Having established his first studio in the New Forest nearly 20 years ago, Michael Turner has become one of the area’s most successful artists thanks to a global clientele that today includes chef Gordon Ramsay who owns several of his pieces including Gorilla on a Crate and the Crocodile on a Box.
Raised in Ashley and trained in Bournemouth, Michael is proud of his New Forest roots – his website even states “Lovingly made in Lymington” – and while his works may travel around the world, Michael is most famous in the area for getting the local community involved in his projects including Free Art Fridays and The Poppy Project.
Married to Jenny and dad to Thomas, seven and five-year-old Ellen, Michael tells New Forest Escapes how E.T was his inspiration and where you can find the best fossils…
I grew up in the New Forest, first in Ashley and then Ringwood before I went to Bournemouth Art College, which is where I really got into art. I went straight from school as a 16-year-old and worked with so many different people of all ages doing a taste of everything including print-making, model making and life drawing.
Ask any artist and most of them have something from their childhood that got them inspired… for me it was ET. I was obsessed. I was constantly drawing it or making models – my mother has piles of old sketches. I still get obsessed with things now, whether it’s with my work or making wine or electric skateboards.
Most of my work is inspired by the natural world but the ideas can come from so many different places… The huge swordfish came from watching Blue Planet and a two-second clip of the fish darting through the water and that was it – I had to make one.
I don’t like repeating the same thing so there always has to be something different or unique in each piece. I’ve tried working in wood, ceramic and paint – and sometimes I do get jealous of those artists working with such subtle textures – but metal can be such a fluid and flexible material. And it doesn’t break or fall apart which is something I love about the pieces… They are forever.
Last year was my 20th anniversary as an artist so I wanted to revisit some of the work that first got me noticed. It was only by doing the dragonflies and sardines again that I realized how much I had missed them and how loved they were, especially by everyone locally. Doing big projects like my Arabian Horses or Dinosaurs is always a thrill and a challenge, but I’m also really proud of my smaller pieces as it connects me to people in the area who like collecting my work.
I haven’t had my “made it” moment yet and I don’t know what it would be when it happened. How do you clarify something like that? I do look at my work and I’m really proud of what I do. There’s something wonderful about finishing a project in your workshop – you would think that was enough – but then it gets displayed in the gallery at Heathrow Terminal 5 and suddenly there’s a ‘wow’ moment when it’s out of the studio and on show for everyone to see.
I’m so happy to be part of The Coastal Gallery in Lymington, Stewart and Bev work so hard to support local artists and reach out to people about what’s happening in the New Forest. The ArtSway summer exhibitions are also an example of how they are trying to find more space to help artists exhibit their work. www.artsway.org.uk
Being a part of the community is hugely important to me and I get involved as much as I can – some of my pieces have been to the kid’s schools in Milford before they went off to the galleries. It is lovely how everyone is rooting for you and recognizing your work.
The Poppy Project started when I inherited my grandfather’s medals and I wanted to mark Remembrance Sunday in his honour. Every year I make 11 poppies and every hour during the day I hide one and through my Facebook page I leave clues on how to find them. It’s so wonderful to get the lovely messages and see how people get so involved with the search.
Free Art Fridays is about inspiring everyone to get involved with art and I started doing it around Lymington on the last Friday of every month. I leave a small piece of my work hidden somewhere with clues and whoever finds it gets to keep it. It’s just a little way of giving back and having fun at the same time.
For more information on this incredible local artist visit www.michaelturnerstudios.co.uk