In 2018 Edwards was awarded a commission by Doncaster Council to create a sculpture that celebrates the lives of those who had worked in the pits around Doncaster. Before this commission, there was nothing in Doncaster to show that it was a mining community or had any mining history. Joan Hart who was one of those who sat for their portrait stated that miners were “a unique breed of men” and that it was important to have something to remember the miners by. For Laurence, the commission seemed right as miners are the literal embodiment of men of the earth, a theme that Laurence explores in his sculptures. He also felt that it would be a great test for a southerner to engage with a “northern community” and great a sculpture that would engage with the community that is in many ways still in trauma.
The sculpture consists of 40 portraits of former miners, whom Edwards sculpted in wax while they told their stories. These sessions were filmed by Doncaster College to form part of an online archive.
“The conversation always started with introductions and basic biographical facts, the dialogue flowed naturally after that, with silences being embraced, the spaces allowed me time to look properly.”
In February 2021, A Rich Seam was installed in Doncaster City centre. The bronze faces sit in hand made crevices of two 20 tonne pieces of York Stone from Huddersfield, with a central miner figure between them. Seam refers to Barnsley Bed which Doncaster sits on and from which coal was mined. Coal has been mined in Yorkshire since potentially the Roman times, but exponentially increased from the 18th century due to the invention of the steam engine in 1712. During the industrial period and due to the building of the Liverpool to Leeds canal the amount of coal being mined in Yorkshire increased exponentially as it could be transported easily to other areas of Britain. However, with the increase in competition from foreign companies and the increased privatisation mines began closing, stripping many towns of their identity and purpose.
Laurence went up to the region around Doncaster and spoke to miners and their families about mining and how its loss had affected their community. What stood out to him was the passion and commonalities between the testimonies.
“All spoke of camaraderie, of the danger, of death and of community and the real sense of loss which is impossible to grasp. One miner said to me imagine the government closing ‘Art’ down, stopping you doing it ever again, then imagine a city full of artists.”
He moulded each portrait out of yellow wax with his hands, as the individuals spoke. Laurence would see three individuals a day and each sitting would last two hours. Each finished bronze portrait sits in a niche cut into Yorkshire stone, which Laurence calls “faces in the rock”. For Laurence Edwards, this was a “jump into the unknown” because the initial sittings were timed a filmed all while he was interviewing the subjects. The central figure is Listening Miner which is meant to be evocative of how the men would hear the geology settle at the end of the shift as the machines were turned off.
If you would like to watch the filmed portrait sittings please click here.
The sculpture now stands outside the Frenchgate Centre to show how literally mining is to Doncaster. Councillor Nigel Ball wanted to “locate the iconic piece of art right in the heart of Doncaster – a celebration of our mining history and the huge spirit of our miners and their communities.”
Homecoming has been commissioned for a new housing development that resides near the remains Norman campsite. The figure took inspiration from the scenes in the Bayeux tapestry and the Normans’ arrival in England. Edwards was fascinated by the influence the Normans’ had on Britain not only in terms of architecture but also language. Without the Norman invasion, words such as allowance and beef would not be in the English vocabulary.
Homecoming continues the themes of walking men and migration seen in Edwards recent works. The figure would not only have had migrated to England but also through England as the Normans’ continued their conquest. The figure is an exploration into the life of a professional soldier with little autonomy over their path in life; he may be walking but he hasn’t chosen where he walks. We witness the soldier at the moment of his return home which is perhaps appropriate for a sculpture situated within the commuter belt, echoing those returning home each evening.
There is a duality to the figures face; one side appears hopeful and the other fearful. It manifests the anguish of coming home having been away, unsure of what has changed and what has stayed the same. Although dressed in the regalia of a soldier with a shield and helmet, this is not a glorified return, he appears a battered and well-used man. In fact, his tunic is made from an old overall of Edwards’. There is a sense of anxiety in how the ropes are twisted around his shoulder which implicitly rather than explicitly reflects his mental state.
Laurence Edwards read Paul Kingsnorths ‘The Wake’ trilogy as a part of the research for Homecoming. Set in 1067 in the Fens and written in what the author calls ‘Shadow tongue ‘ a simplified old English which serves to evoke perfectly the life of ‘Buccmaster of Holland’, whose family and life have been destroyed in the savage merciless invasion. The story follows his efforts to raise a partisan gang in the forests, plotting and picking off Norman soldiers as they impose impossible hardship on those Britons left alive.
Homecoming spent some time at Messums Wiltshire, where Laurence introduced us to his latest sculpture. If you would like to watch this talk, please click here. The sculpture has now been installed at its new home in Ebbsfleet, to be enjoyed by the residents of the new housing development sited there.
