Neil Lawson Baker reveals some of the people who have inspired him most.
Although from 1963 I spent over 40 years of my life as a dental surgeon in London, I had a parallel career in the arts starting in 1987. Kees, a talented Dutch sculptor, introduced me in his studio in Antibes to the basic techniques of producing a sculptural armature and the materials to begin to create a three-dimensional work of art. I started to use these techniques after incurring an injury in my surgery and acquiring Hepatitis B which kept me away from my practice for four months. Working in wax on a turntable as I was recovering, I found a new way of life. Quite similar to the hand-eye skills of dentistry, I found myself following Kees’ advice and within two years ended up with a commission to make a 16-metre national monument for Malaysia.
The daddy of British Fine Art sculptural casting, Eric produced nearly all Barbara Hepworth’s work at Morris Singer in Basingstoke. I was introduced to him in 1987 with my initial waxes and he encouraged and mentored me, producing all my work in bronze at the Burleighfield Foundry in Beaconsfield. With his colleagues Ted Knell and Dennis Ball they ran one of the UK’s best art foundries of the day. Nothing fazed them. They introduced sand casting for fine art and being linked to Susse Fondeur in Paris they shared patination techniques and produced museum-quality castings.
Sharing a foundry, I was privileged to know Elizabeth well and she steered my work when I first started producing sculpture. I visited her regularly at her Dorset home. As a three-day event rider I shared her love of horses and dogs and admired her artistic integrity. She was one of many artists I admire and she helped me on my second career path.
There is more than one artist who has been a huge inspiration to me and Henry Moore would be another. Picasso had so much to offer the world: origination, dynamism, huge artistic talent, the most wonderful eye, tenacity, drive, productivity, an ability to work in all sorts of mediums, business skills, and an ability to enjoy life and move the world. Certainly a name to conjure with and never to be forgotten.
Sister Francis Dominica
A wonderful human being and truly inspirational. Starting from a moving medical experience with a young patient called Helen, Sister Frances created Helen House hospice in Oxford. There are few people I have met who have combined such huge compassion with unstoppable and immense energy. With her devoted team she built the first children’s hospice in the world to give respite care totally free of charge to children with long-term and usually incurable medical conditions.
More recently, Sister Frances founded Douglas House for those living beyond the age of 16 years. Involved with medicine since qualifying as a doctor in the 1960s and as a dental surgeon before that, I know the joy of caring and there is no one who cares more than Frances. I call her the Mother Theresa of England.