Sunderland artist with a nose for innovation

Dominic Wilcox's iPhone gadget
Dominic Wilcox's iPhone gadget
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DOMINIC Wilcox’s latest exhibition of watch sculptures befits someone who is a master of capturing moments in time.

For moulding a thought, an idea, an incident, into a permanent object for all to see is what he does best.

Whether it’s a War Bowl made by melting toy soldiers, a gold leaf skimming stone or an elongated nose piece which allows you to navigate your touch-screen phone, the 36-year-old’s pieces are talking points, thought-provokers.

And his varied body of work has not gone unnoticed by the art world.

He has work on display in some of the world’s most prestigious galleries, including Centre Pompidou in Paris and London’s Victoria and Albert Museum; his ideas have been regularly featured in publications such as the design and culture bible, Icon magazine, and he has received commissions from global big-hitters such as Nike and Esquire.

It’s all a world away from Wearside where Dominic was first introduced to art in classrooms at St Aidan’s School.

From there he climbed the ladder of creativity, undertaking a foundation course in Art and Design at Sunderland University before studying a degree in Visual Communication at Edinburgh College of Art, followed by an MA at the Royal College of Art on the renowned Design Product course.

Since 2002, he’s been working in London from his studio in Hackney, yet Sunderland still informs his work.

Dominic, who grew up on the Elstob Farm estate, explains: “When I was on the course in Sunderland there was a man there called Charlie Holmes who showed me this book which had sketches of inventions. It showed me that creativity can come through ideas rather than just painting pretty pictures. That’s what I’ve been doing ever since.

“Then, at the Royal College of Art I moved from 2D into 3D, a lot of my designs come out of objects.”

His latest creative gem – Watch Sculptures: Moments in Time – was carved from moments seen on the streets of London, but is encapsulated by a product of Sunderland’s heritage.

The series of seven sculptures features tiny, hand-crafted figures attached to watch hands and is on display at Dezeen Space in Shoreditch, London, until October 16.

His unique animated scenes were inspired by people-watching in the Capital, but it was his Sunderland roots which allowed him to encase the moments in glass domes and complete the works.

He explains: “I went home to visit my parents and I was struggling to make the glass domes to go on the watches, so I popped along to the National Glass Centre and they were able to make them for me. It’s nice to have that little bit of home as part of the pieces.”

He added: “A lot of my work is about observing everyday life, little moments captured in these watch time bubbles. So on one of them there’s a guy who is wanting to have his hand shaken, but it’s rejected.

“Another, is inspired by where I live in Hackney. It shows a little looter with a colour TV.

“Everyone does it, everyone people-watches, it’s just that I notice when there’s something interesting and put a spotlight on it.”

Though Sunderland is not known for its arts and culture scene, Dominic says it has its own pockets of creativity.

“There’s definitely little things going on in Sunderland,” he explained. “It’s never going to compete with London on that level, but that’s the same for everyone outside London.

“I think the National Glass Centre is a great thing for the city and should be celebrated and supported.”

Another popular piece has proven to be his War Bowl, which exemplifies Dominic’s skill for removing the mundane from everyday objects and making them something worth noticing.

The bowls consist of 250 melted-down toy soldiers in different colours such as red to signify the Zulu War and blue for the Battle of Waterloo. “People who own the War Bowl say it’s a conversation piece, people always have something to say about it,” he said. “I like to create things that are interesting to look at, but that also have an idea behind them.”

Dominic’s sparks of creativity have also spread to the internet where his Variations on Normal blog has earned him a nomination for a Webby award, the Oscars of the web world.

So what next for the man who, rather than being pigeon-holed as either an artist, engineer, inventor, illustrator or blogger, is a bit of everything: a creator?

His creative mind doesn’t stand still for long. Once one piece is on display and has people talking, he’s onto the next project.

“I’d like to do a book of my sketches, I’ve always talked about doing that,” he says. “I put up a lot of my ideas on the web but it’s nice to have a book, something in your hand.”

To learn more about Dominic’s work click here or you can read his blog here.