The journey of The Carrier began when a ship spilt planks of wood off the coast of Suffolk. During the process of picking up the planks from the beach, Laurence Edwards began to reflect on this repetitive motion of picking up and carrying, which developed into a motif that is seen in many of his works.
The sticks that The Carrier holds have both a literal and metaphorical weight. They have an emotional physicality representative of a loaded psyche, while also appearing almost too heavy to hold. The Carrier is at the tipping point, with his cheek tenderly resting on the wood acting trying to prevent the wood having a fulcrum, his mouth is wide as if puffing with the effort to do so. The work is very evocative of the Pieta, the idea that this figure is carrying like the Madonna a dead weight that is unable to support itself.
There is much we can discern from The Carrier however the figure cannot quite be placed. He is at the tipping point, but what the tipping point is we cannot tell. Perhaps his wood will be used to build a hut and therefore he may be at the tipping point before man’s first primitive hut. The primitive hut is an architectural theory theorized by Antoine Laugier and is an allegory for man and its need for shelter in nature. Maybe The Carrier is at the tipping point before Man becomes civilized through the building of this first primitive hut. On the other hand, The Carrier could be a metaphor for the ecological tipping point that the world is now at. With the chaos of cut wood at his feet maybe we are seeing the consequences of our actions on the earth; The Carrier could be continuing this destruction or trying to rectify it.
The Carrier is stitched into the horizon line, our eye carried through the figure via the sticks he holds. The bundle itself has a history, its tired-looking rope implying it is not its first use as he strides forward to an unknown destination. Laurence Edwards has presented us with a work that demands our interaction and makes us ask questions that cannot be fully answered.
Hi there.. welcome back.. the keen eyed, the mad and the enthusiastic amongst you, will have noticed my absence on the interweb. I Decided not to bore you with my ‘fantastic’ Lockdown exploits and concentrate on having them..
You won’t see them in this post either..no, instead you will be exposed to what was happening just as it all started and where we’ve got to since we opened up again at beginning of June…. the actual stuff I made during lockdown will be saved for you in the next post!!! Its very exciting I can tell you.
So we’ll start with the Biggestthing! The Colossus is coming together in bronze, after a myriad of structural difficulties, complicated welding exams and new cranes installations, we’ve finally got to the fun bit..Well Tom has..
Here he is …
Welding the feet together..
Here’s Tom showing new ‘Expert guy’ Eddy Triplow the ropes!
Eddy is getting the hang of it.. He’s a real nice guy ‘Nice guy Eddy’
Tom’s passed loads of difficult welding exams to do this bit.. he can now make an oil rig in the north sea… This is the start of the stainless steel framework going inside the feet and legs.
Solid as a rock….
You may be a fresh visitor to my blog. This is what the Yox-Man (Colossus) is going to look like.. you can see how far we’ve got to go!! Hope to be finished in the new year.
I thought i’d show you the destruction of this plaster beast, it actually influenced my covid work… the stuff i’m not showing you!
The other ED, (second of three featured tonight) hacked off the plaster outer skin to reveal the polystyrene core..stuff we hadn’t seen for two years.
Everything at this scale is an engineering problem!!
Back from the other side of the planet, a successful exhibition was had at 12 Mary’s Place Paddington Sydney, A historic gallery in Sydney recently re-opened by the ‘Defiance Gallery’ we virtually sold out with orders for editions..The show is now open in Melbourne at a brand new space .
Got a chance to travel. We got to Orange over the Blue Mountains where we were hosted by amazing Wine and food growers and met up with my sculptor friend Harrie Fascher at her wonderful studio in Oberon…
Get an idea of her work, studio and life, and the great person artist….she is…by watching this film…
she’s just won a $50,000 prize …
Lots of Horses at her studio…one was shot outside my bedroom window one bright morning.. it was old. I have to say I’m disappointed to find my photography only recorded the grimmest of things… Here’s the aftermath after I’d had breakfast and brushed my teeth…
Then we went to the ‘Bush’ to meet Stirling Dixon (Farmer and ecologist) at Taralga , part of the Tarlo National Park.. where foxes are not wanted..
Brought over by us Brits .. they wreak havoc with the indigenous mammal and bird population, small marsupials and ground nesting birds suffer terribly.. Stirling and friends attempt to keep them under control.. a fine welcome…
Here he is leading the way on a small expedition.. well across a stream….
Eucalyptus where he pointed out striations on the bark where flying squirrels sucked sap at night.
stunning interior built by himself sensous earth floor.
