I’ve been privileged to be involved with the Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition for over twenty years now. They first approached me to make the trophies for the award winners in 1998, when they were presented by Sir David Attenborough.
I was later commissioned to make the trophies for the adult and youth winners. I’ve since gone on to produce a variety of trophies all based on the animals in the winning images. From ants to snub-nosed monkeys, elephants to squid, I never know what I will be making!
This year I was once again commissioned to make the trophies for what has become the most prestigious wildlife photography competition in the world. This year’s trophies were some of the most challenging yet! How to sculpt a fish in water and a microscopic spider on a web… in ceramic?
Selected from over 50,000 entries, Creation by Laurent Ballesta was the grand title winner Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2021. His striking photograph of a camouflage grouper fish depicts a fish diving and turning.
As a sculptor, I was immediately taken by the beautiful curve running down its spine and the way its fins articulate its movement. I added texture to the surface so light would bounce off the glaze and bring a sense of depth and dimensionality to the piece. I mounted the finished sculpture on a piece of polished granite to suggest watery reflections bouncing off the dark depths of the ocean.
Vidyuan R Hebbar’s winning entry in the youth category depicted a tiny tent spider and presented me with a real challenge. How was I going to sculpt a spider no more than 15mm wide?
I knew from outset that I would need to include the spider’s web as this is such an intrinsic part of Vidyuan’s photograph. I eventually decided to mount the spider on a piece of Tourmaline crystal, which is characterise by web-like crystal clusters, to suggest the spider’s web.
The spider itself was too small to sculpt in ceramic so I enlisted the help of Daniel Wilds, a designer Goldsmith based in Kent. I asked him to make the spider from silver with the abdomen inset with snowflake obsidian. Daniel’s attention to detail and artistry were very impressive and I was delighted with the result.
The Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2021 ceremony can be viewed on YouTube with Chris Packham and Megan McCubbin presenting the awards. The exhibition is now showing in the Natural History Museum from 15 Oct 2021 until 5 June 2022.