The husband and wife who gave up their jobs to be full-time sculptors

Eric and Chris Moss have given up their '˜day jobs' to concentrate on being sculptors. Catherine Scott reports.

Eric and Christine Moss’s garden looks more like the contents of Noah’s Ark. There are a couple of greyhounds, sheep, geese and even a life-sized horse looking for its mate to name but a few.

These aren’t an alternative collection to the garden gnome, these are Chris’s works of art.

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“I like to put them in the garden while I am working on them so that I can see them from different angles to make sure I have them right,” says Chris, who admits to becoming quite fond of her creations, and misses them when they are gone.

The couple are both sculptors, but with very different styles and using very different mediums.

Christine works in wire, making life size or to scale animals from horses to birds. All her creations are anatomically perfect and in great demand. One of her foxes is at Swinton Park (see panel) which caused a bit of a stir with the resident deer and Thorpe Perrow and Yorkshire Sculpture Park also play host to her stunning animals

Eric is a ceramicist who uses the usual technique of raku to create his sculptures.

Just last year both decided to give up their ‘day jobs’ , Eric as a graphic designer for Harrogate Council and Chris as a PA, to concentrate on making a living through their art.

“We had been building towards it for about ten years,” explains Eric. “Then last year I was offered redundancy and we realised that the time was right to concentrate on what we love most.”

They sold their town centre house in Harrogate and moved to the tiny village of Aisenby in North Yorkshire which gave them the space they needed.

They are in the process of converting the double garage into a studio that they will both eventually share and they will open to the public once a year through the Open Studio scheme. And from October 19 to 22 their work will be in display at for sale at Art for Youth North at Queen Mary’s School near Thirsk.

“We were pretty much working on the kitchen table before,” says Chris, “I like the idea of shutting the front door and ‘going to work’ even if it is down the garden path. I need that structure.”

Chris always had a passion and talent for art. Initially studying fine art and starting out as painter, before discovering the love of what she call 3D drawing.

“I started with the chickenwire really as a structure on which I planned to build papier mache or something else. But once I had made the wire structure I just loved it. I never got past the wire.

“I just love the way animals move and how muscles and bones work.”

Although Chris was passionate about her art, she also carved some stability.

“I loved art but I felt I needed more security and so became a PA working for a number of organisations from charities to global companies,”explains Chris.

“I still did art in my spare time but it was really just for personal pleasure. But then about ten years ago I decided to be a bit more focused and see if my work would sell.”

And sell it did, so much so that the majority of her work is now through commissions. She also runs workshops, passing on her knowledge and love of 3D drawing.

“The animals are designed to go outside, but some people who have made their own in the workshops seem to like to keep them inside”

Eric’s art is very different from his wife’s and he says they have a less broad appeal.

“I made my first pot aged eight - a ghastly earthenware parrot painted and varnished to mimic glazing,” explains Eric. After learning to throw at secondary school he took a Foundation year at York Art College intent on becoming a graphic designer. But the variety of media available at college was a revelation and a degree in three dimensional design at Manchester Polytechnic followed.

In a similar way to Chris, Eric started a ‘day job’ as a graphic designer for the council, keeping his potting skills honed at nightclass and for personal pleasure.

But it all changed in 2005 following a summer school when Eric discovered raku. Raku is a Japanese technique of firing pots.

A work is removed from the kiln at bright red heat and then smoked in another container which blackens raw clay and causes crackling in the glaze surface.

“The tutor, David Oxley, assessed my first raku pots as “studio quality” and suggested I offer them to galleries to sell,” says Eric whose early approaches met with rejection.

But within 12 months he was showing and selling work at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park and had done his first direct selling at ‘Potfest in the Pens’, Penrith, Cumbria.

He now shows his work at more than a dozen direct selling shows each year and supply a small number of selected galleries.

At the moment Eric is working on number of themes: one, entitled ‘Ceramicano’, involves assembling raku sculptures from individually made and fired component pieces at three distinct scales. Customers can buy different elements and collect over time – each is a coherent work of art in itself but they can be ‘nested’ together to create a variety of novel configurations.

Despite the industrial look of some of Eric’s work a lot of his sculptures have their inspiration in nature, such as conkers, nuts, seedpods and waveforms.

Art for Youth North

Some of the North of England’s biggest names in contemporary art will be on display at Queen Mary’s School near Thirsk from the evening of Wednesday October 19 to Saturday October 22 when it hosts the prestigious Art for Youth North.

The show, sponsored by investment managers JM Finn & Co, raises funds for the national charity - UK Youth. With more than 600 pieces, Art for Youth North includes new and recent work created by emerging and established Northern artists.

For the first time the show will include students work from art schools in the region.

Since 2001, Art for Youth North has taken place every two years in Yorkshire and has raised over £200,000 to help young people across the UK.

Show prices range from £40 - £3,000 with artists donating 33 per cent of sales to UK Youth.

Tickets for the Private View from 6.30 – 9.30pm on Wednesday are £12 in advance and £15 at the door (includes wine and canapés).

The exhibition will be open to the public from 10am – 3pm on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.