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Retired home builder now creating works of art out of wood

At 74 years old Martin Askew has found a new way to celebrate his passion of working with wood.

He's now arranging thousands of cut pieces into unique abstract sculptures to be hung on a wall. His first creation is called 'Everything' and he calculated that he used 4,000 separate pieces of wood for it.

"There's certain woods I love to work with," said Askew. "I select about 14 different colours and I'll work with them, I won't just put it on for the sake of the colour, then I build the art around the colour because when I design on there, I don't see it in colour."

To start he sketches a design onto a canvas with lines and circles, then he starts cutting the wood to the required shapes and glues them into place.

"That glue goes on (with a holding power of) 3,500 pounds per square inch," he said. "Once it goes on there I ain't getting it off so I got to be 100 per cent certain that it's got to be right."

Askew's passion for wood began when he was just 15 years old in his home city of Norwich, UK. After a five year apprentice with master crafters, Askew took his learned knowledge to Canada where he eventually started his own custom home building business. At the start of the pandemic he decided to retire and turned to art.

"I said that I'm just gonna do art for art's sake," said Askew. "I got no schedules, I got no time issues, I got no team, I can just shut myself in the studio for the winter, which I do quite literally."

Askew says he spends about five hours a day on his current project that celebrates the solar system but even with investing hundreds of hours on a single piece, he hasn't sold any.

"I told my wife sadly, they usually get more valuable when the artist dies," he jokes. "But no I haven't, I didn't set out to, it wasn't about money, it's about the love of the art and about doing it."

Until recently, all Askew's pieces were hung in his garage that's now his studio. His wife Michelle convinced him to move them into the house to be displayed.

"I said to Michelle, 'they're not that good' and she said 'bring them in the house, please bring them in'," he said. "Well, I see him every day now and every day I saw them they got better and better and better and I gave her a hug and said I had a good idea bring them in the house didn't I."

Askew says it takes all the skills he's learned over the years to produce his pieces and he says many times he has to problem solve on the fly to make something just right.

"I look at the art now and wonder how did I do that?" he said. "I can't remember you know, because you get in that zone but in all creativity you get in that zone, all artist do."

Learn more about Askew's work here.