Dugal Armour

Flaming Daffodils

Dugal Armour and I haven’t met. We’ve communicated via fax and letter, both very gentle methods of contact with no zip zap instant replies just patience and eagerly awaited responses. But tonight I received an email which contained pictures of Dugal’s works and answers to my interview questions. So let me introduce you to Dugal Armour:

Born in Nelson, now living in Oamaru.  Where else in New Zealand have you lived?
Waiheke Island and Christchurch.

What attracted you to Oamaru?

How does place – Oamaru – influence your work?
It has taught me to be resourceful.


Dugal Armour and stone seem to have a close association.  I read an article about you helping with the rebuild of the stone wall along Marine Parade at Oamaru Harbour.  Tell me how you became involved with that?
I have an innate connection with stone. My Mother’s side, Cowan, were stonewall builders in Scotland.  When the job came up, I put in a tender with Alan Ward (a stone mason from Orkney), which was successful.  Two years earlier, I had been commissioned by the Council to develop a concept plan for the Harbour Area and ironically I recommended that the wall be removed and replaced in a totally different style.

And stone sawing champion! A natural ability there Dugal or did you practice before the event?
I had come up with the idea of ‘The World Stone Sawing Championships’ as an attraction for the first Victorian Fete held in Oamaru.  The stone for all of the old limestone buildings in Oamaru was cut on site with handsaws.  It took five years before I won the title with Tony Hales, so I did have a fair bit of practise.

Green Bottles

Tell me about working with recycled materials?
In the 80’s, I was part of an environmental lobby group, K.A.O.S. At the time, we were campaigning to retain glass milk bottles and looking for alternative ways of dealing with rubbish.  Later, I became involved in setting up the ‘Waste Management Facility’ on Waiheke Island.  I was aware of various initiatives around the country for re-using waste and found that art was the most persuasive method of changing public perceptions and consequently I have been involved in and initiated many events that have the re-use of waste materials as a central theme.  There is something quite exciting about presenting a familiar material in a completely different way.

With qualifications in horticulture, arboriculture and landscape design, you’re a man of many talents.  If you had to label yourself now would you say sculptor or ……..?
Designer, Arborist and Sculptor and on occasion, Blacksmith, Landscape Planner and Fountainmaker.


Where do ideas for your works come from – gardens, in the middle of the night, the sea, overheard conversations, reading……?
They are a response, sometimes to invitations like this or a theme to an exhibition but mostly to do with manifesting internal dialogue.

Do you remember your first sale?
Yes, – I gate-crashed the first stone symposium in Oamaru, out of sheer excitement and sold both pieces that I made. They ended up being part of the auction, which seemed to elevate my experience at the time.


When and where was your first exhibition?
At the Forrester Gallery in Oamaru in 1998. It came out of the first symposium I had organised, called ‘Two Weeks In The Woods’ where a group of local artists responded to a woodland setting, concluding with a group exhibition.


 You’ve organised many art symposiums, one of note was held at the Oamaru landfill in 2003.  Tell me more about that?
As a follow- on from ‘Two Weeks in the Woods, I organised ‘Two Weeks in the Tip’.  Logistically, it didn’t quite come together as planned because of the ‘Health and Safety’ issues, nor was I aware of the process of dealing with councils at the time.  It did receive a good amount of publicity and I vividly remember two old guys walking around amongst the artists unsure of what was going on, when one of them shrugged his shoulders and said to the other, “It must be Art! One of the works I created was later accepted into ‘The New Alchemists’ exhibition for works in recycled materials, which toured New Zealand and Australia.

Standing up

What was your best exhibition – either in terms of sales or enjoyment?
My most significant exhibition that I have had was ‘Standing Up’ held at the Forrester Gallery, 2010. It was a defining moment for me and the first time that I had been able to stand back and say, “I love my work”.  It was a three-piece exhibition that filled the space perfectly and I have happily kept the works.

Do you have a studio and if so is it at home or offsite?
I have a workshop but more often than not, our lounge is the trialing spot.

Portable Fire

If I say portable marshmallow toaster what comes to mind?
My wife and I created a work for an awards event in Ashburton for sculpture from recycled materials. It was a conglomeration of a whole lot of different materials and flame that essentially took it’s own form as we went along, emerging as what could only be described as a mobile marshmallow toaster.  We got first prize in the section.  It went on to tour Australia and New Zealand in another exhibition and is now about to be exhibited for the second time as part of the ‘Steampunk’ exhibition held in Oamaru.

After preparing for an exhibition do you feel like ‘a breather’ or are you brimming with ideas and want to get started on your next project straight away?
Many ideas lead on from creating a work.  I generally remain focused when preparing for an exhibition, so in answer to the question, I often need a breather, but am brimming with ideas.


Do you ever push yourself to finish something that is arguing with you through the whole creative process?
I have to feel resolved with what I am doing before it is complete.  The only time I push myself is if I find I’m getting too caught up in the technical aspect of what I am doing, where the work  would become stiff or contrived.  So, I go into a work with a good idea of what I want to make, how I’m going to make it and what I want to express.  Then, I let all that go and create.  Sometimes the end result is how I imagined and sometimes completely different

Do you work on multiple pieces at a time?
I have worked on several pieces at once.  Sometimes it’s more efficient if I’m cutting out multiple components or wielding stuff up.  But, I prefer to work through one work at a time.  I am not a prolific artist – I like the time to work through ideas, and to be able to contemplate the work as it evolves.

Flower for my lovely

How much of your work is commissioned?
I separate my design work from my art.  All of my design work is commissioned and the briefs are generally very specific and defined.  I think that sort of process is counter to producing art.

Can you cope with people about while you’re working or is solitude your preference? 
A lot of my earlier work was produced at public symposiums and my other work is generally working directly with clients and other tradespeople, so I do find relief in working on my own.

Rosettes for gate

If I walked into your studio while you were working what would I hear – music, radio,……
Grinders, hammers, something being hit into shape.

How do you market your art?
I submit my work to various sculpture shows around the country or I am asked to exhibit work.  Sculpture events in particular, have quite a bit of promotion, so it’s a matter of getting work out there.


Do you work with sale in mind?
It’s always exciting and gratifying to sell a work, but to work with the intention of a sale, to me at least, undermines the integrity of expression.

What are you currently creating/    
At the moment I’m making copper daffodils and working on  a design for a hanging fountain come light feature, to float above a dining table.

How do you relax?
Having time with my adorable wife.

My armoured heart

I’m looking forward to seeing Dugal’s response to his chosen haiku at the When North meets South exhibition. I’m wondering whether it will be created from recycled materials, Oamaru stone, copper………….?  Roll on November!

One Response to “Dugal Armour”
  1. Roseanne Sheridan says:

    Hi Dougal, Chris Scott recommended that I contact you regarding an Oamaru stone sculpture of a sculpture of Archangel Michael to be used in the renovation of the babie’s memorial garden at the Oamaru cemetry. Thanks, Roseanne Sheridan.

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