Direct Carving

Without knowing it I was making a little revolution. I was reuniting what should never have been separated, the artist as man of imagination and the artist as workman. Eric Gill

Ditchling was the site of one of the most important developments in 20th century British sculpture. Eric Gill’s ‘rediscovery’ of direct carving has had a lasting effect on generations of sculptors including Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore.

Direct carving was in stark contrast to the fashionable technique of the artist modelling a sculpture in clay and employing a craftsman to reproduce this in stone, often enlarging the maquette in the process. Gill made his first small sculpture in 1909 by carving directly into stone at his home just 150 metres from where you are standing. He was influenced by medieval craft guilds and admired the sculpture of that period.

Gill was in many ways a self-taught as a sculptor. During his 15 years in Ditchling he made around 150 sculptures. When he came to Ditchling he brought his apprentice Joseph Cribb and set up a workshop. He trained many stone carvers in Ditchling and later at Pigotts in Buckinghamshire. Some like Desmond Chute and David Jones only carved for a short period while other artists and apprentices including Cribb founded their own workshops and trained their own apprentices. Gill became a Roman Catholic in 1913 and much of the work that he and his workshop made was for the church.