The bronzed beauties hailing from the Black Isle

Farquhar Laing has sculpture in his genes and with the recent successes of his casting business it seems he may also have bronze in his blood.

Sculptor and founder of Black Isle Bronze, Farquhar Laing tried his hand at several jobs before realising that the ‘hands on’ approach was the way forward for his career.

Laing did his bronze casting apprenticeship in Basingstoke and London before returning to his home on the Black Isle.

What is now an internationally successful business began life 20 years ago in the garage of Laing’s famous artist father, Gerald Laing. Laing senior spent much of the 1960s working in pop art in New York and was a close friend of artists of that genre, Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein.

He was also the sculptor who created the statue of Sherlock Holmes in Edinburgh and The Emigrants, a statue commemorating the tens of thousands of Scots forced to leave their homes during the Highland clearances that stands at Helmsdale.

This work, like many of his sculptures, was cast at Black Isle Bronze.

An exact copy of this statue is also one of the company’s furthest travelled works. Named Exiles, it was unveiled in Winnipeg, Canada in 2008.

In the early days of the business, Laing took the bull by the horns and pitched for what would become his first big commission.

‘I rang the English Rugby Union and asked them if they would like a statue of rugby players outside what was then their new stadium’, said Laing.

‘When they said yes, I thought “this is easy.” That was only six weeks after I started up in business.’

The 27ft tall bronze statue depicting a rugby lineout was created by his father and cast at Black Isle Bronze before being transported to Twickenham on a lorry and trailer which was stopped three times by the police on route.

Another high profile work from the foundry was installed at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. The twelfth and final cast of the Alfred Gilbert statue that was unveiled in Piccadily in 1893 as part of the memorial fountain to the Earl of Shaftesbury was commissioned by the Fine Art Society and will also travel to Paris and San Francisco.

Today, Black Isle Bronze is made up of a team of ten people who are working on some major commissions, including a figure for the top of the National Portrait Gallery, bronze markers for Stonehenge and a bust of Andy Warhol, by Gerald Laing. Not bad for a company based in the Highlands.

But as Laing points out he likes to ‘punch above his weight’ and Black Isle Bronze has the tools to be able to pitch for work far and wide, having delivered commissions all over the UK and even as far afield as Australia and Japan. This has meant investment in some fairly heavy duty equipment, including cranes and a giant, seven-tonne mixer.

A recent commission by the Dowager Countess Angelicka Cawdor of a striking bronze sculpture of a tree, weighing over 800 kilograms and costing nearly £100,000 was airlifted by helicopter into position in the Garden of Eden at Cawdor Castle.

Farquhar Laing has certainly found his calling with Black Isle Bronze and has no plans to move away from his beloved corner of Scotland.

  • This feature was originally published in 2013.