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Sculptor, Matt Caines, moved from the bright lights of London to Abergavenny just over a year ago… and hasn’t looked back since

Matt Caines relief

I’m sitting in an artist’s studio, surrounded by tools, pieces of stone and alabaster in various states of artistic development. There are plenty of postcards and photographs pinned to the walls and light streams in through the glass doors. There’s also lots and lots of dust! This isn’t because Matt Caines doesn’t do his dusting – but because stone carving and sculpting is a messy old business.

stone-carvingMessy it may be, but it produces beautiful results and the sculptures and carvings dotted around Matt’s studio are testament to this. He gives me a tour of his work showing me an eye-catching piece of carved slate featuring a beautiful woman with flowing hair, which becomes part of the rolling landscape in which she stands. At the time of my visit, the piece was due to be auctioned in just a couple of days time, and no doubt now adorns the walls of one lucky individual with very good taste. Other work includes an alabaster head, which Matt informs me isn’t quite finished. He takes up a spray bottle and spritzes the head with water, transforming it from flat matte to a gleaming gloss in an instant, showing the translucency and gradients of colour within the material as well as the intricacy of Matt’s carving.matt sprays carving

I also notice a number of tables set up in the studio and wonder what these are for. It turns out that Matt runs stone carving classes from here on a weekly basis, where you can drop in, pay your fee and work on a piece of your very own artwork under Matt’s expert guidance. If that’s not your thing, however, some of Matt’s smaller pieces can be found to purchase from the Art Shop in Abergavenny.

Matt Caines' studio

Matt’s studio is well appointed

Matt has taught stone carving for over 20 years

Matt has taught stone carving for over 20 years

Matt seems so at home here in his studio that it’s hard to believe he has only lived here for twelve months. Having taught stone carving for over 20 years and running a community art centre in Bethnal Green, Matt and his family decided it was time to move away from the big city. Matt has always been inspired by the form and shapes of the landscape and countryside, so when a suitable home and studio became available in Abergavenny, it seemed like a natural choice, with the exquisite landscape of our area a mere stone’s throw away (excuse the pun!)

Was moving away from London and making friends difficult? Apparently a lot less problematic than Matt initially expected it would be. In fact, he happily informs me that he has made a whole new circle of friends here in Abergavenny – actually more than he had in London. Suffice to say that he is happy to have made the move, as is his wife, Amanda Caines – also an artist – working in the medium of jewellery.

Amanda’s Jewellery is made entirely from recycled or  found materials

Amanda’s Jewellery
is made entirely from recycled or found materials

Amanda kindly allows me to snoop around her workshop during my visit. Immediately I feel like a magpie that has stumbled on a hoard of treasure. Amanda’s workspace is adorned with row upon row of jars full of beads, fragments of glass, pebbles, broken pieces of pottery and china, all of which she has found and collected, often while out walking. In fact, all of Amanda’s handmade pieces are created using her collected items or recycled objects, which she pulls together in artistic, unique and utterly beautiful pieces of art. Like Matt,  a number of pieces of Amanda’s jewellery can also be purchased from the Art Shop in Abergavenny.

I leave from my visit to Matt and Amanda feeling totally inspired to create my own stone carving, to buy some of Amanda’s jewellery and feeling proud that such creativity and artisan talent can be found here in Abergavenny.

Matt offers weekly classes at The Carving Studio: Park Villa, 17 Hereford Road, Abergavenny every Monday and Wednesday from 6.30pm-9pm. Full fee is £20 to include tuition, tools and materials. Phone: 01873 858 355 Matt’s website is:
Amanda’s work can be viewed online at and purchased from the Art Shop, Abergavenny. Contact Amanda to enquire about commission pieces: Phone: 01873 858 355

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One response to “Carving a Future in Abergavenny”

  1. sarah watts says:

    I really enjoyed reading this article. I bought a piece of Matt’s work last year, a lovely stone carving of a ladies head. It now sits on my bedroom windowsill and I look at her every day admiring the serene look on her face and the wonderful skill and artistry involved in her creation. Matt was extremely helpful and informative when I chose the piece, telling me about the stone and methods used as well as his inspiration. He and his wife Amanda sang the praises of Abergavenny, the place and the people, and seemed to be really happy here. I wish them all the best in their new life.

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