Jack Marsden-Meyer Lancashire's travelling Driftwood sculptor
PUBLISHED: 17:02 07 February 2011 | UPDATED: 20:37 20 February 2013
A Lancastrian is sculpting a new future on the other side of the world, as Victoria Jayne reports
Jack Marsden-Meyer has come a long way since he quit his job as a carer in his home town of Chorley. The adventurous 32-year-old has travelled the world, been hailed a hero and now hes carving out a new career on the other side of the world.
His backpacking led him to New Zealand, where he has made a name for himself creating amazing life-size sculptures from driftwood.
However, his journey has not been without incident. In 1998, while on a kayaking adventure on the River Whanganui on New Zealands North Island, Jack was caught up in a terrifying drama.
His travelling companion Julia Jahn, from Germany, was in a kayak which ploughed into a tree stump. She was pinned underwater and her legs were trapped. When attempts to free her failed, Jack raced the 30km downstream to get help, returning with three locals and a helicopter to airlift Julia to safety.
Julia was semi-conscious and was hypothermic when rescuers found her and they said it was down to Jacks quick-thinking that she survived.
Its not something I dwell on now, he said. But its nice to know that I reacted in a certain way when I was in that situation. My instincts kicked in and, thankfully, things worked out.
It has made me look at life in a very different way. I realised when I started travelling that I had found what I loved and Ive never looked back. I had planned to make my way around the world but I arrived in New Zealand and dont want to leave. I love it there, the space and way of life is amazing and its a fantastic place to live.
And hes now making his mark on the area with a series of sculptures made with reclaimed wood. His first work was a huge tyrannosaurus rex which stands in the village of Raurimu, near the Tongariro National Park world heritage site and the Whanganui National Park.
The popularity of his dinosaur gave Jack and his colleagues at adventure company Wades Landing Outdoors the idea to create The Forgotten World Project, an eco-sculpture park filled with depictions of many of New Zealands native animals and others that have been introduced to the islands.
Ive always been quite artistic but it wasnt until recently that I realised what I could capture using driftwood, said Jack, a former pupil of Chorleys Chorcliffe School and the exclusive Gordonstoun in Scotland.
First I have a steel frame made; then I look through the wood and decide whats most like a particular body part. The designs take shape from there and a large sculpture can take around three weeks to complete. If I need to, I use scaffolding to reach the top of the sculptures.
Jack, who returned to Chorley for Christmas and is now back in New Zealand, has made horses, fish, kiwis and possums and the less well known kea, a type of parrot and moa, a large ostrich-like bird thats now extinct and has been commissioned to create a sculpture of a galloping horse.
He added: My favourite piece is definitely the T-Rex as he was my first and he really captures peoples imaginations. Im using wood from ancient forests destroyed by the Taupo volcano eruption to create full scale dinosaurs and other animals of New Zealand. The sculptures are always life-size and the aim is to create something thats both environmentally sound and educational.
The area where Jacks work will be displayed is the location for the Lord of the Rings trilogy and where crews making The Hobbit are currently stationed. Jack has previously worked as a guide for tourists around the areas used to depict Mount Doom, Orc country and Mordor from the JRR Tolkein books.