An interview with Richard Cowdy, Sculptor
Cowdy at his home in Calne. |
Photo Credit: Dee La Vardera.
Richard Cowdy, most famous for the animal sculptures on public display in Calne and Chippenham, was born in London. He worked at the Morris Singer Foundry for two years after graduating in sculpture at the Camberwell School of Art.
In 1973, Richard acquired the old Guthrie School for £3,600 before spending the next two years converting the building for both domestic and work purposes. When the foundry was operational, Richard, who used the lost wax method of casting his sculptures, would only use it at night as it required all of the windows to be open to let out the large amounts of smoke and steam it generated.
One humorous anecdote entails Richard being woken in the middle of the night by voices in his foundry. He opened the door, in his pyjamas, to a smoke-filled room, to see figures moving about. Eventually he bumped into a police officer and explained that all was well, that the smoke was generated by firing some moulds and not an actual fire. The police officer, brought to life by Richard’s animated story telling, radioed based saying, “Charlie to base. The building is still standing”. He then found around ten firefighters, to whom he explained that he ran this process around once a month and that there was no need to attend. However, they disagreed, as they needed to attend each report. This situation happened once again, after which Richard moved the foundry outside.
|The Pig Sculpture in miniature, at Richard’s home.|
In 1990, Richard was contacted by Gordon Mitchell, Project Director of The Calne Project to be involved in their Art for Architecture scheme; which Richard agree to readily. He then joined the Calne Artists’ Group, who were responsible for many of the public art on display around the redeveloped area. Richard, as part of the Calne Artists’ Group was involved with the design of the piazza at Sainsbury’s, creating the sheep sculpture – another sculpture that restless kids can climb over and enjoy during ‘boring’ shopping trips.
Richard has other pieces of public art, such as the Devizes Pyramid and the Chippenham calf. Along with two other sculptures at Kingsbury Green Academy, one of which was unveiled by The Queen. It should come as no surprise that such an accomplished sculptor has had work shown as the Royal Academy in London, along with many other galleries. Richard’s work is owned by collectors all over the world.
Now in his eighties, Richard shows no sign of stopping. He shows me wonderful pieces he has made using a printing process, many smaller pieces of sculptures; including a Venus figure, and now spends his time making ceramics.
I found Richard to be a humble man. I am not sure if he realises that importance of his public art in the day to day lives and wellbeing of those who consider it part of their routine. Whether walking down Borough Parade in Chippenham or Phelps Parade in Calne, Richard’s sculptures are ever-present – whether you see them or just a huddle of kids climbing all over them. These sculptures are part of the fabric of these towns.