Andy Peters is probably the only person in Britain who could describe himself as a full-time ship’s carver. He spoke to Tessa Waugh.

In the expert hands of Andy Peters, pine is sculpted into a glorious array of decorative items, from show-stopping figureheads that stand up to 15ft high to simple name boards.

Although a lot of his original work is done for collectors, he also assists with restoration projects and has carved panels out of Brazilian mahogany for modern superyachts.

‘I looked into it and realised that ship’s carver used to be a profession and every port would have had one, but now it’s a dying art,’ says the craftsman, who honed his skill as a furniture restorer and practised on his own boats before setting up his business, Maritima Woodcarving, in 1990.

Andy Peters, Ship Figurehead Carver, photographed in his studio at Waterperry Gardens, Oxfordshire. ©Richard Cannon/Country Life Picture Library

Andy Peters, Ship Figurehead Carver, photographed in his studio at Waterperry Gardens, Oxfordshire. ©Richard Cannon/Country Life Picture Library

His largest contract to date has been carrying out the historical research and carving for a replica of a Swedish East India Company ship from 1738 called the Götheborg. ‘Re-creating period pieces so precise that they could be mistaken for the original is one of the things I enjoy the most,’ he enthuses.

Figureheads can be many things beyond the buxom beauties of children’s storybooks. ‘Many British warships had lions, figures from Greek mythology were popular and merchant ships tended to have a portrait of the owner or his wife,’ he explains.

Andy Peters, Ship Figurehead Carver, photographed in his studio at Waterperry Gardens, Oxfordshire. ©Richard Cannon/Country Life Picture Library

Andy Peters, Ship Figurehead Carver, photographed in his studio at Waterperry Gardens, Oxfordshire. ©Richard Cannon/Country Life Picture Library

Andy Peters has written a book entitled Ship Decoration 1630–1780 and will be exhibiting his work at Craft in Focus, RHS Wisley, Surrey, from May 3 to 7. You can also find out more at his website, www.maritimawoodcarving.co.uk.