|The horse that came home again.|
I don't know where the idea of rocking horses came from, but I do remember his first attempt which was a rather basic outdoor horse that our son played with until it fell apart. After that, came a carved and painted pony, still going strong all these years later. It's a vintage item now and lives at the house of some friends where it was ridden by their four daughters and assorted visiting kids, our own son included, over many years.
Soon though, Alan was making the most wonderful carved sculptural horses: a string of them in oak and ash, gessoed or polished wood, all with starry names: Rigel, Alpharatz, Andromeda, Cassiopeia, Pegasus, Orion, Sirius... we lost track of where they went, although Zuben'ubi, a huge and wonderful creature on bowed rockers, stayed at home and lives with us still.
Mostly they were commissioned by grandmothers, ostensibly 'for the grandchildren' - but people would quietly admit that they themselves had 'always wanted one.'
We didn't make any fortunes.
Horses are hard, heavy, time consuming and expensive to make and whatever Alan was paid was never enough to give him a decent hourly rate - but that's the nature of the arts and crafts sector.
People did, however, start to call him 'The Rocking Horse Man.'
|Just how sad can an old horse get?|
After a while, he began to be asked to restore old horses so - having researched the whole subject - he added this work to his portfolio. We're not really talking conservation here, since most of the time, there was little to conserve. These poor beasts were battered beyond recognition: worm eaten, tattered and torn, falling to bits, sometimes badly restored by well meaning individuals, covered in thick gloss paint and with plaited wool or rope manes and tails. One actually arrived as a bundle of sticks in a box. Often, they had lost a jaw. Another had been burned on a bonfire by the 'nice' people to whom it had been lent by its previous owner, and had been rescued only just short of total dissolution. That one - restored to its former glory as a surprise gift for a retired owner - provoked tears of joy, and almost made us cry as well!
|A brand new horse, leaving in a horse box!|
Alan carved other items, of course, not just horses. He spent many years working on massive outdoor sculptures of all kinds. Sadly, crippling arthritis finally caught up with him and he can barely walk these days, let alone carve. Instead, he paints in acrylics - bright pictures, full of life and movement and human figures- indulging a love of colour which sculpture seldom permitted - except where these lovely cheerful rocking horses were concerned.