A TEACHER has left the classroom to discover the art of sculpting.

Darren Allsopp of Carter’s Clay, Romsey gave up his 28-year teaching career to develop his skills in the art of metal sculpting.

Darren has recently received his first commissioned job for a nature regeneration project at Dinas Powys Railway Station in Wales.

He specialises in metal sculptures which incorporate insect houses, and this brought him to the attention of the Welsh nature project.

Darren now has a regular market stall on Saturdays and Sundays, mainly in Romsey Town centre but sometimes he can be seen in Stockbridge where he showcases all his latest work.

Darren said: "I left teaching a little over two years ago, I did my very first craft stall with Romsey Makers, it was the lead up to Christmas so my stall was populated with painted stones, carved Santas, wooden reindeer and a few insect houses made from reclaimed pallet wood.

"Sales were sporadic but enough to keep me interested. Customers seemed to really like the patterns I created in my bug houses with organic materials.

"As my work developed I began to try more unusual shapes. I decided that metal would be more versatile so I taught myself to weld. Around this time I thought it might be fun to make a bug house that looked like a bug, so I made a stylised bee and it sold after a short while to a very nice lady I still see every week on the market.

"I carried on experimenting, introducing more sculptural forms into my new ideas still including insect house space.

I should say that throughout this time, my darling wife went back to teaching full time and this has allowed me to develop my work.

"One day a young man stopped by my stall and said he could not believe what he was looking at. Apparently his mum was managing a nature regeneration project at Dinas Powys Railway Station. She had been saying that she wanted something sculptural but with space for solitary bees, my work was just what he thought she needed. Didn't hear anything for a few weeks but she did contact me, asked me to submit a design along with 3 other local artists. I submitted 3 designs, they chose my design which is due to be installed May 2022.

"I have also been contacted by an organisation called Trees for Cities, one of their employees had taken one of my business cards from my stall. As I understand it they specialise in public and school garden makeovers. They placed an order for one squirrel and one snail and have indicated that they wish to purchase larger pieces at a later stage.

"Customers frequently ask me where I get my ideas. Patterns in nature, material shape, experimenting with the what if scenario and talking to customers all feed the creative process.

All my metal is reclaimed, I use canisters (fire extinguisher, gas, glue) steel toe caps anything I can see potential in.