Heather Jansch obituary

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My mother, Heather Jansch, who has died aged 72 following a stroke, was a renowned sculptor who specialised in images of the horse in driftwood and bronze. Her work is held in collections across the world but she is perhaps best known for sculptures exhibited at the Eden Project in Cornwall, where she was a resident artist. One of her sculptures there became known as the Eden Horse. It was voted visitors’ favourite piece of work.

Heather spent many years perfecting the translation of her complex work into bronze, pioneering a technique that made them indistinguishable from the driftwood original. Life-size horses were her hallmark and in 1999 were featured in the Shape of the Century 100 Years of Sculpture in Britain exhibition held in Salisbury.

Born in Hockley, in rural Essex, Heather was the daughter of Gordon Sewell, a talented artist, and his wife, Edna (nee Bridgens), a pianist, who together ran a furniture shop. Heather’s fascination with horses began at an early age: as a child she first learned to ride goats, eventually obtaining a cherished pony of her own. Heather learned how to draw with the help of her father. The drawings of Leonardo da Vinci and the Elgin marbles at the British Museum fired her imagination.

She attended Sweyne grammar school, Rayleigh, where she took art A-level a year early, creating a 6ft plaster-of-Paris relief of three horses, and went on to an art foundation course at Walthamstow technical college, north-east London. She embarked on studying art at Goldsmith’s College, University of London, but left, disenchanted, after a year.

In London in the 1960s she met the folk musician Bert Jansch. After marrying in 1968 they moved to a remote hill farm in Wales, where Heather bred Welsh Cobs. They later divorced.

In 1981 she settled in South Devon, buying a converted coach house at Olchard, near Newton Abbot, with 14 acres of woodland and water meadows, and began to explore site-specific sculpture. She regularly opened her beautiful gardens to the public as part of Devon Open Studios and the National Garden Scheme, with thousands of people viewing her work in its idyllic setting.

The Shape of the Century exhibition was taken to Docklands in London as part of the Millennium celebrations in 2000, and it was there that Tim Smit, founder of the Eden project, saw her work. He invited her to create work as its artist in residence in 2001. Her first pieces were created in situ within the biome and included cork pigs and a stork sitting on a pole. She then created the horse that became known as the Eden Horse.

There are pieces by Heather in private collections in the US, Canada, Switzerland, France and Romania. She exhibited worldwide, including, in 2007, as artist in residence at Arte Sella, in Borgo Valsugana, Italy, which exhibits works made from natural materials.

Heather was an independent spirit who loved fun and adventure. Throughout her life she wrote, her output including Heather Jansch’s Diary (2009) and Bert Jansch: Living With the Legend (2013). She also published two children’s books and had recently been working on a memoir.

She is survived by her son, Kieron, granddaughter, Ottilie, and brother, Malcolm.

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