As we continue to support new and emerging creative talent, we recently met the young and supremely talented sculptor Lydia Smith.
Lydia exudes positivity – but what strikes you most is her humility, coupled with her boundless tenacity and drive – and this winning combination has resulted in her remarkable achievements.
But It has not all been plain sailing – Lydia was bullied at school, and lacked confidence; she failed many of her academic exams, battled with dyslexia and was pressured by her school to drop graphics. She also tragically lost her beloved grandfather in a road accident whilst she was at university – a trauma which shaped her future.
Lydia looks younger than her 23 years, with a warm, self-effacing manner and is an inspiring and creative force of nature.
At school, Lydia says that “art was the only thing that I was any good at” – and clearly she was right to follow her passion, achieving 100% in each of her A-levels (Art, Art Graphics and ICT). Championed by her favourite teacher, she was encouraged to take an Art Foundation Course, after which she progressed to The Wimbledon College of Art, to study Theatre and Screen: Technical Arts and Special Effects.
Lydia and gremlin
Lydia immersed herself in the various disciplines on offer – including animation, fashion design, green screen and prosthetic make-up. She studied puppet making with the highly skilled Darryl Worbey, who taught her the intricate pattern-cutting method, and enjoyed a work placement with Jimmy Grimes, the puppet coordinator of the West End hit show, War Horse.
She loves theatre and film-based work – especially character creation – and was particularly drawn to sculpture. She learnt figurative sculpture (working with live models, sculpting the human form) with Allan Sly and Livia Turco – and says “this is where my obsession with figurative sculpture truly took hold”.
Her first job after graduating was as a prop maker at Pinewood Creative, where she worked on part of a yacht for the third Johnny English movie, and a giant lily pad for a Louis Vuitton advert! It was a great experience, but she really wanted to sculpt – so during her tea breaks she “would leave the studio and wander around Pinewood to see what doors were open”. She found the Art Director’s office, and bravely knocked on the door. Fortune clearly favours the bold, as he looked at her portfolio and put her in contact with his sculptor to discuss a forthcoming project. What Lydia modestly describes as “hopping round the studio bluffing my way onto these art depts” led her to several key contacts, and plenty of work.
This drive and proactivity has underpinned her substantial body of work – leading to her involvement in the remake of Tomb Raider, and joining the construction department for the final series of Game of Thrones – “the most amazing job” – where one perk was chatting to Jason Momoa!
Lydia has several plates spinning at once – she works as a freelance lecturer at her old college; she runs her own studio where she sculpts for exhibitions and commissions; and she has been on the British team at the world Snow Sculpting Championships! In April, she is off to Athens to study ‘drawing in space’ sculpture technique with Robert Bodem, the former director of the Florence Academy of Art. She frequently sculpts for the film industry – and has worked on The Voyage of Dr Dolittle, Star Wars Episode 9 and HBO’s Avenue 5. But she says “figurative sculpture is my passion” and “my personal dream is to have a public sculpture somewhere”.
Lydia’s passion is reflected not only in her vast output of work, but also in her desire to bring people along with her. How many 23-year-olds do you know who have an apprentice?! Well Lydia does – Ellie, a 16-year-old art student, whom she teaches and supports, as well as giving her work experience in the studio.
Lydia working on a sculpture with sitter
In addition, Lydia is currently setting up her own figurative sculpture school. She has a clear goal – “in my head I’ve got this image of a glass building with five or six students working in their spaces around me; I’m working on my own projects but I’m also there as a mentor for them”. Anyone familiar with the Law of Attraction will know that visualisation – having a detailed image in mind of one’s goal – is the most powerful tool with which we turn our dreams into reality. And you can bet that Lydia will be running her school in the very near future – with commissioned work, a public sculpture and a range of other projects no doubt coming her way too.
Lydia is an amazing ambassador for sculpture, and certainly one to watch. And did I mention she’s still only 23…..?
Check out Lydia’s creations on her Instagram page at https://www.instagram.com/lydia_smithsculpture/
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Sue Andrews is a Partner at the Buckinghamshire law firm BP Collins, with more than 30 years’ experience under her belt. She heads up the Family Law team and is passionate about putting families first. Widely respected for her professional but friendly approach, Sue has handled high-profile divorces for celebrities, sports stars and top business people, providing advice on complex financial arrangements within often acrimonious divorce cases. Sue is known for her passion for fashion, travel and the Arts, and it was a real pleasure to meet this inspiring woman for a coffee at Pinewood Studios – where we enjoyed a hearty chat about women in the law arena, psychology and the importance of wacky shoes!
