A world-class talent with an incandescent career: Wyecliffe is incredibly proud to welcome David Goode and his astonishing sculptures.
With a career that began with a running start - Madame Tussauds - David travelled the world for sittings with many famous figures: including Freddie Mercury, Joan Collins, Madonna, Ronald Reagan and Yasser Arafat. At only twenty one he soon became in-demand for his technical mastery and ability to capture that undefinable quality of character in his subjects...
Now bringing his full unfettered imagination to bear: David lives and works in Oxford, crafting his Goblin collection. Brimming with personality, skill and attention to the finest detail: we're delighted to present this incredible series.
Chatting to David, we've discovered ever-surprising insights into his life and work...
Every sculpture you create starts with clay - and you’ve mentioned it can take 7 months to become the completed bronze sculpture. Can you tell us a little about what happens in this process and how your ideas evolve?
It usually begins with a very rough thumbnail sketch or a few words which I may have scribbled in my sketchbook years ago in a moment of inspiration. I don't do any detailed drawings, I just launch straight in to the sculpture, knowing that the materials will allow me the freedom to 'make it up as I go along'. I use maleable aluminium for the armature, so if I decide to change the pose half way through, I can just bend the aluminium to suit. I build up the forms by adding clay to the armature, taking care to make sure that the anatomy is correct. My goblins are really just humans that have been tweaked a bit here and there, so they follow the same anatomical rules as a human.
The early stage is quite quick. I usually have the rough shape of the figure completed by the end of the first week.
After that it slows down, as I start to refine the forms and eventually add in the details. I make the armature in such a way that I am able to remove parts to work on them separately. It is much easier to work on a head, for example, if it is off the figure and on a separate stand. As the character starts to take shape, it is almost as though I am getting to know a new friend. When I'm happy with the clay model, I cut it into a number of parts, and make a mould of each part, using silicone rubber with a fibreglass outer layer for support. The moulds go off to the foundry where they are filled with wax. When the wax cools, the mould is removed and the wax is covered in a ceramic material. This is then fired in a kiln. The ceramic 'shell' hardens and the wax melts out leaving a void into which bronze can be poured. When the bronze is cool, the ceramic shell is broken off and the bronze parts are welded together. The final process is patination - using chemicals to alter the colour of the bronze surface. It is a wonderful moment when I finally get to see the finished bronze!
Why have you picked the Lost Wax Method for your work?
The lost wax method is remarkable, in that a fingerprint can be taken from the clay to the bronze without any loss of detail. No other casting method can offer this and, given that my work is so detailed, it is the obvious choice. In the early days, I experimented with 'cold cast bronze', or bronze resin, but I found that the thin fingers and ears of my little chaps were too fragile in that material, and would break at the slightest knock.
What lead you to study at the Sir Henry Doulton School of Sculpture?
I always knew that I wanted to be an artist, but initially I had decided to study illustration. It wasn't until I was 18 that I discovered a love of creating art in three dimensions. One of my tutors told me about a new sculpture school that had recently opened in Stoke-on-Trent, near to my home town. I went to have a look and, as soon as I set foot in the place, I knew that this was what I wanted to do.
Please could you expand on the inspiration for the series of works? Every piece has so much character and expression, they feel as though they are parts of a story.
I have always had a love of the imagery of fantasy and folklore. My father read Tolkien to me when I was very young, and I was captivated by the idea of elves, fairies, dwarves and goblins. My goblins are not derived from any particular story, I simply try to imagine a world in which such creatures exist, and then I think about what they might do as they secretly interact with our world. The most common theme is mischief! A goblin visiting your garden at night, would not be there to help! he'd be upturning your plant pots, planting weeds, or even scattering snails!
What was it like working with Madame Tussauds? Does your time there continue to influence you?
Working as a portrait sculptor for Madame Tussauds was a dream job for me. I started there on leaving college at 21 and I was straight in at the deep end, sculpting the stars! The studio was lively and full of humour and fun. I made some lifelong friends there. I also met Jo, the eye maker, who later became my wife! I'm certain that I would not have been able to progress to inventing my characters without having spent all those years studying human faces. My goblins are believable because they have been created using a wealth of anatomical knowledge that I gained from my time as a waxwork sculptor.
Do you have any anecdotes from your time working with Arnie, George Michael or anybody that you can share? I bet you have some great stories!
During my second year, I was sent to Tunisia to meet Yasser Arafat. The sitting took place at 2am under armed guard in a secret PLO safe house. There was a comical moment when a huge guard with a kalashnikov searched my equipment. He jumped back in alarm when he opened a box and found it was full of eyes! We always took eyes with us to match the colour and size.
What inspired the evolution from moviestars and musicians to faeries and goblin-folk?
Although I really enjoyed working for Madame Tussauds, I had an ambition to be my own artist and to make and sell my own work. Not an uncommon dream for any artist. After six years of sculpting the famous folk, and now with a wife and twin baby boys, I took the leap of faith of striking out on my own. We moved to Oxford and I set up a studio doing any freelance sculpting work that I could get, while at the same time, working on the first of what would become my goblin collection. I had always known that, if I had the freedom to create my own work, it would come from the world of fantasy and folklore. I just didn't know whether anyone would want to buy it!
Why is it important for you to work with British and American Foundries?
The 3 foundries that I use are all superb when it comes to recreating my work in all its detail. Their craftsmanship when working the bronze is nothing short of amazing. A lot of my collectors are from the US so it makes sense that one of the foundries that I use is based there.
How do you relax? Does sculpture leave you much time for pastimes outside of the studio?
I am a keen skydiver and paramotor pilot. One major advantage of being self employed is that I can choose to work when the weather's bad and fly when it's good!
Is there a particular work that you have found most satisfying to create - or proved to be challenging?
I am particularly fond of 'Snailmaker', as he was my first. I also really like 'The Aviator', as he's like a cross between my work and my hobbies. 'A game of Chess', was definitely the most challenging as it evolved from two characters sitting opposite each other, through a whole series of different compositions, to the final piece with the jester hanging upside down! I am however, very proud of the end result.
Why have you chosen to do miniatures and why did you select the open-edition format?
Through all of my years of selling my work, I've heard two complaints repeatedly. That a piece is sold out and the customer can't have it, and that my work is too expensive and the customer can't afford it. The miniatures will never sell out and, although they can never be cheap, they are at least more accessible than their larger, limited edition counterparts.