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Chris Campbell

Bringing Design To Life

Chris Campbell is an artist and sculptor who specialises in creating innovative and challenging artworks and installations for both private and public spaces. Based at his Mattersey studio, Chris’ fine art approach to design, development, fabrication and installation has seen him collate an exciting and varied portfolio across the UK. Made went to find out more…
 |  Jon Rogers  |  Artists

We discover that Chris’s purpose-built working studio is not only fascinating (and thoughtfully furnished with a burning log burner!), but it provides a true ‘working experience’ for anyone wishing to see how Chris works first hand, with distinct areas for woodworking, metalworking, metal casting, printmaking, laser and CNC routing. His portfolio albums are full of intricate prototype drawings and photos of his installations that could keep us interested, for hours. But we wanted to find out more about the man behind the creations and how he has taken his interest for fine art and combined this with precision design and varying manufacturing techniques.


“Mine is not a story of art from the start”, laughs Chris. “Coming from an engineering background [we have an aircraft engineer and a metallurgist in the family], I was encouraged to follow that path but by the time I reached A Levels, I knew instinctively I wanted to look at art. I wasn’t necessarily that talented but fine art interested me, and I stubbornly wanted to pursue something along those lines, so I did!”

Chris was accepted onto a foundation course at Blackpool College of Technology and Art, the town where he is from, later progressing to Trent Polytechnic with a BA in Fine Art/Sculpture in 1980. After this Chris practised as a self-employed artist, making small scale artwork, whilst working simultaneously as a security guard. At this point also Chris was gaining employment in schools and colleges across the UK as an ‘artist in residence’, setting the foundation for larger scale outdoor commissions that ensued from the early 1990s. He later also took a Post Graduate Certificate in Glass and Architecture at Central St. Martins.

“It’s been a varied journey along the way”, Chris explains, “and I have been fortunate that at the time I was starting out it was a much smaller pool of artists and sculptors than say when you fast forward to today, meaning you had less competition when applying for tenders through local authorities. It was also a time when EU funding gave the Arts Council more scope to explore creative avenues and provide artist in residence opportunities, so I eagerly took up any artist in residence opportunities when they cropped up!”

From Chris’ portfolio of work we can see that in recent years he has worked more extensively with steel but his earlier projects often involved wood (we discovered his first famous commission was a carved wooden camel shown on Blue Peter, later replicated in metal) so we were interested to understand his favourite materials to work with.

“To be honest, it’s not about the material but more the process that interests me.

“My primary medium is steel but I do also work with timber, glass, plastic, stone and paint, and I have found that my in depth understanding of the capabilities of each one, gained through experience and personal research, gives me a platform to choose the right one for each project, or often a mix of various, which can create some evoking results.

“Some of my more notable projects though have involved steel, particularly public art works in regeneration and new build projects, and whenever you work on any design and fabrication you need to ensure you use methods and materials that resonate with the brief or the context of the location. For example, in a heritage project I might incorporate traditional processes of casting, profile cutting components, drilling and bolting, whilst ensuring I use the latest industry resources and machinery available.”

As we look through Chris’s profile, we can see he has extensive experience in working in challenging environments, both physical and cultural and his work has become synonymous with creating robust installations that are sustainable and stand the test of time. And it’s clear that he is happy working with some really diverse briefs, including, the now recognisable and beautifully intricate gates at Trinity Leeds Shopping Centre, the jovial Red Tractor at Wheatley Shopping Centre Doncaster – a commission from British Land, and the innovative Flying Scotsman project for the NHS featuring LED blood pulses, to name just a few. More locally some of his sculptures are located at Idle Valley Nature Reserve, designed to sit sympathetically within the surroundings, and even the entrance sign to the Enterprise Centre in Retford, home to Made, started out at Chris’ workshop.

During our chat, we also learn that the bulk of his extensive public art sculpture projects since the 90s continued successfully through his business up until 2020, after which Chris has turned his attention to concentrating more in depth on his own studio work and personal creative projects.

“I felt it was time for me to look at exploring new techniques and my own passions”, he explained, “By working in a more relaxed and solo way I have time to prioritise my own projects, invest more time in local collaborations, and still take on bespoke commissions and work with local authorities.

“I’m a firm advocate of engaging with people and communities through art, he smiles. “I like to encourage them to participate and actively contribute to changing and enhancing their neighbourhoods or work/education/recreational spaces. I now have more time to do this.”

With so many projects and concepts in progress and in the pipeline, we couldn’t help wondering where Chris’ drive and inspiration comes from… “Ah, it’s about learning new processes. Always. It keeps me motivated and engaged…

“I’ve am driven by the working element to what I do, and I suppose I distinguish myself as a hands-on working artist, perhaps even an outsider on the art scene.

“What I mean by this is that there is a divide between those who are artists who wish to showcase in galleries, and those who want to use their skills to make a living, and I am very hands on.”

Since the Covid-19 lockdown Chris has also continued his work with local authorities both on public space installations and increasing his metal casting workshops with local schools.

“I’ve built up plenty experience of working with schools and I enjoy working with the kids. It’s a pleasure and I frequently organise and facilitate preparatory workshops, either here at the studio or on site, in small groups.

“The kids often cannot translate their designs into scale and are genuinely are amazed when their initial card drawings are then cast as metal plaques. We also work on wooden relief projects.

“Not only does this help them to flourish creatively and add another dimension to their studies but they grow in confidence and achieve something that sometimes some of them don’t think they ever will. It’s a process of activating their imagination and getting them to see their project through to the finish, so it’s a great skill building project also.”

It’s not just schools though that are benefitting from Chris’ creative resources; with local community and promoting Nottinghamshire’s artistic network both a focus point. Chris has been involved with Open Studios Notts for some time, welcoming visitors to his studio as part of their annual programme of events. More recently he also took part in Big Draw 2023.

“This was a great experience. I worked with visual artists Mandy Keating and Tracey Meek on a variety of artworks across Nottinghamshire, which has become a new art trail. Inspire Libraries put the event together after they joined forces with the Miner2Major Landscape Partnership Scheme and photographer Alister Morrison, there really was a lot of energy behind it. And for myself, it was another way to explore new ideas and collaborate with other artists whilst giving something back locally.”

On his plans for the year ahead, Chris told us that there are a few exciting projects coming up and he has signed up for Open Studios Notts 2024, so it’s worth checking the website for the calendar of events and to find out the line-up of exhibitions planned: or having a look at Chris Campbell's website for the latest news.

Chris is happy to take commissions for bespoke projects, and any collection of artifacts, drawings and collages can be developed into or through digital means to create printing blocks, relief sculptures and metal castings.

“I can work with anyone on their brief, whether they have a clear vision or just some initial ideas, and it’s a great process of discovery and creative energy as we collaborate on a design that resonates with a specific goal, and then follow the process through to fabrication and installation.

For anyone interested, I’d say drop me a line through my website and then come over to my studio to get a feel for the work I do here. It’s a really welcoming space.”