The Creative Sculptor – Stephen Lawson

The Creative Sculptor – Stephen Lawson

Stephen Lawson

Stephen Lawson

The word ‘creativity’ is used when new ideas are needed or things of high imaginative power are achieved. Not many people are blessed with creativity. Stephen Lawson is an Afro-German blessed with artistic creativity. In a spacious atelier in Soest, Germany, Steve creates intricately beautiful sculptures using natural materials like marble, granite stones and woods. In September 2003, Afritopic editor had the opportunity to interview the soft-spoken sculptor as published below.

Afritopic: Were you into Arts early at school?

Steve: At school, I always wanted to be creative. I was good in science subjects especially in physics and initially thought of pursuing a technical career like my father. However, after my high school graduation (German Abitur), I decided to study architecture. I matriculated at the University of Bochum. Though I found architecture interesting, I realized that I wanted to be creative doing something practical. Meanwhile, a friend introduced me to painting and I started painting.

Afritopic: Why did you decide to start sculpturing instead of continuing with painting?

Steve: I enjoyed painting. Painting provided a means of expressing my imaginations and fantasy using colours in 2 dimensions. But I never had any formal education in fine arts. All I was doing was self-taught. I wanted to learn a profession that would allow me to use my imagination and creativity in a constructive form. I decided to learn how to chisel stone. I moved from Bochum, where I was born and grew-up to Berlin. In Berlin, I joined a company as an apprentice to learn how to chisel stone. During my apprenticeship with the firm that was contracted with restoring the facades of major historical buildings in Europe, I had the opportunity to work in Paris. In Paris, I gained a lot of practical experience in chiselling stone, casting and moulding. I worked on the facades of the historical section of the Louvre. I could feel that I was coming nearer to what I wanted to do. I was fascinated by the different structures that emerge depending on the way the stone is worked on. My fascination of this natural material grew daily. The next step was for me to combine the practical knowledge with my artistic creativity. I talked to colleagues and friends about my intensions and we agreed that I should take lessons in anatomy through life drawing. I went to the Art Academy in Paris to talk to a professor that was recommended to me. The professor accepted me and I participated in his life drawing classes. This is practically the only formal education I had in fine arts. Merging stone chiselling, life drawing and anatomy led to the creation of my first set of sculptures.  

Afritopic: You seem to be autodidactic and multitalented in the Arts. Do you write or make music?

Steve: Yes, I do write whenever I am inspired and I taught myself how to play the piano just by watching people play. At present, I try to focus more on sculpturing in order to attain the creative quality I want. But writing and making music are also skills and talents that I would not want to loose.

Afritopic: Most of your works seem to be African inspired. Do you have strong connection to Africa?

Steve: My parents are from the Caribbean; my father is from Jamaica and my mother from St. Lucia. While in Berlin, I got to know the black community through the organization ISD (Initiative Schwarze Deutsche). I made friends, felt as part of the community and adopted the Afro-German identity. Yes, I feel very much attached to the African roots. My art works express my feelings. Feelings could be spiritual and that is why most of the works are spiritually inspired. I visited the Caribbean after a year working experience in Paris. I saw the beauty of the island, the natural way of life and met very interesting people with dignity. Some of my works reflect what I saw while some depict my imagination of life in an African village or African rituals.

Afritopic: Your works are figurative in nature. Are you not interested in abstract sculptures?

Steve: As said, the motivation for my work comes from my urge to remember interesting people and celebrities that I have met; people that have impressed me through their works and achievements. I strive to integrate these faces in creative artistic ways that result in amazing sculptures. Going back to the African roots, you’ll find that the works of African sculptors particularly in the western and northern parts of Africa are mostly figurative. Sculptors from Nigeria in West Africa and Egypt in North Africa are typical examples. I like to do creative intricate works that show the beauty of blacks. I am not against abstract sculptures. But I would like to master the naturalistic motives and attain a high level of maturity. When I discuss with academic artists from the Arts Academy here in Germany, they always want me to move on to doing abstract works. I usually tell them that there is time for everything. I am now focussing on improving my skills and creativity in figurative sculpturing. When the time is ripe, I’ll move on to abstract works.

Afritopic: Some Artists experiment with merging different materials together. Do you also experiment?

Steve: Yes, I do experimental works, like combining woods and metals. Lately, I have started working more with woods. The fact is that stones, especially, marble and granites are relatively expensive and heavy. Initially, the stones I was using were supplied by sources near my former Atelier on a friendly basis, thereby making the supply inexpensive. Since I moved to a new Atelier in Soest, I have a good supply of woods. This makes it easy for me to start doing more works in woods.

