Fossil art unearthed in Bury, Lancashire

PUBLISHED: 22:48 12 January 2010 | UPDATED: 15:48 20 February 2013

Guy and Peter Heaton surrounded by fossils

Guy and Peter Heaton surrounded by fossils

Fossil hunters Peter and Guy Heaton are on the trail of some stunning new works of art in Bury reports Emma Mayoh

WOOLLY mammoths, prehistoric crocodiles and Tyrannosaurus Rex aren't creatures you would normally stumble on in Lancashire, much less in a lock-up in Bury.

But hidden away in the stores of father and son Peter and Guy Heaton are the fossilised remains of some of the strangest creatures to have walked the earth.

This Aladdin's Cave contains a huge range of fossils from tiny fish to the jaw of a woolly mammoth weighing many stones. They, and many like them, are destined to take pride of place in people's homes across the north west.

They set up Fine Fossils about a year ago. Peter, 60, collected them as a hobby since he was 12 and spent many childhood holidays scouring beaches and cliffs.

Guy, 31, is an artist who has done everything from painting portraits to drawing cartoons for a French newspaper. They decided to amalgamate their skills for the business and now they transform these precious finds into fossil art to hang on your wall or sculptures to display in your lounge.

Despite being very dead, not all pieces at Fine Fossils are harmless. One particular untreated lump of rock is labelled 'Don't touch - poisonous.' Peter explains: 'It contains arsenic in its purest form. It's not something you'd want to touch and then lick your fingers. You might fall over!

'I have collected so many fossils over the years that it seemed to make sense to start the business. Guy is the brains behind it, he's the one who makes them into these fantastic works of art. But it's a hobby for me and I get a lot of enjoyment out of it.

We're providing art that is a real talking point - there is a story behind each piece.'

The majority of the fossils are sourced by specialists who travel the globe but some are discovered by Peter and Guy. The pair recently travelled to Dinosaur Valley in South Dakota.

'The USA is really good for dinosaur stuff,' said Peter. 'South Dakota is where you get all the big T-Rex things and the most famous is Hell's Creek. Guy and I have found bits and pieces there. It's serious stuff, you excavate the area with a big pneumatic drill and then we get it sent back to us here to have a look at.

'I think lots of men would secretly admit to still loving dinosaurs like they did as a child. I've just not grown out of it. We both get very excited when new pieces come in. The mammoth jaw was a good example. You quite often find bits and pieces that come in but to find a complete one was a real rarity. We also have the lower jaw of a prehistoric crocodile. It's around 60 millions years old. But there are things we've had that are 400 million years old. Can you imagine that? It's addictive. My favourite find was the first dinosaur bone I found in America'

Once Peter and Guy receive the raw fossils, two specialist members of the Fine Fossils team spend hours painstakingly using a small high tech air gun that gradually removes the rock and sediment around the imprint. Guy then creates frames or decoration to go around the fossil transforming it into a work of art. Prices range from around 600 to 8,000.

Peter and Guy also produce fossils that can be incorporated into kitchen worktops, can be used as tiles and they also create smaller, cheaper pieces for children.

'We want children to be enthused by fossils and be as fascinated by them as I was as a child. It really sparks their imagination. Telling a child that the object they're holding is 300 million years old tend to do the trick.'

They are now working on two huge pieces. One is a dinosaur trackway dating from the Jurassic and the second is a two metre high pyritised crinoid sea lily.

'These will take hours and hours of work but will be absolutely fantastic when they're done. It's a fascinating thing for us. We love what we do, we're just lucky that we get paid for the privilege.'

All pieces, each with a certificate of authenticity and a guarantee, are collected and prepared by Peter and Guy or they purchased from reputable collectors. For more information, Peter can be contacted on 07966 199 745

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