Steve Howlett at work, 2018. Image by Sharon Clark-Bogle © 2018

Steve Howlett at work, 2018.
Image by Sharon Clark-Bogle © 2018

Steve Howlett at rest, 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.

Now ensconced in a new workshop, beautifully sited on the banks of the stunning Dyfi estuary, I am creating, once again, new, sensual, organic, abstract sculptures in wood and bronze.

selected exhibitions

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

awards, prizes, etc

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.

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