From left Harrie, Stirling, Anne and Jan.. who told me tales of travelling, looking for rock art in the Kimberley’s (far north Aboriginal territory).. where a wasp nest covering a rock painting had been removed and carbon dated.. and was found to be 20,000 yrs old….painting could have been 40,000..
Trees six months after a forest fire..Stirling got a new bush trained dog, that went missing on its first night.. so well-trained was it that in the morning 80 wild goats were herded at the front of the house (these and wild pigs are the scourge of the bush apparently) Stirling was able to sell them on to the local restaurants.. a lovely dish, one we delighted in that night.. good dog!
Apparently poor thing was gorged by a miffed Billy the next day…that was the end of him…
The wonderful shower..water warmed by a fire .
One of the many termite mounds reminding me of my ‘Sylvan man”
Hello… I have a new show opening at ‘Messums’ London next tuesday the 16th, and rather excitingly we cant have a party, so we’re having a zoom chat instead. Johnny Messum and I will walk around the show and discuss it… Hope you can make it, if not I’m sure it will be available to watch on the Messum’s Wiltshire website..
The work represents a new departure for me, made during the first lockdown. Plaster figures sliced up and reconstructed, who became my audience, companions even confidents!! through those lonely months.. Its a special show for me here’s the link to the free event.
And here for you delictation is a brief preview of the work, The plasters are being shown alongside the bronzes, on the same stands used in the studio, will be interesting to compare and contrast, especially now the plasters are repaired and glued together after fragmenting in the mouldmaking adding another layer to the experience.
They’re all around 60cms high…
Looking forward to seeing you there, tell all your friends!!!
In 2018 Edwards was awarded a commission by Doncaster Council to create a sculpture that celebrates the lives of those who had worked in the pits around Doncaster.
The sculpture consists of 40 portraits of former miners, whom Edwards sculpted in wax while they told their stories. These sessions were filmed by Doncaster College to form part of an online archive. In February 2021, A Rich Seam was installed in Doncaster City centre. The bronze faces sit in hand-made crevices of two 20 tonne pieces of York Stone from Huddersfield, with a central miner figure between them. 
Robert Macfarlane expressed that ‘In this unique project, Laurence Edwards has created a new kind of stone book: an extraordinary double-archive – told in bronze and told the story – of a generation and a community that is now close to disappearing.
Tadaaa….Finally after 4 years, here is Doncaster’s “A Rich Seam.” A tribute to Doncaster’s Mining community.’
Forty tonnes of York Stone arrived from Huddersfield, at the crack of dawn on Valentines day…but the crane didn’t!
So we unloaded the miner and placed him in the centre of the rather splendid Plinth.. and waited anxiously!
Like the seventh cavalry our lovely 100 tonne crane arrived at midday! Only 5 hours behind shedule. The first one had broken down, the second was too small.. so a ‘Mate’ with a crane in Leeds was asked to ‘do us a favour’… leaving an understandably irrate wife on a rather special morning!!
Our miner waited nervously as he was put into place the next day…
Reggie and George made sure the rocks sat safely, concreting, rather splendidly, between the cracks and crevices…
I did a great job at masking my confusion ‘Did I leave a box at home’??
Danny Heaton the man who took these photo’s was even co opted whilst I changed drill bits.
I’m not known for my perfectionism..
It all looks fantastic, better than I could of imagined.! In the quarry the rock looked aggresive and brutal.. but in the street it’s golden hues simmered and bounced off the buildings. It’s presence seemed to lend a sense of humanity to the street..
Whilst we were there the varieties of Yorkshire light showed themselves.
This was the sun at 3 o’clock!
The street is now being relaid with beautiful York stone slabs, lighting and seating. We are creating the information points which will guide the visitor to the forty films made to accompany each head, showing the modelling sessions and the testimony’s of each miner featured, a valuable archive set down for the future.. A big thankyou to camera shy Tom whose planning and forsight made it all happen on the day!!
The street opens at the beginning of April, so you’ll be able to visit then. We hope for a grand opening with brass bands and banners sometime this summer when the restrictions have hopefully lifted… watch this space, and thankyou for coming….
This month i’m taking you to a quarry in Yorkshire where we are carving niches for 40 miners portraits, for the public sculpture i’m making to celebrate Doncaster’s mining history.
To be installed next February.
Then you will see a Norman Soldier.. yes.. this one’s come out of the blue. A commission I recieved three years ago, (and had forgotten about) finally recieved its planning permission and suddenly a tight deadline presented itself.. alot of fun.. you’ll agree!!
