Renowned Marton bronze artist Ross Wilson has been remembered as the region's go-to guy for bronze casting and someone with "spiritual depth".
Ross died this month shortly after being diagnosed with invasive cancer.
He had been given the all-clear after treatment for a melanoma growth on his leg in 2020 and in March this year, Ross welcomed thousands of visitors to his Marton workshop during Artists Open Studios.
He also joined glass artist Carmen Simmonds to run a glass and bronze casting symposium for students at her Brunswick studio in February.
"It was fantastic to work with Ross. I love bronze and he was such a great teacher, everyone loved his sessions," she said.
Ross's son Tim Wilson who is also an artist working in Marton said his father suddenly seemed very tired a few weeks ago and hospital tests revealed he had advanced cancer and a very short time to live.
"Dad accepted the news with his usual pragmatism and my sister Holly and brother Jeremy, who both live in the South Island, came to help care for dad at his home," Tim said.
"We had great support from Hospice staff and I can't praise them enough for the care they gave dad and the support they gave us as a family."
Ross died on July 2 and, as per his request, there was no death notice or public accolades.
"That's not how we roll as a family and dad was clear that he didn't want a fuss," Tim said.
"He figured that anyone who needed to know would find out."
His family has, however, given their blessing to an acknowledgment of the career Ross forged in an art form he had little knowledge of when he started out 40 years ago.
Tim said his earliest memory of his father pouring molten metal was in his great-grandmother's shed.
"Nanna Cross lived in Longburn and she must have agreed to let dad use her shed, which was really good of her.
"I don't know how old I was but I must have been quite small. Dad would have been teaching himself the art of bronze casting. He was a young guy working in a foundry making manhole covers and stuff but the bronze was always his passion."
Over the decades, Ross would become the region's go-to guy for bronze casting and found a kindred soul and mentor in Whanganui bronze sculptor Joan Morrell.
When Morrell died in January this year, Ross said he had happily acted as her right-hand man doing all the pouring for her sculptures in recent years.
"I was an eager young pup when I first met Joan and I wanted to learn everything I could from her," he said at the time.
"I wanted to set up a backyard operation like the one she had and she was a brilliant teacher."
Tim remembers his father running out of diesel to fire his furnace during the early days of his casting career.
"I remember Joan pulling up in the old Jag she used to drive and buying him some diesel because he was broke.
"We all loved Joan and her kids and going to their place with her fantastic garden."
With help from Morrell and friends like Roy Harkness, Ross achieved his dream of establishing his own home foundry and over the years completed many significant commissions including the statue of Peter Snell at Cooks Gardens with Chris Elliott and the John Plimmer bronze in Wellington with Harkness.
Harkness remembers installing the statue of Plimmer and his dog at the end of Plimmer Lane in 1996.
"We installed it early in the morning and didn't realise there was a cleaner still working in one of the buildings," he said.
"He had been held up and hadn't been able to leave at his scheduled time so he was trapped in his vehicle. We couldn't remove the statue because it was already set in place. We eventually managed to remove his wing mirrors and he had just enough room to squeeze between the statue and adjacent building."
Ross tutored in the art of bronze casting at Wanganui Polytechnic during the 1990s and Tim, a teenager at high school at the time said he has wonderful memories.
"His foundry and workshop were in the big building on Taupo Quay where the produce centre is now.
"Dad and I were living upstairs in the building where Porridge Watson is now. It was a great time."
When preparing to open his studio this year, Ross described the satisfaction he derived from his work.
"Creating sculpture solely for the joy of it is my major definite purpose," he wrote.
"The thoughts and images first come to mind, eventually manifesting into form through the process. It was this process, the lost wax, ceramic shell process that captivated me. Taking such mediums as wax, plaster, clay, ceramic, bronze, and fire, manipulating them all until the desired form magically appeared. Bronze sculpture, form texture, and colour."
Tim said his father's familiarity with the process was such that he didn't need to use a thermometer.
"He could tell just by looking at it, by the colour if the temperature was right."
Marton potter Lorraine Barnett has worked on several collaborative art projects with Ross in recent years and said he became a "defining person" in her life with an amazing ability to ease people into learning bronze casting.
"He had a spiritual depth, it often came out in his work and very often included in some way the relationship with his three children. They meant the world to him, along with his grandchildren."
Tim did not immediately follow in his father's footsteps and pursued a military career with the army and air force for 20 years.
Then in 2016, he completed a certificate in art and design at UCOL Whanganui. In 2019, he was awarded the UCOL alumni service award for his role with No Duff, a charity supporting military veterans facing difficulties such as mental health and financial struggles.
He is currently working on his own first major bronze work for the Palmerston North District Council and his dad helped him with the first stages of the project.
"I haven't fully decided yet, but at the moment I feel like I want to keep dad's foundry going and maybe continue his work."
Ross Wilson was 61. He was born in Foxton on August 8, 1959. His family is not sure how many bronze works he completed in total but they hope to make a comprehensive inventory.