Great to meet you Sue! Tell me, did you aspire to be a lawyer from an early age?
I did. There were no lawyers in my family, but I remember watching a programme called The Main Chance – a TV drama centred around a solicitor. I remember being inspired by this character and thinking that his work looked fascinating – being able to delve into people’s problems and then to sort them out. Back then, there was not the same career advice that is available now, and who knows I might have ended up in fashion if I was looking around 15 years later than when I started out! But I love my job, it’s a ‘people job’ – and if you are enthusiastic about your work it really doesn’t feel like work anyway. I enjoy getting to know my clients, getting drawn into their problems, helping to put the pieces back together and then seeing that, further down the line, everything has worked out for the best. You really get to know people well – in fact, one of my best friends is an ex-client.
How important do you feel it is to choose a career path early on?
For my generation it was very important; these days many kids don’t seem to have a clue about what they would like to do – maybe there are simply too many choices now? These days, there are so many more paths available, and switching careers is commonplace. Back then, you knew you had to rely on yourself, plus I was the oldest of five siblings so I was quite driven anyway. I did law at university, which set me on my career path and gave me a sense of purpose.
Is law still a male-dominated profession?
No! Well, let me qualify that – at the Bar it is quite male-dominated; there are a lot more male barristers, probably because it is a real challenge for women to juggle having kids with being a barrister. Solicitors are much more in control of their time, so not surprisingly there are more female solicitors. At our last Partners’ Meeting for example, there were six men and nine women. This situation has changed dramatically since I started with BP Collins in 1988 – as the only female lawyer! These days, the majority of family lawyers are women.
And has being female made a difference to the type of cases you have taken on?
I would say not, as all my cases are family-related – and actually a lot of male clients want a female lawyer, maybe because it’s easier to open up to them? We currently have seven lawyers in our Family Team, and part of my job is to allocate each case to a lawyer, which is where psychology comes into play – I make a decision based on the best personality fit, as well as their capacity and experience, and I enjoy matching our clients to the right lawyers.
Your clients remark on your passion for winning – how important is that passion to succeed?
The key thing is, it’s winning for THEM, not for me. For example, when you’re acting for a woman who has lost all her confidence, has had children and been out of work for a while, she may think she is not entitled to anything in her divorce settlement – to get a great result for her, so that she can have good life moving forward, that is a great feeling and very rewarding. It’s not really about winners and losers – it’s about getting a FAIR outcome, especially where kids are involved. The couple going through a divorce must have contact throughout the process, and there’s no point having a war – it’s important to understand their psychology, so that you can devise a strategy to get the right outcome for all parties. Children often feel torn between their parents, hearing their conversations and also picking up on what isn’t said between them – and we encourage our clients to talk positively about each other as parents, which helps towards a more amicable resolution for the kids as well as the adults.
Do you ever become emotionally involved in a case or with a client – and if so, does that help or hinder you?
If you get emotionally involved, it hinders you. It’s about caring, but in a detached way. To get emotionally involved wouldn’t be doing the client any favours. You hear some appalling things within divorce cases, but you try not to get too involved, even when you have a friendly relationship with the client. You never let friendship affect the case. It’s quite easy to be objective actually; you learn to be detached, but still identify with them.
We draw upon our own experience too of course – my own parents got divorced when I was 22, which must have had some bearing on my choice to specialise in Family Law. I remember talking it through with my father, and those conversations must have coloured my understanding of what people go through – an understanding which I can bring to my clients.
That makes me wonder about the impact of divorce upon grown-up kids in comparison to younger children – what are your thoughts?
It may actually be easier for younger children to deal with divorce in some cases – if it is all dealt with properly of course. Sometimes it is harder for young adults to process the fact that their parents have separated, as it throws up issues of identity, for example if a parent is dating a younger partner, the age of their own children. Plus there is the sadness of losing the family home as a base. Younger kids sometimes find it easier to adapt.
Is there one particular area of law that you enjoy more than the others?
Well, family law is its own discrete area of law – and I mainly deal with the breakdown in relationships, so I don’t really have a preferred area, I enjoy it all. ‘Enjoy’ is maybe the wrong word, given the nature of what I do – I’d say it is fulfilling, actually it’s a privilege that clients trust you with the most intimate aspects of their life. It feels great when you see someone come through the whole process with a positive outcome – to see the change in their physiology is incredible. I had one client recently, who had not smiled at all during the two-year process, and at the end of the case upon hearing the outcome, she burst into a huge smile – she immediately looked younger and lighter. That moment is their chance to be happy again. The fifth biggest regret of terminally ill patients in a recent hospice study was identified as not choosing to be happy enough – and in my line of work you see people actively making decisions to ensure they can be happy moving forward.
