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The Town of Clowne - and the Art of Stig!

Posted Saturday, July 7, 2007

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The Town of Clowne & The Art of Stig!:

` A unique and innovative enterprise'

Entrepreneurial sorcerer Bob Campbell, ably assisted by his sorcerer’s apprentice wife, Carol Ann, runs a unique and innovative enterprise from his family home and industrial art workshop in Clowne, and the results of his `new-dimensional art-work’ can be seen on display in galleries as far flung as London, Brighton and Leeds.

Bob is a wizard with natural materials, and he weaves his special kind of magic exclusively to produce remarkably textured objects d’art of character and style.

`The only one of its kind in the Universe'

Form, shape, texture and what he calls `the element of age’ predominate in his creative psyche, and each of his much sought-after artistic and practical `creations’ is unique, as he says, “the only one of it’s kind in the Universe” - for each is made from recycled materials, leather, wood, steel and rubber, `but never plastic!’, says Bob.

Many take the form of articles of furniture, like coffee-tables, chairs, occasional tables, a variety of stands and shelving, but much of Bob’s work these days is commissioned by both photographic and film studios and is used for magazine work and for both practical and display purposes in specialist retail outlets. For example, he has recently completed a shopfitting commission to fit out the exclusive `Wildcat’ Gallery in Brighton, and his work has been recently featured in the avante garde, cosmopolitan `Skin Two International’ magazine.

Bob takes inspiration for the title of his enterprise from the cult seventies television programme, `Stig of the Dump’, casting himself in the role of a modern-day Stig, whilst wife Carol-Ann deals with the web-site and the technical and administrative side of the business.

Bob Campbell’s passion for recycling and his ecological awareness and deep love and concern for the environment has evolved after a nomadic life of globetrotting, which in turn is set against the background of a childhood spent in the backstreets of Leeds forty years ago where, he says, it was a case of “recycling through necessity”.

“Nothing that might be useful was ever thrown away - we couldn’t afford it, he recalls. My mother always said that throwing things away was just throwing money down the drain”, and he remembers with fondness the rows of empty jam-jars stashed beneath his bed!

Young Bob left school early, his thrift and enterprise seemed well suited to a career in the commodities market and he began trading around the Leeds and South Yorkshire area when just seventeen.

By his mid-twenties he had become a successful businessman, had met and married Carol-Ann, and had accumulated a fully stocked warehouse, market-stalls, a shop, and his own house in Leeds. He describes himself at this period in his life as having `become part of the system - a fully paid-up member of the instant, want-it-now consumer-driven, throw-away, materialist society’.

“By the time Mrs.Thatcher had come and gone, and with a corresponding downturn in the commodities market, I guess we became disillusioned with modern society, admits Bob, the birth of our son Josh in 1989 forced us to re-assess our lifestyle, and we decided to opt out”.

They bought a Mercedes 608 ex NHS Blood Transfusion Bus, converted it to accommodate the three of them – and set out from Leeds in 1990 to explore the world!

“We drove to Plymouth and got the ferry to Santander, said Bob, `and from there drove across the Pyranees and down the Portuguese coast to Lisbon”.

The Mercedes took them on to Gibraltar and up the east coast of Spain into Southern France, where they attended a Gypsy Festival near St. Moritz before returning to England.

“We put our house in Leeds up for sale, sold our remaining business interests, said Carol Ann, - and headed back to the continent in the Mercedes!”.

They had been befriended at the Gypsy Festival by a German couple who lived in Morocco and had accepted an invitation to visit them during the summer of 1990. They drove back to Gibraltar and crossed the Straights by ferry into North Africa, and from Tangiers drove to their destination at Agidir.

“In Casablanca we received the welcome news that our house in Leeds had been sold, and this allowed us to continue our current lifestyle”, says Carol Ann. Over the next three years they travelled and lived all over North Africa, following the hippie trail to Marakkesh, exploring the Sahara, and whilst basing themselves in Agidir, Morocco, visited Portugal, Holland and Germany, and even found the time and energy to travel up to the Orkneys to visit Bob’s Mum!

They returned to England when Josh reached school age and moved to Clowne, initially to help look after Carol Ann’s sister who was terminally ill, but soon found, as Bob says, that “it was easier to opt out than to opt in”.

But they liked Clowne so much that after Carol Ann’s sister died in April 1995, they decided to stay and put down roots, and along with son Josh, they went back to school! Carol Ann enrolled to study Social Sciences, whilst Bob’s social conscience drew him to an Environmental Studies course at Clowne College. After successfully completing their respective courses they took time out in the winter of 1995 to take the Mercedes on one final trip – and went to India, where they rented a house in Goa for three months.

“Poverty was a real eye opener in some places, explained Bob, I almost felt guilty for having come from an affluent western industrialised society where we simply throw things away when they have served their purpose.

Western Europe is full of the discarded remnants of declining industries, but there is no rampant materialism in India or Africa – nor are there any scrap yards! In fact there’s such a shortage of resources that everything has a use, everything is recycled”.

He went on to describe some of the more resourceful and ingenius uses he’d seen recycled materials transformed into during his travels, and upon the family’s return to Clowne, Bob began experimenting with what he calls `industrial artwork’. Inspired by ideas he’d picked up around the world, he became more proficient, and what had started as an interest and hobby slowly developed into a career.

His first success followed a visit to an exhibition at the Cupola Gallery in Sheffield, after the owner had invited him to take three pieces to demonstrate his work – one of the pieces, a chair, was sold on the way in!

Further pieces quickly sold at fairs and markets up and down the country as Bob’s eye for design and imaginitive enterprise began to pay dividends, and three years ago, `sick of travelling around the country’, Bob and Carol Ann opened the Stig-Art Gallery and Studio at Granary Wharf, Leeds.

They also supply to retail outlets and Bob has exhibits on display in the County Arcade, Leeds, the Wildcat Gallery, Brighton, and The Cupola Gallery, Sheffield, as well as at various venues in London.

Bob Campbell labels himself an eco-scavenger, happily describing himself as an `urban beachcomber’, and although he bridles at any suggestion of artistic merit in his sometimes bizarre, neo-gothic creations, he accepts that they constitute an `art-form’ inasmuch as they are `aesthetic concept pieces’ - intended to stimulate and inspire – as well as being both pleasing to the eye and practical.

His unusual, original and innovative work is earning him a fast growing reputation as an artistic-designer via the Stig-Art Studio/Gallery and shop in Leeds, and a range of his `industrial-art’ artefacts which are on display in art & design galleries throughout the country.

It is said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and whatever your view of Stig-Art, it has to be acknowledged that Bob Campbell’s social conscience and ecological awareness has bred a rare talent for transforming one man’s trash into another man’s treasure!

His work can also be seen online at his own website, and at



Tom Bates September 2004

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