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Heaven must be missing an angel

Because it's (currently) in Devon and getting a lot of love from the locals! Muddy Devon caught up with Woodbury artist, Brendan Rawlings, to find out why his cherub has captured the county's hearts.

The south-west’s answer to the Angel of the North is taking the nation by storm. Muddy’s Devon Ed, Lisa, caught up with Woodbury artist who made it, Brendan Rawlings, to find out how it feels to have his 6ft tall angel made from driftwood – collected from beaches in Devon and Cornwall and which took him just a week to make – featured on everything from BBC Spotlight to The Times.

Hey Brendan, you’re having a bit of moment, aren’t you?

I know it doesn’t happen very often! I’m thrilled. You work like stink and sometimes it just works out.

Why do you think your Guardian Angel has captured people’s imaginations?

Well, two things: one because it was photographed on a beach and secondly, the subject being an angel. I must have had about thirty messages from people who have lost people – some of them pretty graphic – about how it’s moved them. It’s quite intense actually, very moving for me personally. Originally I called it Your Guardian Angel because it has multiple meanings – protector, strength or someone who gives you a kick up the arse and the courage to do things. Since then it’s been dubbed the Angel of the South.

What was your inspiration?

I’m always looking for new inspiration – as an artist you get bored – and there was this painting of an angel I had done when I was in Dubai. I was lying awake and remembered it was in my mum’s loft and I thought it would make a brilliant sculpture. I work in driftwood and it lends itself really well to an angel’s features and feathers.

How did you make it?

I make the bigger pieces using a battery-powered chainsaw. I don’t use petrol anymore as I want to be low carbon.

Where can we see it?

It’s currently at Torre Abbey then it’s going to be on the beach at Exmouth for the day, near the lifeboat station to raise money for the RNLI. The plan is to display it on different beaches around Devon and Cornwall – I’m not sure when and where yet but I’ll be saying where it is on my Instagram. It’ll be within 20-40 miles of where I’m based in east Devon – I’ve got a family so I can’t go on tour like a rock star!

Ah, g’wan! Is it for sale? 

Yes, I’ve had lots of interest and it’s up for £10,500. There is also a wall-mounted version for £600. My company is called Zen Wood Designs and I take commissions too. All eco-friendly and using reclaimed wood. I’m thinking of making a bigger one next time, maybe from an old boat.

Sounds fabulous. Do you have fave beaches in Devon and Cornwall for collecting your materials and driftwood?

Yes, but I can’t say where or there won’t be any driftwood when I go! I do love the big, pebbly beach at Budleigh Salterton beach, especially in winter when there are no tourists around, when it’s at its most spiritual. In Cornwall, Constantine is probably my fave.

Have you always been an artist?

No, my friends think it’s hilarious – piss artist, maybe! I played for Exeter Chiefs for a couple of seasons and then went to Dubai for 10 years to set up a fitness company but then I decided to come back home to Devon. I’m quite an earthy, spiritual person and the environmental angle matters to me.

Fancy meeting an angel? You can see Your Garden Angel in the Spanish Barn at Torre Abbey as part of the Torbay Guild of Artists Vison of 2020 until Friday 28 Feb. Want to meet the maker? Brendan will be at Exmouth beach, 9am-4pm on Saturday 29 Feb. Go and say hello!

So far as Cornwall goes, Brendan also hopes to bring his angel back to Fistral and St Ives to raise money for the RNLI – watch Instagram for dates.

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