By Tim Rogers
You can’t visit Lochnagar Crater and fail to notice the wood carvings and sculptures which adorn the site.
One of the most recent is the three-dimensional tableau comm-emorating the tunnellers who created the mine, pictured here.
On July 1st, the Cross on the lip of the Crater is dressed with the symbolic carved ‘hands’ of peace and reconciliation, and boards remembering the Regiments which fought here.
This work is created by Tim Rogers, a member of the Friends of Lochnagar. In this article, Tim tells us about his craft.
I am an amateur wood carver/sculptor. Some years ago, I was told quite forcibly that I was a wood sculptor (working in three dimensions) and not a wood carver (working in two dimensions) but I believe I accomplish both!
I am not an artist, having no formal qualifications, and I am not a student of art or sculpture, although in passing it’s impossible not to have an interest in the ‘greats’ from years ago. I could not make a living from what I do as I would rate myself, realistically, as more of a wood chipper than an artist, when my work is seen against the art of trained craftsmen.
To all intents, I am self-taught. My father was a master craftsman and had skills and training which I can only wonder at. He gave my brother and me rudimentary skills in tool handling as boys, and encouraged me, in particular, in these activities.
However, on the death of my father I inherited most of his tools, of which there were many, and many of the chisels I now use date from that time.
My aim is to produce unique carvings and sculptures and my aim each time is to keep the integrity of the wood I use. What starts as one piece of wood remains that way to the finished product. I have never reproduced any of my works and the thought of working to produce a set number of one design of carving would not interest me in the slightest.
Much of my early work relied on wood I could pick up or which was given to me, due to financial restrictions, but more recently I’ve been able to pick and choose, and now use the woods which are best suited to the sort of products I now produce.
However, over the years, some of what I consider to be my best works have been produced in wood which an expert would say was totally unsuitable for what I have tried to fashion in them.
I have always been aware of a sort of conversation, or understanding, between the wood and myself when I begin. This continues to the point when the wood seems to be actually telling me in no uncertain terms that what I may want to form within the piece I’m working with is impossible and will not be entertained by the wood. When a compromise is reached, there is a lowering of the stress that existed and both sides seem to be satisfied.
However mad this seems, it would appear when reading the writings of many far more accomplished artists than me, I find that they have also experienced these feelings on most occasions when they start working on ideas, especially in wood.
When looking back over photographs of my work from early days, I realise the range is very wide, reflecting a broad range of interests, a vivid imagination and a ‘grasshopper’ mind!
More recently, my work has tended to concentrate on World War One as a source of inspiration and a response to the vast literature and photography of life during this conflict.
Membership of the ‘Friends of Lochnagar’ has given me a focus to aim at, and a wish to honour the memory of the men who tunnelled beneath and created the vast crater outside La Boisselle in whatever way I can.
The Crater itself is so awe-inspiring that I seldom leave it without my mind filling with new ideas for further projects. However, wood carving/sculpture is a slow process, and unless I record these ideas, as sketches in a folder, they would soon be forgotten and possibly never see ‘the light of day’, when the opportunity – and the wood – become available.
This sculpture by Tim is attached to the Lochnagar Crater cross at each anniversary service on July 1st. The three hands – British, French and German – represent Respect, Remembrance and Reconciliation.