10 minutes with… Natasha Houseago

“Being a sculptor, it’s the best life and it’s good for your soul”

Natasha appears from behind a tall hedge with dark glasses, bucket hat and long, tanned legs and arms, “I’m half Greek, so I’m made for working outdoors among the trees!”

10 Jun 2023

Immediately chatty, friendly and energetic it doesn’t take long for us to get into a lively discussion about the merits of the art community in Cheltenham. She’s a loyal member of the Cheltenham Group of Artists and a big supporter of Cheltenham Open Studios, “It’s absolutely essential to be part of my local artistic community. I carve whether I’m working on a commission or not – it’s a compulsion, it’s medicinal.”

Natasha is currently working on a large sculpture of a refugee girl, hand carved from a Wellingtonia with its intense red wood, which will head off to the Everyman Theatre and then Gloucester Cathedral, highlighting the plight of displaced children. It’s very important to her that sculpture is enjoyed by the public and even better if it’s sending a message. She’s so happy carving at Nature in Art, a peaceful spot with a regular stream of friendly visitors. You can visit her there as part of Cheltenham Open Studios on 28th September and 1 – 3rd October.

“I worked at Nature in Art all through lockdown, which was a godsend because I was able to see and talk to people and work in this beautiful place. It’s great that it’s open again as I love carving in public and talking to people.” Natasha has certainly harnessed lockdown in a positive way securing residencies at both Nature in Art and the Rococo Gardens, developing her practice. You can find her there on 25th, 26th, 29th & 30th of September where she’ll be hand carving and also running an ‘Ash Dieback Wood Carving Workshop’ on 26th September. “It’s wonderful to be carving from the ash dieback, because we’re going to loose 80% of our ash trees and I’m giving the wood another life.”

Photograph of Natasha Houseago creating a sculpture

Are you a trained artist or self-taught? How did you get into your practice?

Yes, I’m a fully trained artist, A-level, Art Foundation, degree and finally a Postgraduate in Cyprus. I loved working 3 dimensionally from an early age and was using wood in my early foundation years. I was brought up in Leeds and was influenced by Henry Moore's direct carvings and began actually carving wood on my degree course in Brighton.

I loved working with a solid, organic material, the history and tactile quality of each piece of wood is amazing. You collaborate and form a relationship with your material. It has soaked up its own unique history and that inspires and drives the sculpture.

What are the core values of your life and work as an artist? What really matters to you?

I feel as an Artist integrity, honesty and professionalism are key elements to my practice and life. I'm absolutely passionate about the importance of art in our lives, particularly sculpture out in our community and its ability to brighten people’s lives.

How important is being part of your local artist community?

It's absolutely essential to be part of my local artistic community. I'm a member of The Cheltenham group of artists and I've really missed our regular meeting during Covid. The Open Studios is a fantastic event, bringing artists together to open up their studios and exhibit new work.

What project / commission / collection are you currently working on?

A large carved refugee girl in Wellingtonia for the Everyman Theatre in Cheltenham. It's being carved at Nature in Art and will be starting it's tour at The Lady Chapel Gloucester Cathedral on the 8th of October. The second project is a year long residency at Rococo Gardens, Painswick where I'm carving fallen ash from die-back disease. This is funded by the Arts Council, developing my creative practice.

Is there an artist or an individual who has inspired or mentored you over the years?

Brancusi, Henry Moore, Hepworth, Ossip Zadkine, David Nash and many others.

What one tool can’t you live without?

My old Landrover – I love it! Also, my tools. I found a whole set of tools at a car boot sale recently and was delighted!

What is the best thing about being an artist?

To be a sculptor is incredible, exciting, doing my working drawings in the evenings. I go to sleep working out in my mind how I’m going to carve a certain element or form. To do something everyday that you love and are passionate about is truly wonderful. It’s not always easy, huge physical work, I literally carve my days away, but it is the best work to have and is good for your soul. Since Covid I've been so busy and tried to ensure all my commissions and projects are made in beautiful outside spaces where people can watch the creative process and see the work develop. As an artist I don't want to work in isolation and find the feedback from the public inspires my work.

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