We catch up with Rigby engraver and talented artist, Geoffrey Lignon to discuss what’s new in the art department at John Rigby & Co., two years after its launch. Here, the 30-year-old Frenchman explains how the ‘Rigby Art’ idea came to fruition, what is involved and what is still to come.
Where did the Rigby Art idea emerge from?
It’s an idea that evolved over time in discussions I had with Rigby’s managing director Marc Newton. It started when I created a bronze lion sculpture. We then started to discuss creating other pieces of art and how to make them special. We launched Rigby Art at The Game Fair in 2019, and now have plans to take it forward by bringing in more artists and building a gallery.
How exciting is it to be heading up such an innovative project?
I’m very excited about it because we’re writing history, we’re going to do it our way and not compare ourselves to others. Thanks to the Rigby ledger, in 50 years’ time we’ll be able to look back and see who the first people to invest in Rigby Art were.
How did you become an artist and engraver?
I was brought up in the French countryside near the Swiss and German border. I don’t come from an artistic family, but it’s a skill I developed from childhood. I discovered engraving when I was eight, seeing my father’s gunrack. I trained for six years at the Léon Mignon, Liege School of Gunmaking in Belgium. I started working for Rigby as an engraver in August 2015 and I have loved every minute of it.
So, are you a better artist or engraver?
I really just want to enjoy what I love, which is a bit of everything; engraving, sculpture, drawing. I’m passionate about wildlife, especially African animals, and my goal through Rigby Art is to create realistic works of art that show the animals in their true form.
Where did your passion for African animals come from?
I’ve always loved them. I can’t remember when it started, but I’ve always been intrigued by them and therefore attracted to Africa. It’s a call I can’t ignore.
Who else do you have in the new Rigby Art department?
At the moment the department consists of me, Saija Koskialho and Jenna Gearing. When the new building is complete, and we grow from three to five or six engravers and artists in the department, we will have a lot more artwork.
How important is it to integrate the Rigby brand and ethos into your work?
It is critical that we work on subjects that fit within the hunting and shooting domain. But I love animals, especially African animals, so it is easy for me to work in the Rigby context.
What is special about Rigby Art?
We want to make it affordable but also exclusive. As part of this we’ll be bringing out limited edition art. I have created images detailing each of the “big five” and there are 100 copies of each. However the elephant, which is twice as big, only has 30 copies. Whether it is a sculpture, drawing, lithographic print or something else, every piece of art created will be serialised and entered into the Rigby ledger books, so no matter if you buy a large drawing or small sculpture, our customers will own a piece of history.
What else do you have planned?
We have started to create footprints of Big Game set in bronze. I’ve also begun a personal project of engraving images of the Big 5 on to plates and these will be available to buy on the Rigby website. We’re also planning to do more big drawings and stamp etching, which is an engraving we put on the milling machine. Then, on paper, you can make a stamp of the negative. There are plenty of other different types of art we can do, what excites me is the possibilities are endless. One project idea we have is to do all the Jim Corbett drawings in the Rigby book and make them into sculptures.
What plans do you have for the gallery?
We’re planning to do drawings of the six deer species found in the UK. We hope that by creating unique collections of artwork like this, we will attract different clients. Our aim is to have a lot of new and varied artwork in a short space of time. We are hoping to bring in more artists who will share a passion for creating pieces that instil a sense of adventure the Rigby brand is known for.
Will your other staff members be doing drawings as well?
It will be entirely up to each engraver. Each engraver will be free to express their own artistic style within the domain of hunting and Rigby’s history. I am really looking forward to what the team can produce.
Overall, how do you feel about heading up this pioneering project?
It is really satisfying and on a personal note it feels like a great reward for all the hard work. The creation of Rigby Art has made me extremely proud and I am going to ensure I carry all the engravers with me.