Derek Williams Collection, National Museum & Galleries of Wales, Cardiff, UK|
|The Hosomi Museum and Art Foundation, Kyoto, Japan|
|Also in many private collections worldwide.|