American sculptor Lloyd Le Blanc, who owns a foundry near Melton, has been commissioned to create three working dog sculptures to celebrate the town’s historic association with the military animal.
The team behind the project are the Defence Animal Centre, Civic Society and Melton in Bloom.
Mr Le Blanc has designed a German Shepherd on guard, a Labrador detecting and a Springer Spaniel leaping for the garden at Parkside in Burton Street but can’t begin the project until the £46,200 needed has been raised.
The 72-year-old visited the Defence Animal Centre in Asfordby Road recently to take images of the breeds he will be sculpting into bronze statues in order to catch their characteristics, but has a few months to wait before he can get stuck into the project.
In the meantime he is busy working on not only a limited edition line of scarecrow sculptures but is also preparing for a still life sculpture exhibition, to take place next year.
Lloyd’s commitment to sculpture started at the age of 16 and led him to take up a scholarship at Yale University in 1965.
Following his education Lloyd went onto exhibit his work from the age of 18 and has showcased his sculptures across the world including in Dubai, Hong Kong and Australia. He also worked as a lecturer in sculpture at America’s Falmouth College of Art in 1969.
He made the move to England in 1972 after meeting his late wife Judith Holmes-Drewry, who was also a sculptor.
He has worked from his studios and state-of-the-art foundry in Leicestershire for about 40 years, during which time he has also exhibited at galleries in London and the RHS Chelsea Flower Show.
Lloyd and his late wife Judith’s work is also featured in the gardens of celebrity chef Raymond Blanc’s manor house in Oxfordshire as well as at Lough Eske Castle in Donegal, Ireland.
Lloyd said: “If I didn’t love sculpting I wouldn’t do it, every piece you work on has to be fun to create.
“I imagine I will be sculpting until I die, it’s not something I could ever retire from.”
When asked what his influences are, Lloyd explained that his work is based on a wide variety, he said: “Everybody’s creativity is influenced by something, if you claim to be an original thinker than you must be God.
“You rub up against people, you bounce ideas off each other.
“I’ve also been taught by a lot of different teachers and they have had an influence on what I do.”
For all his international success Lloyd talks about his work with humility and honesty.
When asked about his career highlights he was uncomfortable naming his achievements, although when pushed he said that he liked creating ‘quirky things’ and was once commissioned to build a 12 foot high and 16 foot long dragon.
During my visit to his foundry I was also given the chance to get a sneak peak at the way in which his bronze sculptures are produced.
It’s a complicated and timely process which can take months to complete.
Once the initial design has been drawn up or thought out (Lloyd often dives straight into the creating process rather than sketching out his ideas) the first stage of building the sculpture is to design it out of clay over a metal skeleton.
The clay image is then cut into segments and moulds are built so that a rubber copy can be made.
A wax sculpture (still in sections) is then made and dipped in ceramic liquid before being heated in a furnace which flushes the wax out, leaving the empty ceramic shells.
Melted bronze is then poured into the shells, once it is cooled the ceramic is chipped off the sculpture is then welded together, sandblasted and is given a wax coat before it’s finished.
The working dog sculptures will be cast in bronze and be based on bronze rocks with inscribed plinths. They will be life and a half size to fit into their surroundings and to encourage adults and children to interact with them.
£6,000 has already been secured for the project by Melton Council and it is hoped business sponsorship will help pay for two of the dogs with the public helping to raise the funds for the third.
l Donations to the appeal can be made by cheque to Melton Borough Council (please write ref Working Dog) sent to Donna Bradbury, Melton Borough Council, Parkside, Station Approach, Burton Street, Melton Mowbray, LE13 1GH.