Zoe Wilson started out as an apprentice stonemason, carrying on having over 10 years of training in the craft and is now known as a very accomplished craftsman; Zoe brings forward the importance of appreciating a solid practical foundation

How would you describe your craft?

I am a stone carver and sculptor

How did you begin your career?

I don’t think there was a specific beginning moment to my career. I didn’t set out to be a stone carver or even know what one was. Looking back it evolved in a serendipitous way.

I started working with stone 11 years ago, but my passion for art and craft has always been present.

What is the hardest part about what you do?

Now I have learnt and developed the practical skills, I find being self employed can be difficult. I miss not having colleagues, working by myself for the majority of the time can be lonely and requires good self motivation. However I love being in charge of my own time and also knowing that my achievements rest solely on my shoulders

What makes your craftsmanship most rewarding?

Producing a piece that I’m really proud of technically and aesthetically, and someone else also enjoying it so much that they buy it.

Have you had any major pitfalls to overcome to maintain your craft?

Financially embarking on the three-year diploma involving moving to London was the biggest risk. Although I had been saving hard I still made the move and started the course without the money to complete it. I knew the course was pivotal to my career, and the only course of its kind, so I decided to take a leap of faith. This certainly meant that I valued every single day and really squeezed every drop of knowledge out of the tutors. I also spent the little free time I had applying for any bits of funding available. Thankfully I was successful with receiving a number of grants, the most significant being in my second year when I became a Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Trust scholar, and received funding to see me through to the end of the course, along with being a candidate for some fantastic opportunities which are on going.

Has your craft evolved into other/new skills over time?

Yes, I started out just knowing how to cut and polish granite, now I can carve gargoyles, model heads and carve poetry.

How would you describe a day in your role?

Everyday varies, which is something I particularly value. Sometimes I am at the computer coming up with ideas, developing designs, updating social media or my website etc. I may be in the workshop carving an existing piece, or sanding down a finished piece and adding the fixings. Or I might be out; visiting a quarry to buy stone, visiting a client for a commission or a gallery for inspiration.

If I’m carving I really like a whole day uninterrupted to get really stuck into it, whereas the other elements I tend to mix up so I have a morning out and an afternoon in.

How have you stayed passionate and inspired by your craft?

I find adding to my skills helps to keep me inspired and excited by what I do. I think the passion for creating is a very deeply rooted part of me and carving is my outlet for that.

How would your customers describe your craft?

Hopefully a cross over between art and craft which is bespoke and beautiful.

What are the accomplishments within your work in craftsmanship that you are most proud of?

There are a number of accomplishment that I’m really proud of, but two stick out in particular. Whilst at college one of the competitions I won was to design a new gargoyles for St. George’s Chapel at Windsor castle. I then produced a scale model of my design and went on to carve it ready for installation.

In 2017 I carved a piece for His Majesty the Sultan of Brunei. I was even more delighted to be able to present the piece to him and talk about the carving.

How does working with Qest support you/your craft?

QEST have been a huge support to me. Initially it was financially, their funding allowed me to finish training at the Art School. Since then so many opportunities have arisen though being one of their scholars. I try and say yes to as many opportunities as possible, such as; speaking on their behalf at the Royal Warren Holders AGM in St. James’s Palace, demonstrating and donating a piece at their annual charity event at the V&A Museum. The staff are always really helpful and keen to promote my business wherever possible, which is just a really lovely support to have.

How would you describe John Smedley?

A traditional British manufacturing company specialising in high quality, fine knitwear. Evolving to stay contemporary whilst maintaining a high level of craftsmanship and staying true to their brand and reputation.

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