Welsh-based artist Dominic Gubb loves nothing more than to see what he can make from discarded materials. So much so that since leaving art school he has forged a career making animals, especially dogs, out of reclaimed leather, discarded furniture, plastic bottles and unwanted gym ropes. He is so good that you’d think they were real. In fact, if you like idea of having a pet but have no time to walk one or no desire to pick up the poop, one of Dominic’s rope dogs would do the trick quite nicely.
His rope dogs are made from a combination of welded steel armature and reclaimed gym ropes that have been deconstructed, dyed and washed. Getting the right form and expression for the animal requires a painstaking process of hand-tying and shaping with the rope. With his leather animals, Dominic uses reclaimed leather from abandoned sofas and either reclaimed furniture legs or hand-shaped legs from reclaimed timber. The leather is stripped and washed and, using a hand-crank Singer sewing machine, folded and sewn into shape. Dominic has also not let plastic bottles go to waste, using either HDPE plastic milk bottles or Polyethylene (PET) milk bottles, to create birds, dogs and other sculptures.
Come and meet Dominic and his gorgeous animals …
What’s your background and how have you ended up where you are today?
I’m a London lad who studied a BA (hons) in sculpture in the East End. I left London and moved to Cardiff after graduation for a better pace of life. I now have a Welsh wife, three Welsh children and a Welsh dog.
All your animals look extremely life-life. Did you have to learn animal anatomy to perfect this? Have you had to learn new techniques or crafts along the way?
My work has often been figurative and I am a firm believer in the more you look and the more you make, the better you get. I think capturing the smallest element of movement or characteristic is the key to life-like work – the slightest twist or turn of a head is sometimes all it needs. Every material demands a different process to push its potential; each technique is learnt and perfected through trial and error.
Explain your creative process from start to finish …
Materials have always been key to the creative process of my work – that’s the start and shapes the way the work is made and how it appears. Whether it is dismantling gym climbing ropes and then reconstructing them or stripping the leather from a discarded sofa and, through a process of reshaping and remaking, finding something new. Learning what new materials make possible is where the excitement is.
Tell me about the recycled materials you use? Why have you chosen to work primarily with recycled materials and where do you source them from?
Even before art college I always loved the possibilities offered up by junk. My grandfather had a cellar where he made fantastic things but always from stuff he had found dumped in back alleys and skips – it always seemed to make so much sense to me. I think that materials can be given a second chance rather than condemned to land fill.
What challenges, if any, have you faced along the way?
Time to develop new work while keeping up with demand for popular pieces.There is only a certain amount of work that can be made in a year and the more you are asked for the less time you have to explore new materials and ideas.
Have you had any different, interesting, unusual commissions?
I recently finished a Newfoundland dog that was made to be exhibited at the Royal Kennel Club with a cart that the queen rode in as a child.
Explain what inspires you?
Making something that surprises people and hopefully brings a smile to their face.
What would be your dream project/commission? Or have you already made it? Explain.
I’ve made a few large pieces but often think what it would be like to do something really big.
Have you ever had a ‘who’d have thought’ moment?
Every time someone buys one of my sculptures…
Thanks so much Dominic, and his cute sidekick Jack Russell, for giving us an insight into your creative life! And if you want to see more of Dominic’s work, you can find him here.