It would not be an exaggeration to say that artist April Young had a less than conventional childhood.
She can tell you some jaw-dropping tales from her young life spent in Africa, Newcastle, and the Derby council estate where she spent most of her formative years.
What is obvious from listening to April talk is that all her adventures, good, bad, and carefree, have moulded her into the sassy 45-year-old woman she is today.
“I always lived in a fantasy world as a child and consider life to be like a carousel ride. It has its highs and lows but you are never in control of it, and you never know what might happen. When something presents itself to me I like to just jump in with both feet and get on with it,” she said with conviction.
As a result of her adventures April missed out on gaining formal qualifications as a teenager and chose to go to university in Glasgow to study literature and fine art much later than the norm.
“When I arrived in Glasgow to study I knew I would want a studio and the only space available was in the ceramics studio, so I took it and started working with clay. The others all laughed at me at first but I kept going.”
Having honed her artistic skills and started building her reputation as an internationally-regarded sculptor and painter in the Scottish city, she returned to Derby where she is now embarking on the latest chapter in her life – running her own gallery.
“I may not have followed the usual path to higher education but the job I had before deciding to study art has helped me with the commercial side of the business and I don’t regret anything I have done.
“Over the last 15 years, since I first started creating my sculptures, I have sold work all over the world and been commissioned to produce a variety of pieces including life-size bronze figures for Morgan Stanley’s Glasgow headquarters.
“When I first came back to Derby I had a studio at Banks Mill, but three years ago I decided to take space above a shop in Sadler Gate.”
Since then two other artists Kerri Pratt and Colin Halliday have moved in, and the ground floor shop became available.
“With Kerri’s help I have opened The Anvil Gallery (it backs onto Blacksmith Yard) with the intention of making art more accessible in Derby.
“We want the gallery to be sophisticated, yet approachable. I think the people of Derby, who have a wealth of skills themselves, will respect the craftsmanship involved in what we do.
“There is not much visibility for the successful artists in the city. I want to change that and to share my work with the people from my home town.”
April creates expressive, figurative pieces in a variety of materials from clay to foundry bronze.
“My work is inspired by movement and the natural world but I also love literature, folklore and mythology – especially the Celtic traditions and Scottish poets. I like to think of my work as Romanticism without it being romantic,” she explained.
April’s animal studies have won her considerable acclaim. She is probably best known for her smoke-fired horse series and more recently for her Where It Stops exhibition of carousel horses, which explore the turmoil of adolescence and aspiration that she experienced growing up, as well as the challenges she has embraced in adulthood.
Like many young girls April was obsessed with horses as a child. But living on a council estate she could only dream of owning one.
One of her more incredible stories is of the time she found a ‘pony for loan’ in the small ads of the local paper.
“I was determined to have a pony and without involving my mum I actually had it delivered in a horse transporter onto the estate. I planned to keep it on the sidings at Chaddesden. It was an all too brief episode of wish fulfilment, because when the owner realised my plans she took it away again,” said the artist laughing at the memory.
“My obsession with horses has never gone away but instead of wishing for the impossible I now channel that energy into my art.”
Find out more about April at http://www.aprilyoung.co.uk. She has a solo show at The Anvil Gallery from October 20-November 16.