On Wednesday, 7 December, The Prince's Trust will hold an art auction at the Assembly Rooms in Bath to raise money to help disadvantaged young people into work or training.
Alongside artists such as Nick Park, Rob Ryan and Sir Peter Blake, I was asked to donate a piece of work to the auction. I said yes immediately, and decided to create a sculpture, which I would call The Gift.
The Gift started out as a much smaller concept than it has ended up, one which linked my current practice of carving in Bath stone and my role as a sculptor for the 2012 Olympic Games.
It began with a discussion with Rebecca Phillips at Bath Contemporary Gallery (who represent me here in Bath). They agreed to help out with some stone for my Prince's Trust sculpture as I did not have anything that fitted the charity and wanted to make something quite specific.
The charity then sent me up to the quarry to meet with the Bath Stone Group (http://www.bath-stone.co.uk) and choose a block of stone for the carving, which Bath Stone very kindly donated. This was the first 'gift'. Now I had in my mind a piece which was about two foot by two foot, which would have been perfect. However, when presented with the opportunity to make a statement piece I quickly changed tack and asked for an 800 kg silent block laying on its back amongst the three and four tonne hunks. It was not my first choice, but when I noticed it, it just jumped out at me. I could see a much grander sculpture and was excited to get started.
Once the block was back in my studio I realised the sculpture was going to be a huge commitment and I began to revile the figures within the stone. The main surface was to be the large head fragment (front), and this was to be on a slight tilt as there is a vein of Calcite running north to south right through the stone and this formed a centre line to the face. It is a male face with a soft contemplative element and one which has a gentleness about it. This came along well and after a month I had found the forms to that surface I had wanted.
Next, I wanted to make the piece speak about The Trust and the works it undertakes. I began hollowing out the inside of the head with a view to placing a young lad reading within the lower third. I wanted this to represent the people The Trust helps by offering a redirection and education of some sort.
However, as I began carving the male figure it became very resistant and reluctant. The stone was telling me the form I was looking for was not male, but was in fact female! I listened to the stone and carved the figure as a female reclining reading, and she came along well and seemed to fit. There was something missing though and while pausing to have a cup of coffee (as I do often) I began to see the missing link. There right in front of my eyes as if carved fully already was the child sitting in the lap of the mother, being read to. The sculpture quickly took on a new twist. The mother is the key here, for she brings us into the world, nurtures us and gives us her love to set us on our path.
It is that loving nurture which the Prince's Trust gives to so many young people who come to its door looking for help and this is the essence of the sculpture. I named it The Gift as the stone was given to me, because I have given three months of my time and because whoever buys it will be giving to disadvantaged young people going through some of life's toughest transitions. Thus it set in motion a continuous cycle of giving which will go on and on.
It has been a great privilege for me to be able to support this fantastic charity and I trust that The Gift will find a good home and that its resonance will ripple out into the world in a positive, creative and nurturing way.
The Prince's Trust will help 50,000 disadvantaged young people this year, giving them the skills and confidence to get into work or training.
To view the full auction catalogue and find out about bidding online, please visit www.princes-trust.org.uk/evening_of_art. To find out more about my work, please go to www.bendearnley.com.