Johnny has established himself as the regions foremost stone mason and stone sculptor artist. Harrogate-News spent some time with him to understand where he has come from and what motivates him to do the things that he does.
He moved from Sunderland to Harrogate at the age of 1. At the time time, the houses in Harrogate were cheaper, there were more jobs available and Johnny’s father didn’t want him to go down the mines which would of likely happened.
Johnny: “I went to Rosset school but only really liked the practical subjects like pottery, woodwork and metalwork, unfortunately I never converted that interest into exam passes!”
“Leaving School I headed to Harrogate College for 4 years and studied for my CITV in Bricklaying and was the top of the class, being awarded student of the year and featuring in the Harrogate Advertiser”
Upon leaving College Johnny worked with a family run business working on high-quality barn conversions. “2 years at the trowel every day – constant was a great grounding for me”
Leaving after 2 years he then worked for a number of big construction companies, Johnny commented “the money was good, but I really wanted to do much more decorative work”
Johnny: “all the time I wanted to test my own skills, not square boxes but natural curves that lend themselves to nature”
“I approached a few people, often big gardens or houses and they were interested in my work but always asked if they could see some examples, all I could say was that I just know I can it, which was often received by a sudden lack in interest. It made me realise that I needed to do more to get a portfolio together”
“I decided to use slate and build what I called the egg. Eggs are something that have been sculpted for many thousands of years”
The egg was a big success and something he is incorporating into a design he is building this summer. But he still felt he had much more inside him. Johnny explained further “I had the idea of doing a scorpion from slate and it just became an almost constant thought, just something that I needed to do”
Johnny built the scorpion, again from slate but using carving techniques used by inuits in North America where they just suggest the features of a carving.
Johnny: “I felt such sense of release and achievement after building the scorpion, nobody else in the country is using stone like I am”
We asked him where he is going next: “Right now I am not sure, building the scorpion was a big step. I know I am going somewhere though!”
Today he is at the leading edge of using stone, both in his sculptures and in his work on stone walls. His designs are radical but somehow also blend with nature in a way that makes big statement but also works with the environment. His work comes from his heart and is done with passion. We look forward in seeing where he goes next.