David West

Wood Carvings

An extraordinary wood-carver, David West has worked as an architect, an artist, a craftsman and a teacher during his long life. He has converted houses, restored the Town Mill in Lyme Regis, redesigned a three-acre garden for John Fowles, spent seven years building a doll’s house for a private collector and created unique and fantastical furniture, organ pipes and painted, gilded carvings. 

His latest works dive underwater to show exotic fish, their details in exquisitely carved wood, against painted coral backdrops. This exhibition includes table-top pieces, his floor-standing Ark and wall-hung carvings from the last fourteen years of carving.

‘David never uses the term wabi-sabi to describe his approach, but there is something of that distinctively Japanese idea about his work. Characteristics of the wabi-sabi aesthetic include asymmetry, asperity, simplicity, economy, austerity, modesty, intimacy, and appreciation of the ingenuous integrity of natural objects and processes. The aesthetic is sometimes described as one of beauty that is “imperfect, impermanent and incomplete” derived from Buddhist teaching.’

Christopher Roper, Catalogue for David West’s Retrospective at Dorset County Museum 

David West has been carving in wood for some forty years. His pieces have always been witty, imaginative and filled with  wonder. His work is in museums, public galleries and private collections. Born in London in 1939, he studied painting and printmaking at Sutton School of Art and Camberwell School of Art. He taught part-time at various art schools until 1972. Since then he has worked full-time as a professional artist on both commissioned and other works.

He and his wife Barbara Steel, also a painter, moved to Lyme Regis, Dorset, in 1981 where he still lives and cares for Barbara.

In 1991 he became involved with the restoration of the Town Mill in Lyme Regis. He stepped down as chairman in 2000. During this time he began running summer workshops at Parnham in Beaminster and in different parts of Japan. In 2008 he was invited by the Sasakawa Foundation of Great Britain to spend four weeks travelling and drawing in Japan. The trip included a walk along parts of the Kumano Kodo, an ancient Buddhist/Shinto pathway in the Kii Peninsular which links numerous temples and shrines, often located near waterfalls or some other natural feature.

The trip marked a turning point, for the next eight years he worked on ideas directly inspired by the sense of mystery and wonder the walk had evoked in him. A commission to carve new organ pipe shades for St Michael’s Church in Lyme Regis acted as a catalyst.  For the first time he experimented with gilding, under-painting and pierced carving and, using these techniques, he went on to make some large woodcarvings relating directly to his Japanese drawings. One of these, originally shown in Lyme Regis in 2010, is in the current exhibition. He showed more gilded pathway carvings, their size and impact condensed to that of icons, together with woodcuts prints, in his first exhibition at Sladers Yard in 2013. 

A fascination with light on the surface of water in all its many manifestations followed. We are showing works exploring moonlight on the sea, the foreshore and rock pools of Lyme Regis. Some gilded, some painted, these almost abstract rhythmic reliefs are unique and exceptional works of art.

Private and public collections include the University of Warwick; Ulster Museum, Belfast; Totnes Hospital; Philpott Museum, Lyme Regis; Dorset County Museum, Dorchester; University of Ashikawa, Hokkaido; Sasakawa Foundation of Great Britain, Tokyo; St. Michael’s Church, Lyme Regis; John Makepeace Collection; Equity and Law; The Builder Group Ltd. and St. Lawrence University, New York.

One-man shows include Fischer Fine Art, London 1984; Parnham House, Beaminster 1985; a touring exhibition from 1987-8 at: Royal Albert Museum, Exeter, Glynn Vivian, Swansea, Ulster Museum, Belfast, Mead Gallery, Warwick University, Cliffe Castle, Keighley and Dorset Museum, Dorchester; Town Mill Gallery, Lyme Regis 2010; Sladers Yard, West Bay 2013, 2016 and 2019. In 2018 Dorset County Museum hosted a major retrospective of David’s carvings and paintings.

David West’s carvings are available to buy now. To enquire about any of David West’s work please contact the gallery by email: gallery@sladersyard.co.uk or phone: 01308 459511.


Fully illustrated catalogues of David West’s most recent exhibition at Sladers Yard, Tidal are available for £8 and his previous exhibition, Ebb and Flow for £10 plus p&p.

Memories of a Young Pup

32 page full colour stapled paperback book. 22 x 19 cm. Original text and drawings by David West. Published by Christopher Roper. Available for £6.00 + p&p.

Woodcut Prints & Wood Carvings

44 page full colour stapled paperback book. 22 x 19 cm. Text by David West. Available for £6.00 + p&p.

Ebb and Flow

26 page full colour stapled paperback book. 19.5 x 20.5 cm. Foreword by Christopher Roper. Published by Sladers Yard. Available for £10.00 + p&p.

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