ZERO tolerance


Wood and metal sculptor swaps inferior tools for high performance sanders and abrasives improvising stunning shapes for a series of urns that have become his signature creations .   

Joel Parkes has been sculpting all his life.  Working with wood and metal, he hand carves urns from single pieces of tree harvested from his own coppice located near Bridport in Dorset.  The trees are so large and old that they are unable to pass through any processing machine, which is how Joel’s art form has evolved.  He fashions and improvises their design physiologically during his work using nothing more than hand tools. The urns’ shapes are derived from the inherent outline of the trunk, exposing idiosyncrasies and beautiful elements within the wood. Letting the wood dry naturally opens fissures and rents, which are backfilled with pewter, coloured acrylic adhesives and gold leaf to strengthen the sculpture and draw attention to the beauty of its imperfection.

Joel Parkes says, “Staying true to the structure of the wood allows the urns to taper to a single graceful point of balance, creating dramatic arcs and a graceful mass.  Carved geometric edges conversely defy the organic flow of the shapes and create a modern element.  Each urn is unique in both scale and approach. Their beauty lies in the acceptance of their scars and anomalies.  Just as in ourselves we understand the most beautiful parts of us lie in the wisdoms of our experience and failures, when looking at the urns we see a sense of beauty which only time can sculpt.”

After working with inferior tools for a while, Joel visited Axminster Tools near his home, which he describes as “heaven for blokes”.  It was here he discovered Mirka’s sanders and abrasives and hasn’t looked back.  “I decided to upgrade my tools because I push them really hard and my existing tools just weren’t up to the task.  I have to say Mirka’s sanders are a joy.  I’ve purchased several now and they’re the best tools I own.  Combined with Abranet discs, which mean my work is virtually dust-free, the sanders allow me to sand and polish without hampering the process.  I can do anything to the wood and the tools flex with my imagination.”

Joel trained at Chelsea College of Art, starting his career at Free Form Arts Trust, a pioneering public arts company established in 1969 with the purpose of putting people at the heart of changing their urban environment by working together creatively.  Here he worked for seven years on the regeneration of East London creating various sculptures for The Shoreditch Trust as well as contributing to notable projects such as Shoreditch Park and Shepherdess Walk.  Joel also won a Youth Justice Award for his years of work with local young offenders as part of his design team where his various public arts projects provided education and paid employment to those at risk of and recently out of jail.  In 2009, after taking time out to travel around the world, he set up his own sculpting business creating private commissions for individuals and corporate organisations.

ZERO is a series of unique urns which will be showcased at Mother London between
Thursday 2 to 9 April 2015, Biscuit Building, 10 Redchurch Street, London E2 7DD.
Urns and sketches can be reserved before Joel’s London showcase.
Also being screened at the show will be a short film about Joel’s work, made by Mother London Film Director, Charlie Inman, who has recently won awards for his films including Brazil Bam Bam Bam, with Gilles Peterson.
Guest list enquiries for the Private View on Thursday 2nd April please email:

The current ZERO collection is on sale at