Regular readers of my blog will know that last year I joined Wildlife Worldwide’s Festival of Wildlife in Spitsbergen. During the trip I ran workshops for the passengers. For my demonstration I made a polar bear sculpture, which was auctioned to raise funds for sea bird monitoring and planting native trees here in Devon.
The client who won the polar bear sculpture turned out to be a serious wildlife enthusiast. He had recently visited Greenland and had been struck by sightings of the extraordinary musk ox. He decided it would make a great subject for a sculpture. We agreed the details and, full of enthusiasm, I started work on the musk ox sculpture.
As with all my animal sculpture commissions, I start with the anatomy. While researching musk ox, I discovered they are not bovine (related to cows) nor do they secrete musk! They are in fact a type of wild goat, along the lines of an American mountain goat sporting a huge woolly coat. The ‘musk’ smell that was noted by European settlers was most likely the smell of urine on the coat.
Musk ox are prehistoric looking creatures, and I felt it was important to capture the inherent wildness of these magnificent beasts. They sport a very interesting coat, which transitions from a thick wool covering on their backs to longer almost hairlike strands on the legs. This was certainly challenging to model. Clay is a very solid material. It isn’t easy to create the impression of soft hair blowing in the wind.
As the musk ox sculpture took shape, my next challenge became the glaze. I settled on a matt finish to achieve a natural, rugged look. The finish was built up by carefully applying multiple layers of underglaze. A light sheen was applied to the eyes to keep them shiny and engaging.
I know from my own experience that a wildlife trip can provide memories that stay with you forever. There’s no better way to commemorate the experience than by commissioning a unique artwork. If you’ve had a similar experience on your wildlife trip, contact the studio and we can create your own unique animal sculpture to celebrate the event.