Sculptor Isabel Coulton at work

Sculptor’s chainsaw meerkats at Paignton Zoo

Sculptor Isabel Coulton at work

Sculptor Isabel Coulton, from South Brent, Devon is working on a chainsaw sculpture of meerktas at Paignton zoo. The group of meerkats is being carved from the stump of a Western red cedar tree near the Zoo’s meerkat enclosure. The stump has 8 cut-off trunks which will be turned into meerkats.

Isabel said: “I sculpt in many materials but wood is my main medium. I use a chainsaw for large works, sometimes carving trees from top to bottom. I have carved 11 trees for Sharkham village in Brixham, one of which is a leaping dolphin, due to be finished later this year.”

Isabel was commissioned by Paignton Zoo Curator of Plants and Gardens Kevin Frediani: “We are developing the Zoo landscape in different ways, mixing animals, plants, buildings and now art to look at the natural world and the way in which people and biodiversity share the planet. Inviting an artist to shape what was once a living tree into a way-marker for one of our iconic animal species shows a joined up way of thinking about space.

“Isabel’s work is very organic, she is a master at what she does and to be in a position to share her work is an exciting prospect for the botanic garden – a real legacy in the making which I encourage people to come and see as it unfolds over the coming weeks.”

The project is likely to take two or three weeks. “It’s great to be involved with the Zoo, especially as it is such a forward thinking organisation and Kevin has such positive energy and vision, which I find really inspiring,” she said

Isabel is classically trained and has learnt the techniques of craftsmen such as Thomas Chippendale, so can also work with hand chisels to a detailed design. She runs evening classes in carving, a children’s sculpture club for primary schools and leads workshops making sculptures from wood offcuts.

She has recently run a carving project in conjunction with sixth formers and year tens from Keviccs in Totnes and Dartington Hall. She has a variety of other skills ranging from charcoal drawing and clay modelling to printmaking and paint-making using local earth colours.