JIM Stewart, 44, is a wood sculptor, based in Lisburn. He recently got involved with VSL who have provided him with a small workshop so he can develop his unusual technique which involves creating sculptures through the use of a chainsaw.
Jim developed a passion for sculpting wood as a young boy when he used a Swiss army knife to carve faces into apples- This skill led him into woodwork teaching where he could pass on his skills to others.
Jim, who is married with four children, left his teaching job due to ill health but found sculpting wood very therapeutic. A friend was running a workshop with VSL and he told the organisers about Jim's skills. Soon Jim was asked to share his talent and now he runs workshops and produces commissioned works of art. VSL was established in 1981 in order to provide help to those in need within the community. In 2008 they established the furniture refurbishment arm of the business, restoring second hand furniture donated by the public and selling it on at affordable prices- This process has enabled VSL to take on the long term unemployed, those on community service orders and others who may find it difficult to gain employment and provide them with training into the cleaning, restoration and refurbishment of second hand furniture.
Trainees are provided with qualifications, along with their work experience, increasing their future employability. Further to this, through working with individuals like Jim, VSL are able to support the ambitions of local people and provide them with the resources which are essential for starting out on their own.
The time of day and weather dictates when I can start working. Most days I don't start until about 9.30am as I have to adhere to noise pollution regulations.
All the wood I work with is recycled timber which would normally be chopped up for firewood. It is all locally sourced.
The logs are big so this means a lot of my work is spent on site to bring it down to size. Then I transport it back to my workshop at VSL.
I use a chainsaw to start off my creations and then I finish off the more intricate details with regular tools.
A lot of my work is produced for shows and demonstrations and many end up as charity pieces which will be auctioned off. I get lots of different requests from individuals and groups which have included angels and grizzly bears to name a few.
Most pieces I am working on take me about under a week to do. I like to concentrate on one project at a time. This means it gets my full attention.
I have clients all over the country. When someone makes contact I find out their budget and what they are looking for. I will then work out costs, and give the client an idea of the size and plan of the sculpture.
Some people have trees felled in their gardens and they ask me to try and
stumps more aesthetically pleasing. In this case I might turn a stump into a toadstool. The results are usually well received.
I am also hoping to offer woodworking classes in partnership with VSL. I think a lot of people who are interested in woodwork are fascinated with my style and it is always nice to be able to give advice to others about the work that I do.
My work is really varied and something I love to do. It allows me to be very creative and it gives me a sense of satisfaction and helps keep my mind focused. I am enjoying working with VSL. It was nerve wrecking going out on my own but I've been taking small steps and it means everything to me. I have been given the chance to turn a hobby into a profession and it feels amazing.