If you are walking among the web of footpaths which make up Gorsey Bank on the edge of Wirksworth you may be intrigued by a tap-tapping sound and the chink of a chisel striking stone.
It will mean you have stumbled across the home of sculptor Sue Allanson who works beneath a modest shelter in her garden which has beautiful views over the market town.
The weather isn’t an issue for Sue, if it’s cold she just wraps up a bit warmer before heading out to carve, so whatever the time of year she is likely to be out there chipping away at a stone that has inspired her to pick it up.
“I am so passionate about carving in stone I want to be doing it whenever I can,” she says enthusiastically.
“It is hard to explain but probably all my life I had this yearning to create something in stone but for years was just never brave enough to do it.
“At school I had been told I was no good at drawing so I was not encouraged to do art.
“I have worked in clay and wood but I didn’t like what I had produced.
“I have always been inspired by the likes of Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth and it was a short course at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park in Wakefield which finally set me off on the right path. Once I had worked in stone there was no turning back and it has become my passion.
“I am inspired by nature, mythology and Buddhist thought and I want to express a deeper sense of consciousness through my work.
“I like to find random pieces of stone in the quarry which may suggest a form to me. I spend ages sitting with it and turning it around. I may have an initial idea but my way of carving directly on to the stone helps me find the essence of the stone and lets it speak to me.
“It might sound a bit pretentious,” she says with a wry grin, “But that is how I do it. I feel that there is a dialogue between the stone and myself. It’s an earthy primeval thing.”
It was more than 20 years ago that Sue went on the course at Wakefield and she has been exhibiting regularly since then at festivals and galleries while also enjoying a career as a social worker and play therapist before officially retiring in March.
She says that she is largely self-taught but has studied with two sculptors local to the region; Simon Manby at Wootton near Ashbourne and Andy Oldfield at Grindleford.
“I don’t really class myself as a ‘proper artist’,” she says modestly. “I had two stabs at studying and did a couple of years on a Fine Art course at Wolverhampton University and have a post graduate certificate in Art and Design from Derby University, but in reality it didn’t work for me as we were encouraged to work in lots of media and I knew I wanted to work in stone, so to do anything else seemed a waste.
“Communicating with someone else through my art is what it is all about for me. The first time I realised that people may want to buy my work was so exciting and that feeling has never really disappeared – although 20 years down the line I would quite like to get back to the innocence of when I first started,” she says thoughtfully.
Go to http://www.sueallanson.co.uk for more details about her work.