Stonemason creates unique estuary animal fireplace

Exeter based stonemason Matt Hurley has recently completed an unusual commission for a local Devon customer.

To depict some of the many species they regularly see within a mile of their house near Dawlish, customers Ray & Ros Mason contacted Matt's company Hurley Marble to make them a custom fire surround.

Ros said: "We were very keen to find someone local to the area, a person as appreciative of this rich landscape and its wildlife as we are. Through a friend's recommendation, we met Matt Hurley and soon formed a good working relationship. We exchanged sketches of the chosen birds and beasts and gradually the overall design took shape.

"Agreeing which species would be turned to stone took some deciding! We also had our grandchildren in mind, imagining story telling by the fire, inspired by the 'lives' of the creatures. The final selection includes badger, fox, Canada geese, heron, weasel, great spotted woodpecker, squirrel, oak, yellow flag iris, bluebell, hart's tongue and Polypoidium ferns."

Matt sourced some Caen stone through the Wells Cathedral masons. Caen is a beautiful creamy French limestone used on important cathedrals across Europe, and chosen for its ability to take finely detailed carving. Clay maquettes of the creatures were then made prior to the start of carving to establish the scale of bas relief.

"We asked Matt to make a short film of the carvings taking shape which, together with the early sketch designs and still photographs will be made into a document for future generations. Should a house move one day be necessary, Matt has designed the components to be transferable to a new hearth.

"Meanwhile as autumn approaches, this unique fire surround prepares for its second season of crackling fires. This menagerie has settled in very quickly. We are really thrilled with this project and Matt's skill at bringing it to life, in a manner of speaking!"

Hurley Marble offer bespoke marble tables, fireplaces and sculptures and have 20 years experience in working marble: www.hurleymarble.co.uk