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Bishop's Stortford carver unveils new creation at St Michael's Hurst

A Bishop's Stortford letter carver's latest work of art is now in place at St Michael's Hurst.

Simon Langsdale, who lives in the town and has just moved his studio from Digswell to Parndon Mill in Harlow, won a public vote last summer to create a centrepiece for the new estate off Rye Street and Farnham Road.

His winning entry was a collaboration with craftsman Steve Woodley. Their design beat a steel and decorative panel design proposed by Matt Johnson, an artist and draughtsman working in Stortford.

Steve Woodley and Simon Langsdale with their vine-inspired obelisk (38152458)
Steve Woodley and Simon Langsdale with their vine-inspired obelisk (38152458)

Simon said: "Steve selected the tree from local woodland and then hewed the log by hand with axes. My role was to design and carve the lettering and the vine leaves."

The viticulture theme was set by developer Countryside as part of the commission to reflect the history of the land where the new homes were built. It is believed the Romans cultivated grapes in Stortford, and Hazel End Vineyard in Farnham makes award-winning vintages.

Simon said: "I immediately thought of the vineyard at Hazel End and visited it to draw vine leaves and find out which grape varieties they use. I could really visualise the vine leaves going around an obelisk and knew that these, combined with the surface Steve can create with axes, would be a beautiful combination."

Creating the obelisk (38152452)
Creating the obelisk (38152452)

The vineyard grows four grape varieties: Bacchus, Huxelrebe, Reichensteiner and Muller Thurgau. Simon inscribed the names on the faces of the obelisk.

Steve started the botanical theme by basing the form of the obelisk on proportions based on the Fibonacci sequence, which is commonly found in nature, for example in the formation of branches, leaves, flowers and seeds.

Their creation – 2.1m (6ft 11in) tall and 30cm (1ft) wide at the foot – stands on a stone base in the central square of the development.

Simon said: "I became a letter carver because I trained as a calligrapher, which is where my understanding of lettering comes from, and I met the letter carver Tom Perkins, who was teaching drawn lettering.

Erecting the sculpture (38152456)
Erecting the sculpture (38152456)

"I realised that I wanted to be a letter carver because I really connected with the idea of drawing and designing my own letters. I then trained with Tom for a year and also with other letter carvers before starting my own workshop in 2010.

"It's important to me that I hand-carve my work and use natural materials as it concerns me that as a society we are becoming more and more removed from the act of making and from the natural environment. The process also slows me down and allows me time to think."

Catherine Brooking, managing director, Housebuilding Central, Countryside, said: "As voted by the residents and local council, this striking yet elegant public artwork from artists, Simon Langsdale and Steve Woodley is the perfect addition to this new neighbourhood. The sculpture at St Michael's Hurst creates a focal point for the local community and its peaceful setting encourages residents and visitors to stop and take some time out of everyday life."

East Herts Council leader, Cllr Linda Haysey, added: "This attractive statue has beautifully incorporated local history into this focal point piece so it’s particularly fitting that it was designed by a Bishop’s Stortford artist and chosen by the people of the town."

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