Craftsman Jeff Soan, of Wooden Creatures, has made a beautiful articulated red deer from the OneOak timber, which has a remarkable lifelike movement. Jeff Soan is best known for his articulating wooden creatures which he has been creating since 1987.
Talking about his work in the OneOak project Jeff said:
My aim from the beginning of this project was to make animals that would be found on and around the oak tree. The main piece is a red deer. I had hoped to form the antlers with branches from the tree but in practice this doesn’t work, the branches don’t have the right form. I have also enough timber to make a badger which will give me a chance to use my favourite stain, a mixture of vinegar and steel wool which blackens the oak beautifully.
From the offcuts I will make wrens which are the soul of the oak and king of all the birds.
The Oneoak project has been an enjoyable experience for me. I am never happier than when I am using my own off cuts and maximising the use of all possible parts of the tree and knowing that others are doing the same thing with the same tree makes it even better.
Jeff studied Art and Design at Goldsmith’s College in the late 60’s, taught for a few years, travelled for a while, married, started a family and a building business during the 70’s. He gave up building in the mid 80’s and a chance encounter with a wobbly rat from Chile changed his life. He was so inspired by this articulating folk toy that he joined a course in toy making at the London College of Furniture, successfully completing the City and Guilds course. He set up his garden workshop in 1987, making toys which were sold at the local craft market in Greenwich. After a year of selling many new designs he eventually returned to the articulating creatures that had so fascinated him. A batch of wobbly fish being snapped up by eager customers caught the eye of a passing TV producer and he was invited to take part in a BBC programme called ‘Handmade’. Sales really took off and he started developing many different creatures incorporating the technique. Jeff joined the British Toymakers Guild in 1989. His distinctive talent was quickly recognised and he was awarded the Polka Prize in 1989, the coveted title ” Toymaker of the Year” in 1995 and 2000 and the Guild cup in 1990, 1993,1994,1995 and 1999.