Sculptor

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William, early 40s

What does a sculptor actually do?

William has been a working sculptor for over 15 years with works ranging from the justice statue in front of Victoria's County Court to his Helen Lempriere award-winning sculpture, The Comrade's Reward. "But I've always made things," William says. "Even in high school I was making ceramics that I sold to teachers and friends."

William is a figurative sculptor creating human figures using materials such as concrete, marble or bronze. As well as his own art, he has commissions - like the County Court work - and makes theatre props.

"I have a fairly traditional approach. I work from drawing then I work to maquette, which is a small version where you can explore the three dimensional and you can think about scale at that time. Then I'll begin making the sculpture itself."

How did you become a sculptor?

William always felt he had an artistic bent. "I've been making things that I liked all my life," William says. "I've been developing the ability to make things that I wanted to exist, which has basically been my whole reason for doing what I want to do."

From high school William went into a ceramics degree on what he calls "that bullet train from high school straight to university that leaves very few people actually doing the right course".

His introduction to sculpture came when he landed a job with Melbourne Theatre Company making props. "I walked in there and thought 'People get paid to make this fantastic gear? This is me!'". He went on to do a fine arts degree at Monash University and has since divided his time between making his own art and doing commercial work.

What's your working environment like?

William shares a studio with other artists: other sculptors, a painter and a photographer. His area is crowded with gigantic limbs from works in progress and cluttered with art tools. William appreciates having others in his studio. "With sculpture, you often need a hand with things when you're working - turning it over, taking it outside, lifting it from a mould," he says.

It's a very casual environment with friends dropping by and artists bringing in their pets. "It's a very doggy studio - they all run around together being naughty," William laughs.

What sort of skills and qualities do you need?

Obviously to become a sculptor you need a fair amount of artistic ability, but William also believes that you need to have something to express. "I've always just done it. Ever since I was a small child, I remember drawing. I see children drawing now and you can tell the ones who are really into it and this is a way of unlocking or unleashing what's inside them."

What are some of the pros and cons of the job?

William is philosophical about the disappointment of working so hard on a work and then not finding a market for it. "Sometimes people can get very enthusiastic about a work and lay down the dollars. Other times people are enthusiastic about it and their cheque book just doesn't open."

William's career has been boosted by seeing his work not just to find a market, but also winning the 2005 Helen Lempriere prize, which is the prize for sculpture in Australia. But it's also just an extension of his philosophy about making "works that I want to exist in the world".

Are there any tips for getting a job as a sculptor?

If there's a lesson to be learned from William's career, it's one of being persistent with something you believe in. "Some artists talk about 'getting real' to make work that will sell," William says, "and they probably have a point, but I can't do that? Ultimately you've got to stick to your guns and do what you do, then people will come to that."

Find out more about this career path at myfuture.edu.au (new window) (Note: free registration is required to access the myfuture site).