Aesthetica Art Prize: Interview with Owen Waterhouse, Shortlisted Artist

This year’s Aesthetica Art Prize sees a stunning collection of contemporary artworks grace the medieval interior of York St Mary’s. One of eight finalists presenting work in the 2015 exhibition, Owen Waterhouse will be showcasing his sculpture Möbius 1.00. A commission from Galvanize Sheffield and Outokumpu, the piece marks the 100th anniversary of the discovery of stainless steel in Sheffield by Harry Brearley. At the forefront of sculptural innovation, Möbius 1.00 is an important bridge between technology, craftsmanship and contemporary art. A designer, artist and silversmith, Waterhouse’s work promotes new developments in three-dimensional design and manufacturing within a visual art context.

A: Möbius 1.00 is innovative in fabrication and design. Can you discuss the making process?
OW: I worked directly with Outokumpu (Stainless Steel Distribution) to design and develop the piece. This opportunity gave me an exceptional level of access to an industrial process which has the precision and consistency necessary to fabricate the design. Without this I would not have liked to try to make the piece. The design visualisation started on the computer, using CAD (computer aided design) and scripting, and was then developed through prototypes cut and constructed by hand or machine to validate the assembly method. The 100 individual parts were cut from 8mm 316L stainless steel – a process taking almost 40 hours. The shape of each part was refined by hand, finished by specialist polishers and then I spent about two weeks fitting and teasing all the parts in to place.

A: The sculpture celebrates the discovery of stainless steel in Sheffield. Why is this material important to the region?
OW: Metalworking is an important part of Sheffield’s history. The development of innovative methods of production and specific alloys led to the city becoming known as The Steel City. The rich heritage of high class steel products and a skilled workforce has given Sheffield a legacy which continues to develop to this day through modern day manufacturing and special stainless steel alloys. This heritage and expertise is something that as a maker, I feel very proud of.

A: You have a background in silversmithing. How does this training assist you in your art practice?
OW: My training is significant to how I realise a concept. It has taught me to look in detail at everything I do. I need to be patient, work with precision, understand the nature of material and be very aware of the quality of the work I create.

A: Möbius 1.00 will be part of the Aesthetica Art Prize exhibition later this month. What does this opportunity mean to you?
OW: Möbius 1.00 is my first foray in to sculptural work, and I feel honoured and delighted to be shortlisted for this prestigious prize. I hope that this exhibition will showcase my work to a wide audience and I look forward to seeing what opportunities arise and what reaction my work generates.

A: You often work on large scale public commissions. How does this piece compare to your other projects?
OW: This piece was very hands-on in the making. In contrast the creation of public art can be carried out by specialist fabricators and overseen by the artist. With larger public commissions I like to make sure that there is an element of the artist-made. There is also a vast difference in the consultation process for private vs public work and the considerations given to the needs and wants of the ‘end user’. I relish the variety and challenges that working on both types of project bring.

A: In your opinion, what can craftsmanship bring to contemporary art?
OW: In his book, The Nature and Art of Workmanship, David Pye discusses the idea that craftsmanship is workmanship “using any kind of technique or apparatus, in which the quality of the result is not pre-determined, but depends on the judgement, dexterity and care which the maker exercises as he works.” To extend this statement I would say that craftsmanship can be the enabler that allows the artist to realise their concept.

The Aesthetica Art Prize 2015, 26 March-31 May, York St Mary’s, Castlegate, York YO1 9RN.

For further information on Owen Waterhouse, visit

The award is open for entries and closes 31 August. See more at

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1. Owen Waterhouse, Möbius 1.00. Courtesy of the artist.