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Zoë Wilson’s hypnotic carvings give a fresh spin to an age-old craft

Forever championing human creativity

Looking at Zoë Wilson’s intricate stone carvings from a distance, you would be forgiven for thinking they were made by machine. In some works, delicate circles overlap to create hypnotic geometric patterns while in others, crisp-angled forms rise from the surface of the stone like folds in paper. It's only when you take a closer look that the imperfect chisel marks become visible, revealing the hand of the maker.

'I've always set out to make my work look machine made,' says Wilson, a self-confessed stone obsessive. 'We are so used to seeing machine manufacturing these days and I think that raises the bar on craft - it's not a negative thing, you just have to up your game. The challenge is to make it look as perfect as possible.'

Journal - Zoe Wilson - Body Image 1 Nexus Limestone by Zoë Wilson and Picture by Tara Bradley-Birt

The almost imperceptible irregularities to the lines and curves give the work its humanity, however, making it more tactile than a machine could ever achieve.

Based in Stockbridge, in the UK county of Hampshire, and working out of an 18th century studio that forms part of a historic fishing lodge, Wilson creates intricate stone carvings that put a contemporary spin on a very traditional craft. Working on slabs or spheres of British stone, using a surprisingly minimal toolset – a compass, ruler and pencil to draw the patterns onto the stone, and a mallet and three different sizes of chisel to carve – the pieces can take up to a week to make.

'It's a hugely meditative process,' she says. 'I find my work very restful to look at. I don't know what it is about my brain that finds accuracy so satisfying.'

Journal - Zoe Wilson - Body Image 2 Picture by Tara Bradley-Birt

Wilson says her career is not one she ever imagined for herself. It began over a decade ago, but back then, she was in a male-dominated stone workshop, making heavy duty, architectural stone masonry, such as steps, worktops and doorways and even acquiring a forklift truck license along the way.

After completing a diploma in Historic Stone Carving in 2016, Wilson moved to Brunei, which provided time for reflection and helped her establish a new direction for her work. She returned to the UK in 2019 and began carving intricate and complex geometric forms influenced by the Islamic patterns and the sacred geometry of the rainforest she had seen on her travels. Her time away from home also made clear her love for British stone, which she now works with exclusively.

'I realised how important it was to me,' she remembers. 'It's the bedrock of where I've grown up. There are so many beautiful stones in the world, but I just don't have the same connection with them.'

For Curio, Wilson has bought together a body of work featuring Scottish sandstone, Portland limestone and Welsh slate. The selection includes wall pieces, casts and stone spheres. Based on four, five and eight-point stars, the spheres – which were made for our launch and two of which are exclusive to Curio – proved particularly challenging to make and involved Wilson teaching herself spherical geometry.

Journal - Zoe Wilson - Body Image 3 Arc Limestone by Zoë Wilson and Picture by Tara Bradley-Birt

This sort of problem solving is an element of her work that she particularly enjoys, but when asked what compels her to be a maker, she answers simply: 'I cannot not make. Being a maker is intrinsic to me. Had I not found stone, I would have found something else. I just love the process of making.'

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