Cultivating creativity: Tom Ashbourne reveals the sculpture that inhabits him

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During their career, stone carver Tom Ashbourne and his wife Linda spent weekends visiting the many boutiques, antique shops and art galleries in Prince Edward County. So when they retired from corporate life in Toronto, they already knew they would end up in the county.

Although Ashbourne had always been an avid art collector, he only discovered his own talent after taking a series of sculpture lessons a year before retiring. Once he tried it, he was hooked on the process and stunned to learn he had this hidden ability.

In his studio, he walks around the room: “All these pieces, I often marvel at having made them. It brings real joy and satisfaction. Each one of them is so totally different, but they all come from these rough bits of rock that you would never, ever imagine what it’s going to become.

Ashbourne has been immersed in creating sculpture since 2014 and his work is receiving international attention. In 2021, he received an unexpected invitation to exhibit his art at the Florence Biennale in Italy – an immersive event where artists from around the world show their work and participate in a cross-cultural and cross-disciplinary experience.

Participating in the Biennale has proven to be an amazing opportunity to learn from peers. “When I talked to other artists, the thing they kept talking about was the energy in my pieces, and I had never thought of it that way. It’s usually about symmetry, a focal point, color, texture and shape; all those components of art you need to make a successful piece.

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He adds: “Ultimately, when I was in Florence, I realized that it was all about bringing an energy to the room.”

Ashbourne likens it to what it feels like to walk through a forest, sit by a lake, or look up at the sky. There is an intangible connection, perhaps partly due to the fact that the support is a natural material, mainly alabaster stone.

Stone carving is a reductive art form. Ashbourne works on the rough outer layer, what he calls ‘the bark’. As he sands, carves or grinds the stone, it begins to reveal its inner contours and unique patterns. It is an interactive experience between the artist and his subject.

Ashbourne is the only artist in Canada who is currently an elected member of the Sculptors Society of Canada (SSC), the Society of Canadian Artists (SCA), and the Ontario Society of Artists (OSA). It was also one of DESTIG magazine’s “Best of 2020”. His sculptures are displayed in his private studio in Wellington, Ontario, located along the Prince Edward County Arts Trail.

For more information on Tom Ashbourne’s work, visit: tomashbourne.com

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