The Making of 'Silent Shadow'

Creating Silent Shadow

Richard Cooper met with Keith Sherwin, the designer and sculptor behind the magnificent ‘Silent Shadow’, a life-size Barn Owl to hear all about the inspiration behind the piece.

What inspired you to create this piece Keith? 

An early morning walk in the Staffordshire countryside with my dog Keeley.  It was late September and we were wandering through rough grass pasture near a wooded area when I remembered this was ideal hunting ground for a Barn Owl!  I have seen them in this location before.

Amongst the thickets, I noticed hedge bindweed with the last flowers of the season almost luminous in the poor light, then fallen branches with bracket fungi beginning to form.  A beautiful spider’s web glistening in the morning light also caught my eye and it was then that my thoughts turned to creating a sculpture that could combine all of these elements.

I wanted to capture the grace of a Barn Owl landing in the environment that I had seen on that misty morning….

So why make it life-size?!

I really enjoy a challenge and I have been sculpting birds for many years.  If I wanted to incorporate all the flora and fauna I had seen, it would need to be life-size!  I knew it would need to be cast in bronze to allow for detail and to avoid breakages in the delicate areas.

Do you sketch your ideas first?

Sometimes I do and sometimes I go straight to making mock-ups of the design in wax.  On this occasion I did several sketches before I started because of the scale of the piece.

How do you go about starting a piece of such a large scale?

Before I start modelling, I construct a metal armature with moving parts that will hopefully be strong enough to take the weight of the wax needed.  I usually work in sections which makes it easier to add intricate details, such as the feathers in the wings and the mask of the bird without disturbing other parts of the sculpture.

What material do you model in?

It depends on the subject!  I enjoy mixing different waxes to create the perfect modelling material to suit the sculpture.  For example, the claws require a very hard wax to get them to be so sharp.  I also made them separate from the feet for ease of casting.

Is the Spider’s Web made in Bronze too?

Yes it is! I knew this would be tricky to make in bronze, so I drew a design out onto acetate and placed into the correct position for reference at the foundry.

You can view Silent Shadow by clicking here.