East Hoathly sculptor works on Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Beacon Trail

A SCULPTOR from East Hoathly whose work is admired throughout the county is working on the village’s contribution to the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee ‘Beacon Trail.’

Keith Pettit. 40 who lives with his wife and two children near his village studio, is working out ways the beacon can be set up – it’s proposed site is in a local farmer’s field planted with oil seed rape. He laughed: “We’ll get over it somehow!”

Keith’s grandfather was a German POW and he feels even at this distance he has a sense of the incomer’s clear eye, believing a great gift is heightened sensibility; being able to look, then think: “How do you represent that?” He went on: “Many children of POWs became more engaged with their locality. When you live somewhere all your life you often don’t appreciate it but I was brought up to be aware of the beauty of this countryside.”

Keith’s work was brought to a wider audience through an open studio at at this year’s Chiddingly Festival. Stars were his wood engravings carved to perpetuate the 1920’s Sussex traditions of Eric Ravilious and Eric Gill. In one he depicts Lewes Castle and another shows Alfriston church nestled in its Downland valley

He designed a unique ‘book stack’ sign and staghorn antler archway for booksellers Much Ado in Alfriston and held an open day in the village before Christmas.

Keith applies his visual talents to a wide range of media and techniques including wood engraving, creating pub signs and full-scale wood sculpture.

He trained as a signwriter which he still does today having designed for customers as diverse as Gordon Ramsay, Glyndebourne Opera House and Mary ‘Queen of Shops’ Portas. He creates immense towering ‘grand and fiery’ sculptures that he says are built in a mad dash during every November leading up the village bonfire carnival celebrations.

Keith said: “It’s bizarre but I have no problem flipping between engraving a small wooden square or creating an enormous 30-foot sculpture.”