Anyway enough of me.. lets go to the quarry…
‘Johnsons Wellfied’ in Huddersfield, where Freddy Morris my trusty stone carver and I stayed for ten days, cooking beautiful food (ready meals from the Co-op). Huddersfield is a truly beautiful Victorian town set on the edge of the Peak District in Yorkshire, I loved being there.. Here’s a photo Essay of the work done, black and whites by Bill Jackson, colour by me.
I think it’ll be a random set of photos, not in any particular order….
These are giant blocks of York stone, weighing about 25 tonnes each..
We drilled pilot holes first to establish where we were going to chisel..
At times it felt as if we were wandering through corridors of heads in ancient streets.
This stone recieves light so beautifully, I realised it would have been impossible to replocate this effect in any other material.
Excuse the armpit!
It became apparant early on that the heads should flow with the contours of the rock, they were set at different angles in harmony with the topography of the surfaces, bringing the viewing experience to life.
I decided to work with the scarring on the rocks, where the machinery had gashed and brutalized the surface..
This is John Davies, (above) who sadly succumbed to Covid this year, he is the first miner featured on the rocks to have passed away.
The blocks now sit and wait. A 6ft miner is being cast at the foundry and he will eventually stand between them in a newly refurbished street in Doncaster..
Next we have a 2mtre high Norman Soldier returning home to ‘Sweyns Camp’ in Ebbsfleet Kent, to a waiting family.
The sculpture is called the ‘Homecoming’ and has been commissioned to go on a site where once there was a Norman settlement, now a housing develpment.
I wanted there to be a certain anxiety as well as hope in his face and indeed, in the way he holds the ropes . I wanted to convey a man returning home after a long time away, having been through life changing experience. To a family that may also have changed.
His helmut hangs on his shield.. I love the shield, it was also a device I could use to express his emotional state, battered and scarred.
I loved hanging all the accoutrements on him, ambigous enough so the viewer could imagine what their purpose might be and what they may contain. Also making the tunic out of my old work overalls..
We start the casting after Christmas, and he’s due to be installed in April next year. If we are lucky we might be able to show him in Messum’s London space before he goes.
Well this is my opportunity to show the world what I made during Lockdown. I managed after a faltering start to get quite a bit done..
I suffered the anxiety of suddenly having a load of time with the business shut down. I couldn’t escape the feeling that in this ‘historic incredible time’ everything had to be brilliant, salient, relevant and about the now.. so after a series of works based on bog rolls and grabbing everything in the supermarket I gave up..
I started work on studio repairs, plastering the walls putting shelves up painting, tiling you know the sort of thing.. then! There was plaster left over in buckets that had to be used, (Can’t stand waste) I started to fill random moulds around the studio with the excess..
After a few weeks I’d inadvertently built up a collection of figure sculptures in plaster.. I remembered that i’d been intrigued by the scaling up process we used for the giant sculpture we are making, (see previous blogs) slicing up the plaster on the bandsaw. I thought i’d play with that.. so I started to slice up all the plasters i’d made on the bandsaw.
I soon had stacks of diced figures precariously balancing all over the place (and a rusty bandsaw!) I thought i’d amalgamate different figures, two or three at a time, pile them up to form stretched elongated figure forms.. I glued the first one up using plaster and was shocked by the strange stretched form i’d created.. During the following days I stacked and stuck figure after figure. Soon a crowd of figures populated the room (under the gaze of this torso i’d suspended from the ceiling a while back and had forgotten about), They all looked unnervingly in one direction, as though trying to work out a thing, a future, a strange place.
Every morning I entered the studio there they were querulously spying me, working me out, peering, leering looking over each others shoulders, through gaps, like a colony of Meerkat’s. Couples leaning together, mimicking each others poses, some holding hands, nervously comforting each other.
Half way through this I heard on the radio that the magnetic north pole had moved a few degrees from Alaska to Siberia.. all the navigational systems of the world had to re calibrate, this chimed perfectly with the leaning skewed figures I was making, standing as if on a tilting earth, compensating, trying to accommodate change.
I should shut up now and give you some pictures.. taken by Bill Jackson and Tim Bowden..
Here’s how the studio looked on entry every morning, greenery bursting through an open window, now impossible to shut!!
It was like a set from Midsummer nights dream.. no not midsummer murders!
I’ll slowly introduce you….
Here’s a couple of shots from guest photographer Claire Waddell!!
Ok here are some ‘Individual’s’ by Tim..
I have to say, I feel like they are friends, we’ve been through a lot together..
Johnny from the gallery loved them too, so we are going to show them in the London space next spring.. we think we’ll show all the plasters in one room, set up as in the studio and then a load of them in bronze in the next room.. It will be very interesting to be able to compare and contrast.