Afritopic: At the last ISD (Initiative Schwarze Deutsche) Bundestreffen 2003, you organized a workshop in which participants were taught the basics of sculpturing. Do you like teaching?

Steve: The decision to organize the workshop was spontaneous. I thought it is a good way to contribute to the event. Surprisingly, it turned out to be a success. The participants were curious and willing to learn the art of sculpturing. They were concentrated and diligent. I could see the expression of satisfaction and pride in their faces after completing their objects. I was happy too. I offer classes in my Atelier. Yes, I like teaching because I also learn by showing people how to sculpture.

Afritopic: Artists generally need exposure. Do you organize events such as ‘open-doors days’ when the general public could visit your atelier to see you at work and view your works?

Steve: I have invited the public to my atelier a couple of times. It was always a good experience. People are fascinated and ask questions. I have been able to make contacts and generate some sales. Unfortunately, I have not been able to organize such invitations on a regular basis. I am still in the process of organizing my career as a sculptor. Having many ideas and creative imaginations might prove to be problematic. I would like to produce more works depicting different styles from classical to non-classical using diverse materials. Trying to achieve these does not leave much time left for me to organize such events. I hope however, that with time I would be well organized and have regular programs in which the general public would be able to view my works.

Afritopic: Have you participated in Exhibitions within and outside Germany?

Steve: I participated in an exhibition that took place at the Documenta Halle in Kassel. It was an exhibition featuring different artists living in Germany. I also participated in smaller exhibitions but I have not taken part in any big international exhibition. I would be exhibiting some of my works as from the 9th of October till the 16th of November 2003 in the halls of the ‘Documentations-und Kulturzentrum. Deutscher Sinti und Roma’, Heidelberg, Germany. The exhibition is in conjunction with a program focusing on the history and present situation of blacks in Germany.

Afritopic: Do you do commissioned work?

Steve: Yes I have done commissioned works for communities, companies as well as private people. Companies commissioned me to do works symbolizing their products or services. I did animal motives for communities that use the sculptures to beautify playing grounds and entice children. Private people use the sculptures to beautify their ponds, gardens and homes.

Afritopic: Art Galleries are usually the promoting and marketing agents for Artists. Do you have connections to Galleries to promote your work?

Steve: At the moment, I do not have a gallery that is promoting my work. Up till now, all the contracts and sales have been achieved through self-efforts. Naturally, it would be nice and I would welcome the promotion of my works by a serious gallery.

Afritopic: Do you have a strategy to market your work?

Steve: I have different ideas, plans and strategies, which I could employ to market my works. But my focus right now is not on marketing. I am focusing more on artistic creativity. If I spend more time on marketing, then I would have to spend less time on sculpturing.

This might have negative impact on my work. I prefer to concentrate more on developing my skills and ability as a sculptor. Moreover, as an artist, it is sometimes painful to see ones favourite work bought and taken away. The compromise I have in mind now is to produce some works like the animal motives in series using lost-cast and moulding methods. This would allow quick reproduction of sculptures that could be sold to the general public. Moreover, I am willing to work in partnership with other artists, organizations, and creative people with technical and marketing knowledge to create a marketing channel.

Afritopic: Looking around your atelier, one could see that you have been very creative and hardworking. Do take sculpturing as devotion?

Steve: I love sculpturing and feel spiritually involved when working on a piece. I know very well that I am happy with what I am doing and that sculpturing is part of me. Through sculpturing, I am able to bring different cultures together. The works represent my remembrance of people I have really met, lost friend or figures in my imagination. I believe that I am devoted to sculpturing. I have other creative talents, so I cannot say whether this is what I’ll be doing for the rest of my life. Time will tell.

Afritopic: Reflecting on your experience, how do you feel about growing up and living as an Afro-German in Germany?

Steve: Reflecting on my experience, I believe that the discriminatory attitudes of most people are signs of insecurity. Some Germans believe that people who do fit in their own concept of German behaviour or look typical German do not belong here. I have learnt to overcome the unfriendly remarks and ignorance of such people. I have my targets and my responsibilities here. I am determined to achieve my goals.

Afritopic: When you are unmotivated, how do you sum up drive and strength to continue?

Steve: I am grateful to have my parents and some very close friends that I could discuss with when I really need them. They are all scattered around the world from the United Kingdom to the United States of America. I also have friends in the black community in Berlin. Though the community is very necessary, it is also important for the individual to be self-motivated and strong. I try to focus on my goal and do believe in God, the Creator.

Afritopic: If your works were to send a message, what should be the message?

Steve: I would like my work to appeal to different people without any boundaries. My sculptures should bring the world together and connect people from diverse cultural backgrounds worldwide.  

Stephen Lawson

Stephen Lawson

  Afritopic 2003


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