There’s a real sense of satisfaction about making something so permanent,” explains stone carver and sculptor Michelle de Bruin.

From her workshop in the Scottish Borders, Michelle creates unique commissioned carvings and work for private collections.

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“As an artist, there’s always an element of luck involved in terms of getting work,” she admits. “You follow your own obsession – and hope someone will be as enthusiastic about it as you.”

Born in Lincolnshire, Michelle, 55, came to the craft after graduating from Glasgow School of Art in 1990 with a degree in sculpture.

“I didn’t really start using stone as a material in a very skilful way until about 1998,” Michelle explains. “I won a Scottish Arts Council research and development grant then started on a project that turned into a stone-carving project. Because of the sculptures I had in mind, they were so heavily overwrought I had to ramp up my stone-carving skills instantly.

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“I taught myself and went to look at quite a lot of stone carvings in the British Museum. I had an idea that the tools were quite basic – it’s not rocket science – and that if ancient civilisations could manage to carve really amazing structures, then I could do it too.”

After persevering with the craft, Michelle started taking pieces to exhibitions and began attracting attention. Private work and public commissions swiftly came in and she’s been a full-time stone carver ever since.

Despite it being a prehistoric art form and “not rocket science”, Michelle acknowledges a skills shortage in people taking up the craft in a professional capacity.

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Demand has remained consistent for Michelle, however, and alongside an ex-apprentice she carves and sculps an array of work from large-scale sculptures to more intimate decorative pieces.

She works from two studios near her home in Duns. Her workshop is located at an industrial unit at Hutton Stone Co Ltd (a natural stone supplier), and her “pastoral artist’s studio” can be found at Marchmont House – the owner, Hugo Burge, is one of her biggest clients.

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“Over the years I have carved the Marchmont symbol of an acorn and wings over the front door of the house, created a new fountain for the grounds,” she points out, “as well as new urns for the gardens and the owl temple, which was a project to bring a focal point to the top of the avenue in the walled garden. It is a classical column, which supports an owl box and is entirely carved of hollowed out Portland limestone.

“I’m about to carve two large lions for one of the walls at Marchmont,” she adds. “For that type of carving, you have to think about the lion in a very iconic sense and you need to draw on that iconography so heavily to create something that’s emblematic.

For a lot of people that’s quite pleasing in a stone carving – to have that bit of drama about it.”

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For this job, Michelle estimates it taking anywhere between six to 10 weeks per lion.

“The tools are really old-fashioned,” she points out. “We’ve got a couple of angle grinders but it always comes down to using a mallet and chisel.

“People often do comment on my being a woman dealing with stone but I’m not quite sure where that idea comes from.”

Michelle’s collaborator and ex-apprentice Josephine Crossland jokingly echoes from the back of the workshop: “You don’t have to hit it that hard!”

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Together, the pair work on bespoke design and hand-carved pieces. This includes unique memorials, hand-cut headstones, lettering, commemorative plaques, heraldry, sculpture, and carving for restoration.

The type of stone used depends on what’s appropriate for the specific piece. Slate, marble, Portland limestone and local sandstone are some of the types most frequently used by Michelle.

“Stone is really demanding and is quite a crude material as well,” she notes. “It’s like making a painting or a drawing but you’re doing it with light and shadow, so you’re really having to overemphasis the shape of things.”

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Now, with her work scattered all over the country, Michelle admits it’s having a team of people around her for support that drives her to develop skills as a carver and artist.

She says: “It hasn’t always been easy. Since I graduated from Glasgow School of Art in 1990, I have always been a self-employed sculptor, but in the early years there were plenty of times when I had no idea where the next job was coming from.

“My client list is a bit longer than it was in the early days but it still feels rather as though every time I’m invited to exhibit, or receive a commission from someone, it’s like permission to continue making sculptures.

“I feel so lucky every time someone buys my work.”