Tanya was honoured to be commissioned to create a sculpture in memory of Street Cat Bob, a stray tom cat with an incredible story that captured the hearts of adults and children around the world.
James Bowen met Bob in 2007 while struggling with a drug addiction and homelessness, finding the ginger cat injured and abandoned in the hallway of his building. After a few failed attempts to find the cat’s owner, Bowen took Bob to an RSPCA clinic to be assessed and treated and chose to take the ginger tom in to make sure he recovered and received his medication.
Once Bob was well again, James found that the cat was following him to work, and the two of them quickly became unlikely companions, with Bob accompanying James as he was busking and selling The Big Issue in London. James believes the ginger tom cat rescued him from living rough and helped him recover from his addiction.
BBC News report on Islington Green memorial unveiling
“He came and asked me for help, and he needed me more than I needed to abuse my own body. He is what I wake up for every day now. He’s definitely given me the right direction to live my life.” – James Bowen
With writer Garry Jenkins, James wrote the book A Street Cat Name Bob in an Islington café, which was published in September 2010. When the book became a bestseller, things started looking up for Bob and James. The book sold over 9 million copies across the world and it was adapted into an award-winning film in 2016, with Bob playing himself in the movie.
When James lost his beloved, scarf-wearing companion in 2020, he and a group of Bob’s fans called “Bobites” fundraised to create a permanent memorial of the cat. The fundraising achieved over 100,000 donations.
Tanya was honoured to commission a true-to-life sculpture of Bob, to capture his likeness in life and pay tribute to his memory.
“It was a huge privilege to be able to attempt to capture the memory of Bob for James and all Bob’s fans, and I’m grateful to Islington Council who worked so hard to make the public sculpture of Bob possible.” – Tanya Russell
James came to visit Tanya during the sculpting process, visiting the studio to see the clay before the Bob sculpture was cast in bronze. This was an emotional moment for James to see his beloved friend once again in the statue.
“He is in that statue.” – James Bowen
One of the most important things for Tanya was that the bronze sculpture really captured the true likeness of Bob, and that the exact pose was as close as possible to how he is remembered by James and those who knew him. It was important that Bob looked content and comfortable, just as he was during his time with James during his life.
“I used lots of photos from James Bowen and Bob’s family, films and fans. This helped me sculpt his anatomical features and attempt to capture his character. As I do with the other animals I sculpt, I studied the way that Bob’s fur lay over his musculature, and how he looked in different poses and with different attitudes. It was a fantastic excuse to read the books and watch the films and see Bob and his stunt double in front of the camera” – Tanya Russell
– Making the steel and aluminium armature to support the clay.
– Sculpting Bob
– Correcting a wax taken out of the mould.
– The bronze casting.
– Colouring the bronze sculpture.
– Installing the granite bench
– Fixing Bob to his bench (Bob is covered)
– The reveal!
Once the statue of Bob was completed, the memorial of Bob was unveiled in July 2021. The ceremony was covered by the BBC, ITV News, Sky News Radio, the Big Issue and the Islington Tribune, and drew in crowds of Bobites. Tanya spoke a few words and presented James with the first casting of a miniature foundry bronze statue just prior to the unveiling.
The statue of Bob sits upon a plinth to the side of a granite bench, seated upright on a pile of his books. He was placed on the left side as when James sits on the bench, Bob is close to his right shoulder, where he was always so comfortable when they were together.
“We have made a mark here. I’m so proud of him. Bob is definitely here today.” – James Bowen
If you would like to visit the Street Cat Named Bob sculpture, you will find him sitting upon a bench in Islington Green, overlooking the Waterstones where James Bowen wrote A Street Cat Named Bob.
A Streetcat Named Bob for Everyone
Tanya recreated the Street Cat Named Bob sculpture in a miniature form, sitting upon one book instead of four. Although the miniatures are smaller than the original, Tanya was dedicated to give the pieces the same attention to detail as the full size sculpture. So much so that the title on the spine of the book that Bob sits upon is the identical font used on the original book cover.
Left – A beautiful memorial concept – in knitting! Imagined by Ester Oppermann