The Sculptor Fashioning Cacti and Succulents from Stone

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Ben Russell, The Cactus HousePhotography by Tanya Dolver

Ben Russell’s marble sculptures are an appealing solution for those who struggle to keep their own houseplants alive

Over the past couple of years succulents have become a mainstay in interior design, decorating windowsills, fireplaces and bedside tables worldwide with an array of spikes, leaves and lush green foliage. Their charms fail, however, where their wilting begins, and no method for extending their lifespan measures up to that which Ben Russell has come up with. That is to say, forgoing the living, breathing versions altogether to sculpt his plants out of stone instead.

“The idea came to me whilst I enjoyed a cup of tea by the window in my studio,” says the sculptor. “I noticed the way light passes through the flesh of some of my cacti and succulents. Having already experimented with alabaster, I decided to have a go at capturing this in sculptural form.” His works form an exhibition on show as of next week at London's Hignell Gallery, entitled The Cactus House, wherein Russell’s creations are placed alongside real greenery. “The project aims to celebrate nature and organic forms by bringing the outside world into a beautiful gallery setting,” Russell explains. “We’re collaborating with east London stylists Conservatory Archives, who are creating a botanical backdrop for my work to sit against, creating a greenhouse effect inside the gallery.”

We defy you not to be charmed by Russell’s selection of sculpted cacti, most of which are carved from alabaster, chosen for its unique, milky translucence. There are some made from beautifully iridescent onyx and black marble too, because he sees contrast and variety as central elements to the collection. “As many of the cacti have translucent properties, allowing light to pass through their forms, I thought that the use of limestone alongside these pieces was a great way to capture the more hairy varieties, adding some shadow and texture to the mix.” 

The Cactus House runs from May 11 until July 3, 2017, at Hignell Gallery, London.