Driftwood sculptures are proving a lifeline for Salisbury artist

Words and photo by Tristan Ovington
Creativity is a lifeline for many and Taff Hughes, a 77-year-old retired artist living in Salisbury, is no exception. He lives by himself and occupies his time by creating beautiful, sinewy pieces of sculpture made from ivy and hazel wood.

“I find them on Harnham slope or the racecourse,” said Taffy. “I strip them down by removing the bark, which can take up to 20 hours for larger pieces, and varnish them. Many pieces are made from driftwood from the river Avon. I don’t want to sell some because they are just too beautiful to give away, and I am so proud of them.”
When asked if all his pieces are made from ivy, Taff replied: “Some are made from hazel wood, which I boil and twist into different shapes by curling it around my finger. The hazel is more artistic and delicate, but the result is stunning as you can create striking shapes.”
Taff’s interest in sculpture began over 20 years ago, following his involvement in a car accident: “Twenty years ago, I was driving home from work on Dorchester bypass. A young driver hit me from behind, and I crossed the crash barrier. Sitting in the driver’s seat, I couldn’t feel my legs.
“The van had flipped over, so an ambulance and fire engine came, and they turned it over so it was upright. They put me on a stretcher, but one of the paramedics dropped me a few feet to the ground. Immediately after I fell, I felt pins and needles in my legs as the feeling returned.
“The doctor said I was lucky they dropped me, as it jerked my back in a way that meant it returned feeling to my legs. I went to a rehabilitation clinic with my back hunched and difficulty walking.
“After six months I was as good as new, and after 18 months, aged 60, I returned to work. One day, I was out with my grandchildren and saw a piece of ivy wrapped around a branch. I took it home, cleaned it upand that’s where it all began.

I have no training in carpentry or art.
“I retired at 63 because I had lymphoma. I am in the early stages of dementia. I don’t know where I’d be if I didn’t have my hobby. It keeps me going and I’d be lost without it. I am always available at home if people want to come in for a chat and to look at my art.”
Taff can be reached on 07856954310

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