Contractor diversifies into creating unique animal sculptures
29th October 2020
When lockdown hit earlier this year, farm contractor Laura Burnett decided to future-proof her business and combine her two passions – farming and creating metal animal sculptures. We spoke to her to find more about her creations.
When lockdown hit earlier this year, farm contractor Laura Burnett decided to future-proof her business and combine her two passions – farming and creating steel animal sculptures. We spoke to her to find more about her creations.
Growing up with a farming background in rural Aberdeenshire, Laura now works in the south east as a self-employed contractor, covering cows to cultivations and everything in between. Like many, she says the lockdown in March prompted her to diversify and help future-proof her business.
“Up until March my work was very much manual labour on farm and reliant on farms requiring my services,” she explains. “I had to think what if the farm work wasn’t there anymore, what would I do? Making these sculptures is something friends and family have told me to do for a few years now, taking a step back it seemed as good a time as any to take the risk and give it a go.”
Since starting her business, Black Lab Fab, she says she has been surprised by how well it has taken off, with many commissions coming through word of mouth – from as far away as Australia.
She first picked up welding by watching in the workshop, but quickly realised she could do something creative with it.
“There was a lot of trial and error to find out the limits of different metals and what I could actually create, but eventually I found the best materials to use and was really pleased with the result. With every different piece I create I’m learning more and more.”
Having worked with various livestock species for the past decade, she says she has a good appreciation of their form and character, which allows her to “truly capture the animals” in her sculptures.
Commenting on what she most loves about her projects she says: “Farming has always been the dream, and always will be, it’s what makes me tick. But since a young age I’ve enjoyed making things and always been practical. So this has become a really fantastic outlet for me, challenging me to use my brain more, especially with the more complicated commissions but also being a viable side to my contracting business. I also just love the countryside so creating these sculptures for other people who share my passion to enjoy is great.”
Most of her commissions thus far have been farming or wildlife-related, but she has a couple of exotic species in the pipeline.
“I really enjoy discussing the design process with customers as they are usually very passionate about what they have commissioned and have visions of their own,” she explains. “I keep them up to date throughout the creation with photos and videos as a sort of ongoing discussion to make sure they are 100 per cent happy with their sculpture.”
The commissions take a great deal of planning, research and designing, but popular sculptures such as the highland cows and pheasants can be started straight away. Generally commissions take around six weeks, or eight during harvest.
The pheasants have proved particularly popular with arable farmers, Laura says, while the stags and Highland cows are also a hit. Being Scottish, Laura particularly enjoys making the Highland cows.