H: 38 cm
Born in Catford, South London, Brian Willsher studied engineering between 1945 and 1948, and then drifted through a succession of occupations, before finally qualifying as a dental technician.
In 1954, he suffered a near fatal motorbike accident, and spent six months convalescing.
During this time he began making plaster objects using techniques learnt through dentistry, and resolved to commit his time to some form of creative work. In 1956, Brian Willsher began working with wood, applying his experimental forms to lamp bases.
This fusion of abstract shapes with everyday domestic articles resulted in immediate success. Geoffrey Dunn, of Dunn’s department store in Bromley, Kent, offered him his first exhibition in their shop window, which they called ‘Brian Willsher’s Things’.
Shortly afterwards Christopher Heal, of 1960s department store Heal’s, asked him to supply table lamps and lighting for his flagship store on Tottenham Court Road, London.
These proved very popular, but Brian Willsher tired of the monotonous production process and of his neighbours’ complaints about the noise of the circular saw.
He purchased a bandsaw, which was much quieter, and which allowed him to pursue what he called ‘doodling in wood’.
This was the start of Brian Willsher’s career as a sculptor. In 1966, Heal’s give him his first solo exhibition, which proved so successful that a second one followed in 1967. In June 1968, Customs and Excise disputed the status of Brian Willsher’ work, claiming that his creations were ornaments rather than sculpture, and therefore subject to a 40% manufactured goods tax.
Some respected names leapt to his defence, as was reported in The Guardian: ‘Here’s pure sculpture, indeed!
More than that, memorable sculpture!’, wrote Sculptor Sir Henry Moore.
In spite of such praise, Brian Willsher refrained from showing his work in commercial galleries throughout the 1970s and ‘80s, instead subsisting by selling sculpture for nominal sums directly from his studio and market stalls in Hampstead and Covent Garden.
By 1989, Brian Willsher was encouraged to start showing in galleries again, with exhibitions at the Belgrave and Boundary Galleries, London in 1990.
He was also commissioned to produce larger works, including pieces that can still be seen in Lewisham Hospital. Brian Willsher continued to produce sculptures until 2005, when ill health prevented any further work.
This product was added to our catalog on Tuesday 11 December, 2018.