Laura Ford greets me at her studio in north-west London. On a dead-end street, off a main road, it could be in the countryside with its beautiful garden. Tending it is a therapeutic hobby, Ford tells me.
Ford was born in 1961 in Cardiff and studied at the Bath School of Art and Design and the Chelsea College of Arts. Her work has not always been understood; she recalls being rescued from expulsion by her fellow sculptor Nicholas Pope while a student at Bath.
There is a contradiction between the smiling affable sculptor and her sculpture, which always has a dark side. Girls, their faces obscured by hair, veils clinging to trees, cats almost human-size appear ready to pounce and anxious groups of penguins look around. There is always menace, but Ford herself seems straightforward, dressed simply today, in denim. "Everything has that other side. For me they are kind of funny first of all and then there is this dark side. But underlining everything, there is anger under every conversation. I was interested in that wrestling with love and hate."
Ford moved here around 20 years ago with her sculptor husband, Andrew Sabin, to raise their three children. Having a large space for welding, sewing and anything else that needs doing, save the final bronzes that need to go off to the foundry, has been a godsend, allowing her to get on with parenting while spending any spare moments in the studio. "I was next to home where home-life and work-life was seamless". She admits that the clothing that adorned some of her younger figures was pillaged from her kids' clothes, "Some of them are made. I used to steal my children's clothes and I would get new ones and replace them." Clothing is important to Ford. "The moment you look at a person you start to read their clothes and how they wear their clothes."
Recently she has acquired an additional workspace, a barn near Chichester. She says that working in the country has encouraged her to look at landscape in a new way. She has an assistant who comes in to help with the armatures, but prefers to do much of the other work herself, bringing the pieces back to dress and rethink them.
The rhythm of my weekly visits has shown me that each artist uses their studio in a completely different way. They can be a place to complete tasks or simply a refuge in which to think. Sitting in Ford's bright front room, with work in various stages all around us, she says, "Having a studio is so important because the moment I have these things around they provoke thoughts."
Laura Ford at Strawberry Hill, London (020 8744 1241) continues until 1 November
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