What would you say to law students today – or to your younger self starting out?
To students I’d advise carefully choosing the area of law that will be most fulfilling to them – and not to put their career before everything else. I was work-obsessed for many years – I enjoyed it, so it didn’t matter – but I would probably advise putting your family and loved ones first, and spending quality time with them. Law is very absorbing – there is always stuff to do, and you never get to the end of your task list, so you have to manage your time, and keep a work-life balance. I was a perfectionist – lawyers often want ‘perfect’ when ‘good’ will do – so make sure there are other things in your life that are equally important. No-one says at the end of their life that they wish they had worked longer hours! However, I’d also say it’s vital to love what you do – if you don’t, get out and do something else. A career in law HAS to be vocational.
Having worked for a long time in your role, do you feel your age and experience mean you now bring more to the table for your clients?
In some ways we become more confident as we get older, more confident in our abilities – and it makes you more tolerant and more giving. I lost my life partner 18 years ago, and I enjoy being able to help other people who are going through similar loss. You feel like a broken eggshell after a bereavement, like you are never going to be able to put yourself back together, but actually your life just becomes a different shape. Sometimes people avoid the subject and don’t know how to comfort someone who is grieving – but it is healthy to talk about it, as we all experience loss at some point, and talking makes it all easier to process. I am passionate about helping people with these issues, both in and out of my work – and I’m also very interested in research into lowering suicide rates. If I ever left my day job, I would go into that area, researching the subject or being a Samaritan. I actually want to get a ‘mental first aider’ at work – someone that employees can go to for confidential mental support, and not feel judged. Maybe all companies should have something like this in place…
Tell me more about your life outside of Law – what do you do for fun, and to relax?
Yoga is a big passion of mine – I’m looking forward to going on a yoga retreat in Morocco in September, and I often do full days of yoga practice. I also love shopping, visiting the V&A, theatre, ballet and gigs. I love to travel all over the place, and I’m particularly drawn to the Far East.
I can see you’re a lover of fashion! Do you feel able to express that within the working context, or is business dress still pretty conservative within the Law arena?
In the office I can express myself through my clothes – in court I still wear a corporate black suit; you do need to power-dress in some situations to project a professional image, but women have more freedom than men in what they wear, and we are fortunate that we can accessorise our business-wear with jewellery or a pair of wacky shoes! Outside of work, I don’t like people to be able to guess that I am a lawyer or pigeonhole me based on my clothes!
Sue can be contacted at B P Collins https://www.bpcollins.co.uk/
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At one time to be a first time mum over 40 was a rarity or even a talking point, but now with former boss of the Serpentine Gallery, Dame Julia Peyton-Jones getting pregnant at 64 it has shone a light on how many women are now opting for motherhood later in life.
There are many reasons behind these rather controversial life choices. Women and couples are making sure they have a healthy bank balance, many women putting their career first before going for a family. Others have life changing revelations or regrets, and feel that they have missed out on their natural instinct to be a parent.
All to the good, but what about the health risks of carrying a child at a more mature stage of life, and even if a woman gives birth to a perfectly healthy baby, how is she going to cope with the sleepless nights and endless demands of a young baby, and small child.
As Dr Hilary Jones said recently on the Lorraine Kelly show – it is really down to individual choice and circumstance and there are no hard and fast rules. This is true but as someone who gave birth to my first child at the age of 32, and am still reeling from the shock of the exhaustion I felt some ten years later, debate whether any woman is prepared for the sheer love, joy but complete change of lifestyle a baby demands.
One lady who gave birth at the age of 57 has had the most joy from the experience, but now at the age of 66 has a nine year old who she wants to see growing up into adulthood, and wishes she had become a mum earlier in life.
A sound piece of advice from our Glotime.tv life coach is to write down a list of the pros and cons of having a child at a time when most mums are looking forward to being a grandparent. If the pros outweigh the cons then go for it, but if you have any doubt at all, think again. Even the most loving parent has those challenging moments when the baby wont sleep or the toddler is trying to climb out of the window. The responsibilities are endless as all mums will tell you.
With the evolvement of IVF treatments and the availability of the procedure throughout the World, the opportunity has opened up for almost anyone wanting to give birth to a child. So it is up to those of us who still seeking the fulfilment of motherhood at a more mature age, whether you can really see it through – after all a baby really is for life.