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Aden Hynes and Sculpture Studios

Updated: May 25



Larger than life, exuberant and a very happy, family man is how I would describe Aden Hynes. But what brought him to the point that he is at now? A very successful artist and business man who runs a family business in his home town, Basildon.


Aden’s mum and dad were Irish and had moved to England. He was born on 2 September 1959 and was brought up in a Catholic family. He was the second youngest of his siblings. He has three older sisters, Sandra, Linda and Ann, an older brother, John and a younger brother, Terry.



Both of his parents were hard-working, Mary, known as May worked both as a full-time mum and did shift-work at Pembroke Packaging. His dad, John, was a window cleaner and had the biggest window-cleaning round in Basildon. He used to hop over the fences to the next house. I thought this sounded very energetic and much like Aden, and wondered if his dad had been a big influence on him, but his dad separated from his mum and left the family when Aden was around twelve years old.


He lived in Basildon all his life and it was a relatively new town when he was born. He remembers it as an exciting place to live and raise a family. There was a good mix of shops and community facilities and open spaces of which he made the most of in his youth.


Aden attended St Teresa’s Catholic School and then Fryerns Comprehensive Secondary School before going onto Thurrock Technical College for a foundation art course.


It was his art teacher, Mrs Weston at Fryerns, who encouraged him to go on a foundation art course at college to pursue his interests. He also credits his mother for always encouraging him in everything he did. She gave him the freedom to create his sculptures in his bedroom without complaint. She often said to him,


“Do something you want to do first, and if that doesn’t work then get a job!”



Following on from the foundation course he went to Maidstone College of Fine Art where he graduated with a BA Honours Degree in Fine Art Sculpture. His fellow students included people who are now famous sculptors and his tutors included renowned sculptor, Roland Piche, and Antony Gormley, best known for the sculpture Angel of the North.


Aden met Susan Lagden in 1978 when he was working at Barra Boy/Peachey’s fruit and vegetable shop opposite Basildon Bus Station. He was working with Sue’s younger sister Tessa, and got to know Sue when she would come round to see her sister on a Saturday.



After University


After finishing university, he began making mannequin heads as a personal project. His friend Dave Fulcher started dating a young lady whose father kindly offered him space in his garden shed. This kickstarted him on the way for looking for sculptural work. Then, he put an advert in the newspaper. From that advert, a man called Roger Benny came to his house saying that he wanted Aden to make lots of figurines for the dried floral industry, and gave Aden a month’s trial. Roger sent a freelance salesman up to Covent Garden. Originally not expecting much, he then returned and said that he, in fact, had an order for ten thousand items. So, they got cracking. The month's trial extended successfully to a year’s work, where they went from six moulds to six hundred. The operation eventually had to stop, as, from a health and safety standpoint, there was far too much resin being used and contained in what was a simple, small basement, and Roger didn't want to expand to a larger premises. This ended up being a good thing, as it meant Aden could pursue other avenues of sculptural work.


Figurines for dried floral industry

As a freelancer, he walked around with his portfolio to London businesses and prop making companies for hours and hours. The first points of call were the model making shops, by which he was often told that they’d phone him if they had got something. From initially being excited, thinking he would get a call on Monday, it was soon realised that this was a standard response for no work available. He ended up visiting lots of people, often receiving a lot of rude responses, such as, “Piss off, mate!” So, he had to develop a bit of a thick skin and carried on relentlessly. Eventually, the phone started ringing.

Working freelance for seven years, he first started out in model making shops and theatres. The first real step up came when an opportunity arose with the Royal Opera House, by which he worked with the seamstress and costume makers simply to get his foot in the door, in the hope of later moving to the prop making department. A woman there said, “You’ve never done this before have you?” He said, “No.” So she took him under her wing and taught him. When the opportunity arose, and an opening came up, he managed to get through to the props department and do what he wanted to do. He worked there for three years, later going on to work freelance for the Tussauds Group, Spitting Image, the English National Opera, Asylum Models and Effects, H&H Sculptors and Theatre Studios. He also created polystyrene film sets with Derek Howarth, and created theatre sets at Stephen Pyle's Workshop.





On 14 September 1985, Aden married Sue at The Holy Cross Church in Basildon. Sue also came from Basildon and attended the neighbouring secondary school, Barstable School. As Aden was spending four and half to five hours on his commutes to and from work around the country, the couple started saving for Aden to have his own workshop. Simultaneously, from the best part of a decade being in the business, and with numerous contacts, he took on private commissions from his own clients and produced work in his own name, hiring out large work spaces to accommodate the scale of the projects. One of his first big clients was Chessington World of Adventures, for whom he made two giant stone Buddha faces and a dragon, for the Dragon River log flume ride. These sculptures were a few of the larger first jobs he took on by himself, and lasted outside in the theme park for over thirty years. A proud feature in his portfolio.


