Steven John Clark sculpts bespoke pieces which rely on his spatial intuition and embody an organic and ethereal fluidity.
Tell us a little about your childhood - where did you grow up?
I grew up in a little country village in the South of Scotland in a town called Denholm. At the time, there were around 600 people in the village, so it was small community. I was left to my own devices at a young age - the village was like a little family in itself. Looking back, you think everyone's childhood is like that. My childhood was idyllic in the respect that I had freedom. It was only when I got to around 14 or 15 years old that things changed and the village started to feel quite small and I was ready to see the rest of the world. When I was old enough - it was all about leaving school and finding a trade, I wasn't allowed to leave school unless this happened.
Were you arty back then?
No, I was really sporty - I played soccer at a high level and the plan was to become a professional soccer player. At the age of 16, I went to Ibiza with all my friends - you can imagine what that was like for a 16 year old! It opened me up to lots of different things, so I started going to festivals - I found out while there that a lot of people would be wearing their own handmade garments. I was really into it, so I decided to make my own clothing for festivals as well. This fast become a thing, my mates started asking me to make their garments - I would use my granny’s sewing machine to create them! In the space of a year it tipped - I was spending a lot of time in my bedroom at night making outfits. I wasn’t making garments from scratch, but more taking pieces apart and putting them back together. From there I wanted to study fashion. I left my trade in construction at around 18 years old and moved to Glasgow to study a foundation course in fashion.
When did you discover sculpting?
Bobby (Artist Bobby Clark, Steven’s wife, who we’ve profiled here) and I met in Glasgow on the fashion course and studied textiles together. We’d planned on moving to London after we finished our degree but we felt like we didn't want to go from being students to having no money and starting as interns in London. We decided to travel to Australia to work and moved to Melbourne when I was 26, which was ten years ago. We’ve never looked back. We fell in love with Melbourne instantly. I moved back into construction and worked as a stonemason for five or six years - working on high-end domestic jobs. Towards the end of the 6 years I started getting the itch to do something creative. At the time I was making a lot of stuff out of cement.
When did you first start seeing it all a creative light?
I didn't want to be working in a trade - I wanted to be an artist. In Melbourne we shared a little studio with Pop & Scott - it was here that a friend of Bobby’s wanted a plinth made for a photoshoot. She knew I was a stonemason and asked if I could make one. So I made her one and everyone lost their shit! It was after this I had a lightbulb moment, where I thought, ‘This could be something.’ I then went off and made a few more sculptures and plinths. Within the space of 4 or 5 months I’d quit my job and found a warehouse to work in.
What’s your design process like?
It can be a lengthy process in terms of the start, getting the brief and also coming up with the narrative in my mind about where the piece needs to go in the space and also respond to the clients needs. When I work on a commission I need to make sure it will work for the client. I really react to the space and how my work will work in that space.
Your pieces are so large yet have so much lightness and movement - how do you create this?
When I create something, George (Steven’s apprentice, George Greathead) and I always stand back and mark eight points around the object. We then move from each point and we’ll give it a score for movement and drama. The way I want to walk around my sculpture - I don't want the viewer to predict what’s on the other side. I don't want you to read it. Sometimes when you look at an object you can read it straight away - then you’re finished with the piece.
So there is just you and George at the moment in your studio - do you think your team will grow bigger?
I think so - I would really like my team to grow to 4 to 6 people, but maybe they don't all make sculptures but it’s more of a design team. I would really love to have a range of products, but not just made from stone. The idea was never just to work with stone - it just turned out to be the starting place.
What does the remainder of this year look like for you creatively?
We’re working on a lot of commissions and also about to finish one of the biggest sculptures I’ve ever made. It’s for a residential space in Brighton -and weighs around 450 kilos. I‘m really enjoying working on it - it can be quite difficult scaling up, but I love the challenge.