I studied for my first degree in sculpture, which led straight into an apprenticeship as a sculpture conservator at Lincoln Cathedral. Ever since I have combined the two disciplines, but the common theme is stone. I love its variety, colour, texture and how it can be manipulated in so many ways.
Since 1995 I have run my own business making public and private art commissions, selling through galleries and repairing ancient stonework. My work has taken me to France and all over the British Isles. My clients include New College, Oxford; Sheffield City Council; Victoria and Albert Museum; Ipswich Borough Council and Morrison’s Supermarket.
Example of commissioned work -
‘Flight’ – commissioned by Morrison’s Supermarket for the new store in Cambourne, Cambridgeshire. Twelve carved panels set into 'runways' of contrasting paving. The theme of flight is taken from its previous life as a wartime airfield. Each panel represents an aircraft machine part, carved in sandstone.
A meeting with Antonia Hockton...
Antonia Hockton, Artisan in Stone
In Antonia Hockton's workshop a piece of Ancaster limestone weighing 1000 kilos is gradually being transformed into a statue of the C14th bishop, William of Wykeham, founder of New College Oxford. It will replace a much decayed earlier version. Antonia has two months to complete this task, from studying and measuring the original, submitting drawings for approval, finding and ordering the stone and, not least, supervising the difficult task of getting the huge block off the truck and down the winding garden path to her workshop. Now Antonia is using mallet and chisel in much the same way as medieval masons did to shape the figure which will last for many generations in one of the most beautiful buildings in the country.
Although Antonia makes use of modern technology, such as a pneumatic air-fed chisel to take off excess stone, her principal tools are virtually unchanged since medieval times and much of her career has been spent in the manner of travelling artisans like medieval masons and, indeed, like her great grandfather, also a travelling mason. The inspiration behind her own sculpture lies in the monuments, gargoyles and statues to be found in medieval churches and cathedrals in Britain and France.
She says that one of the endearing and human facets of the medieval mason is the number of mistakes that she finds when she is working high up on the scaffolding, bits of botched work as well as the masons' marks. Lincoln's great nave, for example, is decidedly out of true. It is hazardous work up in the roof of a cathedral or clambering up rickety ladders inside church towers and she certainly needs to have a head for heights. Once Antonia fell through rotten timber scaffolding and once she stepped back into empty air when leaning from a ladder to get a better view of her work. Fortunately, in spite of cuts and bruises from time to time she survives it all.
Antonia studied fine art and sculpture at Sheffield Polytechnic. A month's placement at Lincoln Cathedral led to a two- year apprenticeship there. While working on a Romanesque frieze she was
head hunted by a representative of a French firm, which resulted in a job conserving another rare Romanesque frieze in Poitiers. Antonia spent a year and a half travelling through France working on conservation projects in Loire chateaux- at Amboise in particular - and in churches in Normandy, Vendee, and Picardy and in Amiens Cathedral. She says she found all this an enormous challenge while still in her twenties but it nevertheless gave her the confidence to come home and set up her own company.
Once back in Britain and desperate to do her own work, Antonia developed a two-pronged approach. She now had the experience to embark on restoration work. A level of trust given by the client is necessary to allow not only cleaning and stopping decay of an object but putting back missing bits. Antonia spent some years as an inspector of church monuments for the Council for the Care of Churches. This kind of historical work continues and at the same time she is commissioned to do her own public and private pieces. Examples of Antonia's work are to be found in Easton Lodge at Great Dunmow and in Alexandra Park in Ipswich. For the shopping mall in Cambourne, Cambridgeshire Antonia designed the floor with twelve carved panels. Her work in Oxford and in churches and gardens in East Anglia and elsewhere is on-going and in addition she sells smaller sculptures in galleries and through private commissions. And in addition to all this Antonia finds time to serve as treasurer of the Friends of Suffolk Craft Society.
In all her sculptural work there is a cohesive mixture of the medieval and the modern which feeds Antonia's creativity.