7 Creative Questions: An Interview with Wood Carver Robyn Gordon

7 Creative Questions is an ongoing series of interviews with everyday creative artists.

Today’s artist is Robyn Gordon.

Robyn, would you like to introduce yourself and your artwork?

Hi Dan. I am an artist living in South Africa and I work with wood which I carve into totems and panels, incorporating wire, beads and found objects. Most of my pieces are inspired by folklore, tribal artefacts, patterns and symbols.

Thanks Robyn. Ok, on with the interview questions.

What does “being creative” mean to you?

Creating art is my passion. Its something I just have to do …. or feel miserable. Its my means of self expression…..balance, peace, solace, meditation, healing.

Tribal Secrets by Robyn Gordon
Tribal Secrets by Robyn Gordon

Can you describe the time when you first realised that creating was something you absolutely had to do?

My mom introduced me to patchwork when I was about 3 and my first project was a tiny crazy “quilt” for the new baby nextdoor. It was my moms way of keeping me occupied while I counted the days until the baby’s birth… “When mom, when?”.

The wonder of creating something as amazing as a quilt from the dressmaking scraps on the sewing room floor, is a memory I have held onto for years.

I can remember the day I handed the rudimentary piece of patchwork over to the new mother as if it was yesterday. It was definitely a feeling I wanted to repeat.

Broken Angel by Robyn Gordon
Broken Angel by Robyn Gordon

What kind of creative patterns, routines or rituals do you have?

I like to start my work early in the morning after a cup of coffee. That cup of coffee seems to be my signal to get down to work.  If I’ve been working flat out and need a break I have another cuppa and I’m ready to work again.

Playing a certain type of music used to be my signal to start working but now I do a lot of my carving outside so merely setting up my work bench and listening to the stream rushing in the background and the monkeys rustling in the surrounding trees is enough to get me into the zone.

What’s your favourite thing you’ve ever created?

Such a difficult question! I change my mind regularly but the piece that stands out in my mind is Broken Angel, a small primitive, weathered angel which I carved for a friend who was going through a huge upheaval in her life. I wanted so badly to help but didn’t know how. Carving the angel helped me too.

What are you trying to communicate with your art?

I realize now that I’m conveying my love for my country …..telling a story of  my life in South Africa, though I didn’t set out to do this. It just happened.

I realize now that I’m conveying my love for my country …..telling a story of  my life in South Africa, though I didn’t set out to do this. It just happened.

The niche carvings hold objects that are of the land (pebbles, bones, cowries, driftwood etc.), symbols of Africa (beadwork, arrowheads, tiny stone carvings), symbols of my British ancestry (silver teaspoons, Minton china shards, mother of pearl buttons).

The totems “speak” of the legends that have been passed down from one generation to the next. The patterns, objects, symbols are all of this land.

Door: Tree Of Knowledge by Robyn Gordon
Door: Tree Of Knowledge by Robyn Gordon

Which creative medium would you love to pursue but haven’t yet?

I’d love to paint enormous abstracts and can picture myself dripping, smearing and flinging paint on to multiple canvases in a huge warehouse.

What’s the best advice you ever had about how to be more creative?

I don’t know if anyone advised me but when I was going through a long creative block I just knew I had to avoid stagnation at all costs so I would go to my work area every morning and create something even if it was only cutting a few collage elements out of magazines or writing up a few quotes into my quote book.

Thanks Robyn, it’s been a pleasure to interview you.

Tools of the Trade by Robyn Gordon
Tools of the Trade by Robyn Gordon

You can find out more about Robyn over on her blog ArtPropelled and see more of her artwork on her website – robyngordon.weebly.com and her flickr photostream.

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5 thoughts on “7 Creative Questions: An Interview with Wood Carver Robyn Gordon”

  1. Love her work! So many interesting elements. I don’t carve or work with wood but can really appreciate her talent and the beauty she has created with these pieces.

    I would have a hard time focusing on my work with those surroundings! I’d be watching the monkeys in the trees 🙂

    Thanks for an interesting interview. Love hearing about artists’ backgrounds, routines and inspirations.


  2. Thanks Diane, I have more artist interviews planned.

    I met Robyn about three years ago and her work was amazing then. I’m in awe of any artist whose work I enjoy and where I wouldn’t haven’t a clue how or where to start creating the kinds of things they’re creating, and Robyn is a fine example.

    If you check out her Art Propelled blog you’ll see she’s also a wonderful source on inspiration in bringing other people’s work into the spotlight too, and very supportive of fellow artists.


  3. Thanks Dan. I checked out Robyn’s Art Propelled blog and have bookmarked it. Interesting and inspiring. (Honestly, monkeys on the roof… what a land 🙂 )


  4. What a wonderful story, Robyn! And thanks, Dan, for the interview. I met Robyn about four years ago, at a time when she might have quit carving. I’m so pleased to know she found the creative urge to continue stronger than anything else. Her work tells a story not only of Africa, but of her creative life.


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