The New Artisans, Thames and Hudson, Olivier Dupont
Great artisanship comes from dedication to and reverence for a chosen material. Ceramicists love porcelain, paper sculptors worship vellum, and naturally a woodcarver treasures wood, a living material with an inherent pliability. Nic Webb, whose utensils are handcrafted using traditional tools and techniques, ‘to minimize the impact of my making’, is a true master. An object as utilitarian as a spoon would scarcely attract our attention if it were not for Nic’s talent and vision, but he is a staunch defender: ‘The spoon is an ancient tool that is recognized and has its place within every culture. It is an object that serves us every day, a symbol of nourishment and hope.’ Currently working in London, within a community of artists and makers at Vanguard Court Studios in Camberwell, Nic is passionate about his craft and the possibility of sourcing his favourite material ethically and sustainably. ‘I love to work with green wood [fresh, living wood] because of its malleability,’ he says. ‘It can twist and move in the process of seasoning, creating wonderful natural surprises and allowing great freedom in my making.’ Nic obtains much of his raw material from working in London’s parks and gardens, though he also collects timber from all over the UK; in addition, friends bring him fine examples from all over the world. ‘When I begin carving,’ he says, ‘I look for the differing qualities in each piece, allowing the grain and character to influence the design. Each spoon or bowl evolves to have its own personality, and, when finished, becomes a showcase for the limitless beauty of wood.’ On occasion Nic also works with combinations of precious metals, ceramics and stone. ‘I intend to pursue an organic approach to making,’ he states, ‘allowing my materials to suggest both form and narrative.’ While enjoying all aspects of the making process, Nic ultimately finds most rewarding the pleasure of seeing and handling the finished objects. He explores themes of germination and decay, creating objects that appear not so much to have been made by hand as to have grown or been formed by processes of natural erosion: Nic Webb as the right hand of nature.