Meet Alex Ekins a Sheffield based artist and photographer who examines the human condition and the natural world.
Can you introduce yourself in a few words?
I am an UK based artist, sculptor, photographer and mountaineer. I have been climbing for 40 years throughout the world, including North and South America, Africa, the Middle East and the Himalayas. I am inspired by the people who live and work in the mountains and the mountain environment including ice, rock, stone and wood. I use natural materials and I am currently carving in wood but also using fungus and moss in sculptures.
Can you tell us more about your art and your inspirations?
My art, life and work is predominately concerned with examining the strange and inexplicable nature of the human condition and our place in the natural world.
You used Opinel knives to create a life size human made of wood, willow, moss and mushrooms. How did you get this idea?
One of the great puzzles of art in all its forms is the mystery of where our ideas come from. I can be inspired by other artists but also by forms and shapes in nature. Ideas will often start as sketches in notebooks or as smaller wooden sculptures. The idea of the Wood, Willow, Moss and Mushroom figure started as a small inspiration and then some drawings and grew quite literally into a real living sculpture. The mushrooms grew while the sculpture was on display.
Beyond art, you are also passionate about mountains. The Alpine territory being the cradle of the Opinel, do you know it a little?
I first visited the Austrian Alps and then the Chamonix valley as a teenager. These Alpine mountain areas and regions have influenced my life and led to a life in mountains and hills throughout the world. My work and art is inspired by the natural world and the shapes created by wind, snow, ice, growth, decay and time.
You were in Chamonix recently. Can you tell us more about the project you have produced there?
I went to Chamonix to examine the retreat of the Mont Blanc glaciers. The main aim of the project is to draw attention to the urgency of the environmental challenges we face and in particular to global warming and its presence visible in the shrinking of the Chamonix valley glaciers.
The Mer de Glace in particular has shrunk dramatically in my life time and continues to diminish rapidly.
I was unsure of what art I would produce and it evolved into a photographic project and I also left some small wooden sculptures in situ.
How did you discover Opinel, and what is your first memory with Opinel?
I bought my first Opinel when I was a teenager. It was a No9 carbon. I still have it!
How do you use Opinel knives for your sculptures / how are they useful to you?
I began making my first sculptures with an Opinel No8 and still predominately use carbon No8 and No9. I also like the No8 Garden knife. For the Wood, Willow, Moss and Mushroom figure I used a variety of Opinel knifes and tool. The Secateurs were essential for cutting the willow. I used No8 and No10 Billhooks for collecting moss. The lightness of the knifes and tools is really important to me as I am often carrying them for long distances.
What is your favorite Opinel?
I really like the No8 Garden knife, I use it a lot for wood carving, Opinel should make a No9 version! If I could just have one Opinel knife it would probably be a No9 Carbon.
Can you describe Opinel in 3 words?
Inspiring, historic, beautiful