Chessington Buddha's

Stages for Buddha's

Chessington Dragon

Stages for Chessington Dragon

In 1988, when Aden was twenty-nine, he started up properly in his own premises in Laindon, with Sue handling the financial side of the business, leaving Aden to the creative work. Their first son, Kevin, was born a week after the new studio was leased, so it was a big move all round. Sue had left her job in London, working for a unit trust company, to raise their family and to start up the family business with Aden. They had planned and saved up three years rent (which was the minimum lease time on the unit). So, rain or shine, work or no work, they were able to survive. They had three years to give it their best shot, build up clients, and review the situation at the end of the initial lease.


Working closer to home meant that he could get home to spend more time with his children when they were growing up, glad that he’d be able to attend their school plays. When he went to parents’ evenings, he may have turned up smelling of resin, but even so, he often was the only man attending. He told me that he used to get home at six for dinner, bath the boys, spend a couple of hours with Sue and the children, and often go back to the studio to work until three o’clock in the morning.


Family time

The work gradually came in, building up from just a single project, to two, three or four jobs at a time. At first, he was doing it all on his own, sweeping up, making the tea, going out to get materials, talking to clients etc. Before the internet he had to send photocopies and drawings in the post if clients weren’t able to make a studio visit, and wait for a return response. Then fax machines came in and he could get more immediate replies, but it was still slow compared to modern times.


Early advertising

Elements of work such as advertising was much slower as well. Adverts would have to be printed in journals or books, such as an entry into the Yellow Pages, which cost a lot of money. Aden would often scour library books to find out addresses and contacts in the film or prop making industries, copy them all down, and fill three or four hundred envelopes with portfolio photocopies of his work. Sue would thoroughly check for duplicates, stick on stamps, post everything, and wait for responses. These days, it has all transferred to the internet, but in many ways, this proofing of documentation is still very much part of her role now. These days, comparatively no advertising by Sculpture Studios is done on paper. His son, Sean, manages the company website and produces comprehensive video content of each project for the business’ YouTube channel.


Another form of adverting was the monster on the roof of his pickup truck. When work was slow, he would often drive up to London and park in Covent Garden, basically until he was asked to move along, whereby he’d move to a different location. There were occasions when he then came home to messages or phone calls waiting, with requests often starting with, “I want a giant……”. Proof that 3D advertising really works, which is something he still very much tells clients today.


3D Advertising really works!

Another initiative idea at the time was creating a video series of body moulding, clay modelling, and plaster casting. A first video was produced, and replicated to donate to various libraries around the UK, with the hope of producing more to turn an added profit alongside sculptural work. With the internet growing, however, these sorts of demonstrations and instructional videos were fast appearing online instead.


Video for Libraries

After three years in the initial studio, and enough success and recognition in the business, Aden and Sue made the decision to extend the lease. The studio was eventually bought outright after nine years lease.

Later, in 2014, Aden moved to a studio twice the size of his original unit, in the Burnt Mills Industrial Estate at the other end of Basildon. The studio, having now run in Aden's own name for over thirty-five years, boasts an extensive portfolio and clientele. A vast amount of the studio's projects are now drawn in by their online YouTube channel, which features over three hundred and fifty videos of the builds of previous work, reaching audiences the world over, with over sixty thousand subscribers, and climbing.


Aden’s forte is carving from polystyrene, with the studio generally producing large scale props, sets, scenery, exhibition display pieces, outdoor, and promotional pop art sculpture. The longevity of each piece very much depends on the intended project use. Some polystyrene items are only used for a day, whereas other projects require production moulds and glass fibre casts. This often results in a lot of work for charities and art trails, and sculpture being displayed both inside and outside for many years.


There is a world-famous artist called Mackenzie Thorpe, whose signature look is his characters with large round heads, heavy feet, little bodies, and often adorning or carrying hearts. He has been hailed as a global art phenomenon, and originally got in contact with Aden to provide him with twelve-inch tall maquettes, with the commission to blow them up to fifteen foot high. The final sculpture, called Skipping Together, features a skipping boy and girl figure, and was shipped out and installed in the foyer of the Children’s Hospital at the Oklahoma University Medical Centre. The idea was that the children entering the hospital, perhaps for an operation, would stop near the big reception desk in the foyer, look up at the sculpture, which in turn might take their mind off their worries for a while.

'Skipping Together' - Mackenzie Thorpe

Aden also gives talks and presentations to schools, colleges and universities. The talks include not just the work itself, but the starting up, the challenges and the achievements of running a small business in the arts. He has also started doing talks as a visiting lecturer to art societies.


Students are often invited to the studio through schools or college programmes, and are assigned a set project to work on during their visit. It’s often remarked on by the teachers, how simply the change of location from school, the different genres of music playing in the background, etc, has an effect on the students’ moods, work rate, and eventual creations. He set a competition at one time where he judged the best clay head, with the winner’s work then cast in bronze resin.


Students with clay heads

Over the years, he has also taken on many six-formers for work experience. The routine is usually that the first half of the day is dedicated to studio work, which includes anything from learning about tools, materials, and actual construction work, all the way down to sweeping up and making the tea, which, believe it or not, are all key functions for any member of staff running the studio. The afternoon is then dedicated to their own projects, by which Aden will go through a design process with them, and ask them to create a master pattern or model from clay, create a mould, and produce a finished cast by the end of the week. This is then something of a memento that they can bring home from the studio, other than simply dusty clothes!



