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A Chat With – Bev Knowlden – Artist

Hello Bev, have you always lived in Totnes?

No, I actually moved here in 2004 from Bristol, where I’d lived for almost 20 years. I was wooed by the quirkiness of Dartington College as my passions in life are making art and music!

Fireman Sam will always have a special place in my heart

Have you always worked as an artist

Let’s just say I spent an awful lot of my pocket money on Airfix Kits…

Sculpture by Bev Knowlden
Fireman Sam eh? What did you make for that?

Although I trained in Graphic Design, I always leaned towards model making and anything 3D. I worked in London after graduating, making prototypes of toys and props. My interest in puppet animation grew when Aardman Animation brought out their series ‘Conversation Pieces‘ in the mid 1980s. Plasticine figures came to life on my TV screen and I was catapulted into the magical world of stop frame animation.

Fireman Sam - Bumper Films
Sam when he was proper stop-frame

In Weston-Super-Mare, a company called Bumper Films had just begun working on a series for children: Fireman Sam. I heard they were looking for a set/prop maker. It was the beginning of over 15 years of working on several different productions for BBC/S4C as a set designer and prop maker, in sunny Weston-Super-Mare & Bristol.

Fireman Sam will always have a special place in my heart as it was the series that launched my career in animation.

The style change from TV cartoons to the work you do now is very dramatic. What prompted that?

The whole world of puppet animation was gradually shifting from actual puppets to CGI (Computer Generated Images) by the Millennium, which included Fireman Sam.  When I moved to Totnes, I actually set up my own painting & decorating business, which although not as creative as my past work had been, it proved to be very successful! However, I was missing my artistic career and spent a lot of time drawing and making things.

Little Imp & Fledgling

It was actually a chance remark from my partner ‘Why don’t you do some sculpture for yourself?‘ that set me on my current journey…

It was a turning point for me, and rather than trying to secure work in children’s book illustration and greeting card companies, I veered off into a whole new direction: portrait sculpture. I have always been intrigued by faces, both human and animal, and after a short course in sculpting the human head, I have not looked back.

I’ve heard your work described as emotionally dark and challenging – how do you see it?

My sculptures can be unsettling as I often cast my work in resin combined with jute fabric. This results in a porosity, with the finished cast appearing quite fragile, with gaps within its surface. Plus, much of my work has an iron patina, which gives them a very old, timeless quality. This in itself can be quite haunting at times.

What is your greatest achievements in your sculpting career?

Bev Knowlden shown at the Royal Academy
Bev at the Royal Academy

Over the past few years I’ve had my work selected for a couple of very prestigious exhibitions: The Royal Academy‘s Summer Exhibition in 2019, with my sculpture: ‘Cheeky Chester’.

The Society of Portrait Sculptors accepted my sculpture of Ena Sharples, (a character from the ITV soap Coronation Street) for their annual exhibition ‘Face’.

Do you do commissions for people?

Yes I do. In fact I’ve just completed a head of a man and even a chicken (!) within the last couple of weeks, and they are now with their new owners.

Is it just sculpture? Anything else?

Well, as you’ve asked so nicely… I also play saxophone in a couple of bands, and I split my time between sculpting and music. My dream life!


Sculpture by Beb Knowlden
Magnificent 7

Is Totnes a good place for artistry?

It certainly is! There are so many artists in this town, all creating a very diverse wealth of work.

I’m part of a local group of artists: TDOS. (Totnes & Dartington Open Studios) We have a show every May, when we open our studios and homes to the public for 4 days.

It’s such a great way to show work and get feedback and inspiration from all the lovely visitors. The next one is from May 24th – 27th.

You can visit Bev’s Sculpture Website here

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