Gill Oliver talks to an Oxfordshire sculptor whose work will be exhibited in London this autumn

Tickling the tummy of a baby rhinoceros is all in a day’s work for artist Rosamond Lloyd. The Stadhampton-based sculptor is creating a bronze statue of Astrid, the first white rhino calf ever born at the Cotswold Wildlife Park.

As part of her research, she had to photograph and sketch the two-month-old and her mother Nancy.

Rosamond, 40, explained: “I spent weeks stroking Astrid’s tummy and watching her mock charges, so it was really hands-on. “Far from minding me touching Astrid, Nancy would come up and want to be stroked when she felt Astrid was having too much of my attention.

“I feel privileged to be doing this, because it is very special for the park having this birth.” A limited edition of 10 mother-and-baby sculptures will be cast in bronze, with the first going to the park.

This, along with other of her work, will go on show in London in a few weeks’ time.

During the past few years, the mother-of-one has made a name for herself with her bronze sculptures of wild animals including elephants, giraffes, lions, gorillas and horses. In 2011, she was shortlisted for a prestigious wildlife artist award for The Art of Nurture, which shows a female baboon carrying her baby.

She said: “I was inspired by a very tired baboon mother who had obviously carried her baby a very long way and I really identified with her.

“The baby is so relaxed and the two look almost Disney-like.

“When I show the piece at places like Art in Action, people can’t believe baboons really carry their offspring that way.

“I had a video made with clips of baboons to prove that is how it really happens in nature.”

Although the observation for the rhinos was done in Burford, she travels frequently to Africa and other parts of the world to watch animals in their natural habitat.

“I was in Zimbabwe earlier this year and took hundreds and hundreds of photographs and filmed on location to study wild animals, the way they look, move and behave.

“I rely heavily on the photos, sketches and film and have an entire wall of my studio covered in cork, where I can pin up as many pics as I want.”

As a self-confessed perfectionist, the incredible attention to detail is a key element of her sculptures.

“I have always been an animal lover and love the challenge of features and fur,” she explained.

“If I was sculpting humans, I would rather be doing a wrinkled face. “With animals, it’s about capturing the movement and sense of fight or flight.

“Horses can be incredibly anxious and with the stallion I sculpted, I wanted to make it look as though he had wind blowing in his mane.

“Trying to get clay to do that is quite challenging.”

Her first brush with creating three-dimensional art was while at university in London where she studied English and drama, including set and costume design.

After graduating, she says she fell into a job at Capital Radio’s press office, before moving on to Virgin Radio.

But she felt she was missing an outlet for her artistic side.

She and skydiving instructor husband Paul moved to Oxfordshire after the birth of their son, William, 11, and it was at this point she decided to go to art school.

This led to juggling motherhood with working from home illustrating medical journals and children’s books.

The turning point came when she was asked to help make a three-quarter-sized model of an elephant’s head for Woodstock Carnival.

Working from the family garage, she used chicken wire as a frame, wrapped bandages over it and put in light bulbs for the eyes.

“It looked unnervingly realistic once it was finished,” she remembered.

“I worked flat-out for four days and four nights to get it done and it made me realise anything was possible if I focused. “I decided I owed it to myself to challenge myself and that was what started the whole ball rolling.”

She got herself taken on as an apprentice to Iffley-based bronze sculptor David Goode.

There, she learned how to work with clay and wax and saw mould-making and casting techniques first-hand.

It can take weeks or months to complete a sculpture, most of which are limited, numbered editions that sell for about £6,500.

The process is painstaking, beginning with a metal skeleton or armature which is covered in clay then sculpted, through wax and silicon mould to the final bronze.

Casting is done at a specialist foundry used by the UK’s leading sculptors, including Angel of the North creator Antony Gormley.

Her work was exhibited at Five Artists in Woodstock earlier this year and also at Art in Action in Waterperry and the Whittington Fine Art Gallery in Henley.

She loves the idea of working in bronze because of its endurance.

“It will last far beyond my lifetime and as an heirloom, hopefully be handed down from one generation to the next,” she said.

With just weeks until the London unveiling of the mother-and-baby rhino sculptures, she is working hard to finish on time.

She pointed out: “There is always this hunger but slight nervousness about showing work, because most of us artists are so fragile.

“I’m excited but terrified at the same time.”

  • The Bronze, Black & White Exhibition at the Royal Opera Arcade Gallery, in Pall Mall, runs from November 18-30. See