Novel art to drive home diet lessons to children

Alex Matthews carving a daikon.  Pic: Bruce Rollinson
Alex Matthews carving a daikon. Pic: Bruce Rollinson
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A former landscape gardener has found a novel new way to channel his creativity, by carving fruit and vegetables to look like animals.

Alex Matthews first experimented with taking knife to food in an imaginative way as a means to keep children occupied, but such has been the reaction to his creations that they are now receiving worldwide attention, with some of his latest efforts having been featured in the Canadian Huffington Post.

A 'Hippotatomus' created by Alex Matthews.

A 'Hippotatomus' created by Alex Matthews.

Among his sculpted masterpieces so far include elephants carved out of apples, a dolphin borne from a banana, a giraffe chiselled from a parsnip, a praying mantis spawned from mange tout and a gecko using nothing but a solitary courgette. These characters are then brought to life by being set against fun landscapes to mimic their natural environment.

Afterwards, many of his sculptures are recycled into healthy ingredients in smoothies and soups.

“I suppose I’m a culinary sculptor, food artist and inanimate animator,” explained the 29-year-old, who makes all his carvings out of an array of fruit and vegetables at his home in Guiseley.

“I have no actual artistic training so I rely on an active imagination, my passion for wildlife and the degree I have a background in.”

Mr Matthews, who currently works as an operations co-ordinator for a student tour company in Leeds, first began carving intricate animal shapes out of food besides the slopes.

Since then, having shared photographs of his work online, he has received encouraging feedback and it has spurred him on to explore how he can benefit children’s education using his carefully carved and colourful characters, which he calls ‘Organimals’.

“I began creating Organimals from fruit and veg whilst working as a chalet host in the French Alps and soon discovered that the children staying there really enjoyed coming back from skiing to see what had been made,” Mr Matthews said.

“Keeping the children occupied was key if you wanted to get any meal preparation done!”

While he may not have an artistic background, Mr Matthews is qualified in animal biology, having graduated with a degree in the subject from Nottingham Trent University and he works with Mauritian wildlife and nature photographer Stéphanie Manuel to capture his artwork.

He said: “I still aspire to work on in-situ conservation projects. However, it became apparent over time that conservation starts with the younger generation and raising awareness at an early age. So, after gaining a following on Facebook and other social media platforms, I decided to focus on progressing the idea.

“I’m currently working on writing a creative story, which will be linked to an upcoming series of educational books for children to promote nutritional and environmental matters. I see this as the perfect means to captivate an audience - with eye-catching images, an imaginary world in which to set the story and susceptible minds to absorb the information.”

The Organimals could be a way for children to learn about the nutritional value of fruit and vegetables, recipes and the conservation status and habitats of animals, he said.

Mr Matthews’ business is called Al Mode and the photographs of his creations have been compiled for a 2015 calendar and a range of greeting cards. For more of his artwork, see www.facebook.com/almodeart