MANY people follow invisible tracks into sensible jobs, then find themselves troubled by a sense of unease as the years go by - and they wonder what other dream they might have followed.

One man who did harken to the call and leave his safe career is David ‘Wolfy’ Wilkins. He was so enchanted by history and architecture that he abandoned a job as a visual merchandiser for B&Q, where he had worked for ten long years, to be a stone mason.

“I wanted to make something that lasts, something that gives back,” he said. “I wanted to be a stone carver and to make decorative stonework.”

He liked church architecture, grotesques and gargoyles, the stone carvings you might find in a cathedral – and he had a dream of carving something himself, which might endure for centuries like the ones he admired.

Wolfy, 42, who lives in Eastcott, Swindon, grew up near Winchester and did a degree in retail management before his career with B&Q. The death of his father prompted him to rethink his own life. As an experiment, Wolfy did a three-day carving course in Lincoln and decided at once that this was what he wanted to do. On his return, he handed in his notice and has not looked back since.

He started off with a full-time stonemasonry course at Weymouth College, gaining level 2 and 3 qualifications, then became an apprentice stonemason for the National Trust at Herdwick Hall in Derbyshire. It was hard work but rewarding.

“I loved the variety – one week I could be in the Peak District repairing a barn, and the next, working on a replacement urn in a garden in Lincolnshire,” he said. “It was a big learning experience.”

The apprenticeship was work-based, with college training four times a year in three-week blocks and Wolfy gained a qualification in Heritage Masonry. After four years, he decided to leave the National Trust and focus on historic architectural stone carving at the City and Guilds, in London, on a two-year course.

“I had to learn how to draw!” he said. “You have to learn art practices. Carving is only a third of the work. You have to draw your design in two dimensions, then work on them in three-d in clay, then you’re in a position to carve.”

Each year, the college holds a competition for up to three students to design and carve a grotesque for St George’s Chapel in Windsor. Wolfy decided to create a devil in a boot – a reference to a story about Buckinghamshire rector John Schorne, whose remains rest in the chapel. Schorne was reckoned to have worked many miraculous cures and even to have cast the devil into a boot – an idea that inspired Wolfy’s design for the contest. His quirky, characterful devil was a hit and Wolfy received the commission to carve the grotesque for St George’s.

“My dream had come true,” he said. “I created something that could last for generations.”

The course finished last year, and since them he has been working on stone carving commissions, for a local stone mason in conservation work, and teaching others how to work in stone.

Wolfy has also joined forces with fellow stone sculptor Maya Martin, to run workshops. He and Maya, 39, met on the very first course Wolfy did, in Lincoln. She too made a bold change of career.

Maya, who lives in Basingstoke, worked as a dietician for the NHS before starting a career in stone work.

“I went through school and did not really know what to do. I did Applied Human Nutrition at university, but actually I always loved making things and art when I was a child. Everyone was surprised when I did science,” she said. “After a while I got more and more frustrated. I went to India to a friend’s wedding in 2005 and I visited a little town called Mamallapuram, where there are lots of stone carvers and I asked, can you teach me? I spent the whole week there, carving stone. When I got home, I did a few evening classes carving stone and a few years later did the course in Lincoln. I was fed up and disillusioned with my career, and I thought, I must make this change.”

Maya did a one-year apprenticeship through the National Association of Decorative and Fine Arts and started working with sculptor Robyn Golden-Hann, who makes bespoke memorial masonry.

“I’ve been working with her on and off for the last few years. I am still learning from her,” she said. “I’m also doing my own commissions.”

Both Wolfy and Maya have also represented Great Britain in international contests creating vast sculptures in snow. Maya went to Colorado with a team of four in 2017 and sculpted a huge block of snow into two pheasants, working in temperatures of -29 degrees over four days. Wolfy travelled to Edmonton in Alberta, Canada, in February, where with a snow sculpting partner he created an owl and pussycat design from a 2.5 metre block, working in temperatures of -24 degrees.

“It was more of a symposium than a competition,” he said. “It was brilliant. There people from all over the world.”

The extraordinary experiences both sculptors have enjoyed since making the change has made everything worthwhile, and they have no regrets.

“I work that extra bit harder, and I was living on the breadline being an apprentice, but I am happier creating or repairing something,” Wolfy said.

He is also relishing the chance to teach.

“I wanted to pass these creative techniques on – that’s why Maya and I started working together. When one of our students has carved something – and you see the look on their faces! You can’t beat it,” he said.

The stone carvers are running weekend workshops at the Richard Jefferies Museum in Swindon. Suitable for beginners, the courses take place on June 2-3. July 28-29 and September 8-9, so if you have always had a yearning to try your hand at a new skill, or perhaps like Maya and Wolfy, have long harboured an ambition to create something in stone, why not give it a try? Over the course of the weekend you can carve an original piece from limestone. The courses cost £150 for the two days, from 10am to 4pm, with lunch at the museum included.

To book, contact Maya at