“If you want to be an artist you have to be the kind of person who is not thinking about what’s going to happen tomorrow or when you get old.” Sophie Dickens, a Hackney based sculptor, dishes out advice to aspiring artists. She is a self-proclaimed outsider in the world of sculpture, despite working within the discipline for close to three decades. She works out of her studio in London Fields producing massive horses, human figures, and bronze mice. Her sculptures evoke a sense of movement and fluidity despite being cast out of metal. Sloping curves and beautiful anatomical forms capture figures in mid movement.
The economic downturn was a period of struggle for Dickens, but she is now feels optimistic about the future. Next October she will be releasing her book “The space between us” alongside a series of bronze sculptures depicting the tumultuous highs and lows of a relationship between man and woman.
“It almost seems like a narrative, like a picture book telling a story,” she says. The book came as a result of a successful crowd funding campaign, and she has just had her first sculpture printed through 3D printing technology.
So she’s busy, but a regular income doesn’t always flow. “I don’t mind recommending [being an artist] but you mustn’t mind living on spaghetti quite often, which I don’t – I like spaghetti!”
Dickens enjoys the freedom that comes along with being an artist, even though it is quite unpredictable: “Every day I do what I want essentially. I might have to put the Hilton logo on things occasionally, but I don’t mind.”
Dickens learnt most of her fabrication skills from years of trial and error, with a few basic courses guiding her along the way. “I still have all my fingers,” she says. The sculptor regularly works with power tools but cautions being in the right frame of mind before operating any heavy machinery. Being an artist also requires a patient attitude, especially for commission work.
“Some commissions, you’re the third person down the line, some designer is working for an architect who is working for a client, whose main client is in America. So it takes ages for anyone to make a decision and meanwhile you think they don’t want it or they hate you. There’s lots of waiting. You have to be very zen and not mind, but of course you do.”
Dickens’ home is on a quiet De Beauvoir town street and, having lived and worked in Hackney for the past few decades, she has seen the transformation of the borough.
“It doesn’t feel real,” she says. “You haven’t got the grittiness of people getting shot at the end of your road anymore. The real character like the organic shop Zelda’s pot on the corner of Southgate road, secondhand book shops and good furniture shops. There was a great shop on Kingsland road you could buy old tools, and that’s all gone. They all had their licences taken away. The kind of raw stuff has gone and now you can get fantastic cake and fantastic cheese in the deli.”
Dickens has exhibited her sculptures all over the world and may soon even have a piece on display in a chapel in Nigeria. Look around the next time you are out and about in Hackney and you may just spot one of Dickens’ works diving from a rooftop or lurking in some corner.
You can follow Sophie Dickens on twitter @sophie_dickens
To see more of her works and past exhibitions: http://www.sophiedickens.co.uk/