Renown Devon Artist Ian Stewart openly admits that his failure keeping real Bonsai trees inspired his development of the techniques used to create his wire Bonsai tree sculptures.
“I have always loved Bonsai, but I have never been able to keep them, I have always killed them! So this was the answer to my problems. No watering, no pruning, no re-potting and they are kept indoors!!!”
After studying in Exeter, his artistic focus took him in the direction of graphite pencil work – with an affinity for portraits. It was only later in life that his passion for sculpting became apparent.
Self taught, having failed to find Sculptors disciplined in the art of wire work who could offer tuition. Finding the right wire to use was the first task, a wire that would conform to the rigors of constant manipulation without breaking. A florist wire was the perfect solution. Then to find the right gauge wire to capture the strength of the tree, textures of bark and branches and the fullness of the canopy creating the realism that he strives for. The technique itself, took a long time to master creating a sculpture from a singular length of fine gauge wire!
Up-cycling as much as possible is something Ian is passionate about, constantly looking for new and inventive materials to use as the base for his delicate sculptures without deviating from the aesthetics of the Bonsai form and style. Cornish slate, Dartmoor rock, Mopani wood and Oak burr bowls are just some of the materials that compliment the more traditional authentic Japanese pots used.
Each sculpture starts as a single length of wire and then wound into hundreds of individual strands which are painstakingly twisted into a very organic natural form, each tree taking on own it’s structure and strength.
Totally unique these sculptures are low maintenance. A small puff of air in the dusting process – Ian suggests a hair dryer on a cool setting would be sufficient, although with very little surface area the task is a minimal one.