Driving along the A48 towards Newnham, the signpost marked ‘Bullo Pill’ has always rather intrigued me. So last week I set off there to visit Pete Simpson’s studio. He is an art teacher, photographer and sculptor of ….imps and things.
I park under some old railway arches and Pete greets me, leading me through to his lovely garden studio.
The shelves are crammed with all kinds of goblins, imps, trolls and elves. Pete tells me that his interest in creating fantasy sculpture started over 30 years ago when he first saw the work of Brian Froud in the animated fantasy adventure film, ‘The Dark Crystal’.
I am fascinated by the level of detail in these polymer clay creatures : their warty faces, clothing, dirty looking toenails and tiny accoutrements. The fabrics are found materials – old dyed dishcloths, scraps of leather, hessian and muslin.
Although the characters are mainly male, I’m told that their collectors are frequently female. I enquire whether Pete has vivid dreams.
I think about sculptor Anthony Gormley’s ‘moments of lived time’ (see my February blog), and how these 30cm high beings might reflect aspects of existence. With my therapist’s wondering, I ponder the Froud/Freud connection. Pete also mentions the influence of H. P. Lovecraft (I thought they were a 70s band ?).
He also works to commission and is currently making a giant tooth which will be covered with special cleaning imps for a dentist’s surgery in Canada.
Think less cute tooth fairies?
Pete attends various fantasy markets and gatherings for example, the Faerie Festival in Glastonbury, a Fantasy Forest event in July at Sudeley Castle.
And of course, he will be opening his studio as part of farOpen 2019, Venue 24.
As I took my leave, Pete said that I hadn’t asked him the two questions that he’d most expected:
‘How long do they take to make?’
‘Had you thought of creating a film?’
You’ll have to visit Bullo Pill yourself to get the answers. It’s almost under a bridge, and you’ll certainly encounter a few trolls.
Later, as I was looking up H.P. Lovecraft, I came across the following quote:
“Pleasure to me is wonder—the unexplored, the unexpected, the thing that is hidden and the changeless thing that lurks behind superficial mutability. To trace the remote in the immediate; the eternal in the ephemeral; the past in the present; the infinite in the finite; these are to me the springs of delight and beauty.”
― H.P. Lovecraft
A.T. April 2019