2020


One of the largest challenges in recent years had to be the Covid19 Pandemic, by which, all of the industries that Aden’s studio creates for closed, and everything project-wise came to a grinding halt. Before the first lockdown, the studio had loads of projects lined up, such as creating twenty-four hearts for a charity art trail. Aden pre-empted other companies closing down, and so purchased enough materials to accommodate six months’ worth of work. Working with members of his own family, from the same household, meant nothing, however, as all projects simply disappeared. With the materials all having a pending shelf life, Aden created numerous casts from existing moulds that he still had at the studio. Giraffes, elephants, a gorilla and cows were made, in order to use up the materials and in the hope of selling the casts later on. One of the larger pieces created during this time was a large red dragon, by which Aden got in contact with numerous pubs around the UK, particularly in Wales, and showed them the creation video of how it was made. This was later sold to an amusement park, and featured on top of one of the ticket offices.


Frustratingly, the nature of the studio meant that it fell through the gaps between tax brackets, and was not eligible for grants for furlough. It was a scary time, as Aden still had a family to provide for, a premises to pay for, and an unknown time limit on how long both the studio and pandemic would last. A bounce back loan of £50,000 was needed to ensure that the studio and household would survive, and thankfully, the studio is now back up and running as normal.



Present Day and the Future


Aden and Sue have four sons, Kevin, Sean, Liam and Kieran, all of whom have worked at the studio across the years and have contributed in their own ways.



At present two of his four sons work for him at Sculpture Studios, with their own areas of expertise, Sean generally liaises with clients and handles the media and internet side of the business. Kevin’s mind is more put towards the planning and efficient construction of the projects, very much mathematically and practically thought out. Sue handles the financial side of the business, still leaving Aden to do what he loves doing best, carving.


In 2025, Aden will be looking to retire at the age of sixty-five. After family discussions, it has been decided that Sculpture Studios will close, with Aden then being able to concentrate on his own sculptural projects, retiring from commercial work.


The main success for Aden, as well as being able to be both involved, and successfully raise a family, is that to this day, his work still revolves around what he loves doing, very much what his mum and teacher told him many years ago. He’s always thought that being paid for something that you love doing is a massive win in life, and he never has that Monday morning feeling.



Some of the larger companies that Sculpture Studios have worked with: -

Asylum

Dulux

P&O Cruises

Michelin

Sony

Adidas

Cadbury World

Chessington World of Adventures

Excel London

Cats London Theatre Production

Royal Television Society

Alton Towers

Legoland

Nike

Iron Maiden

Pink Floyd

10cc

Pet Shop Boys

Motorola

Orange

Nokia

The British Museum

Status Quo

Royal Opera House

Madame Tussauds

Brit Awards 2009

Nikon

Canon

Guinness

The Angry Birds Movie

Giraffe

BBC

20th Century Fox

Tango

Sky

Warner Bros. Pictures

Disney

Harry Potter

M&S

British Academy of Film and Television Arts

British Airways

Pokémon

Spiderman

BT

Ford

Mercedes-Benz


Harry Potter nest

Pink Floyd Division Bell

Bafta

Panasonic conker

Tree Rex and Jet Vac Restoration

The gorilla is called Gus, and he was originally created for the Aspinall Foundation (and now resides at Port Lympne Wild Animal Park).

HMV Dog




By Lisa Horner

Much appreciation goes to the Hynes family for all their assistance.





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5 commentaires


Invité
09 nov. 2023

Hi Lisa


I must say I thought your article was a great read. You certainly captured the essence of what Aden stands for and his dedication to work in this hard industry! I would mention that I am his second eldest sister (Linda) and must say that Aden never ceases to amaze us with his expertise and talent, not to mention the rest of his family who have shared his journey. Even though Aden is retiring soon, there are so many works of art, sculptures, projects all over the world, to be enjoyed by everyone for many years to come. Regards

Linda Nixon

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Invité
11 nov. 2023
En réponse à

Yes, Lisa, we are very proud of Aden. It’s so lovely that you have kept in touch and also you have obviously still pursued your career.

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Invité
09 nov. 2023

Hi Lisa, just read your article on Aden Hynes. What a comprehensive read, very interesting and a great insight to a young Basildon man, through hard work and endurance, can make good...... I have to say, it brought a tear to my eye reading about his struggle and hard times. I'm his eldest sister Sandra. I must say, you got Aden spot on, he's a very happy, dedicated, family man who also loves his work. A great article.

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Lisa Horner
Lisa Horner
09 nov. 2023
En réponse à

Hi Sandra,

Thank you so much for your comment, glad you like my article. The piece turned out to be quite a collaboration between me, Aden, Sue and Sean (I think). Like I said to your sister, I did an article for Aden around 2007 too. You must be so proud of your brother! https://spreadtheartword.blogspot.com/search?q=aden+hynes

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