James has always loved antiques and has been working with wood, making models and miniature sculptures since he was a small boy. His childhood was spent in the workshops of his parents’ antique restoration company both in the UK and in France, whittling, carving and refinishing. By the time he reached his late teens, he was not only an accomplished antique dealer but also a very competent cabinet maker and was quite at home restoring such varied items as heavily carved oak and walnut furniture to the odd Queen Anne finely veneered bureau bookcase. He first travelled to the Philippines in 1989 assisting a friend with his costume jewellery business. It was love at first sight. He was entranced by the countryside, the beaches, the wildlife and above all by the people with their natural flair for colour and artistry. In 1990 he set up a company designing and making a range of wooden objects to sell in Europe and the USA, boxes and picture frames encrusted in shells and marble, large papier mache animals and pieces of fine furniture made from wood salvaged from old demolished hardwood houses.
James is an avid outdoor enthusiast, mountain biking, hiking and kayaking in the remotest parts of the Philippines. During his “Adventure-Racing” days, he was a well-known local sportsman, twice an “Iron man” with many regional Adventure Racing titles under his belt. He has extensive local knowledge of most of the larger islands that make up the archipelago. Through such activities and travels, he has built up a small network of driftwood gatherers who provide much-needed cash to impoverished provincial villages. For every kilo of driftwood that James buys he plants a seedling on denuded hills in North and South Cebu. He has started a program called 80,000 trees which aims to plant 80,000 trees over the course of the next 15 years while building relationships with the tenants and claimants of the land and DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources) to assist him in nurturing the seedlings to full growth. www.facebook.com/80000trees/
James started to design driftwood furniture in the mid-1990s and it was while playing with the various natural forms that he was drawn to experiment with his first driftwood animal sculpture. His large supply of wood has made it possible for him to find the pieces which most lend themselves to the natural form and shape needed to give his animals the movement and reality he strives to obtain in every piece he creates.
He works in his studio full time alongside a small team of assistants who help him sort and clean the wood, weld the steel frames and generally assist where and whenever they are needed