Northampton dad surprised with larger-than-life 40th birthday gift

The Penman family check out their bronze sculpture at Andrew Sinclair's studio
The Penman family check out their bronze sculpture at Andrew Sinclair's studio

A Northampton dad was given the surprise of his life when his family presented him with a larger-than-lifesize sculpture of his daughters, made entirely from bronze.

Jeff Penman’s wife and three daughters took him to Devon, promising a 40th birthday surprise.

But while property developer Mr Penman suspected everything from go-karting to skydiving, he never imagined to be taken to the studio of former Buckinghamshire artist and Great British Sculpture Show curator, Andrew Sinclair, to see a model of his daughters’ faces smiling back at him.

He said: “I genuinely had no idea what we were going to do and when I saw the clay sculpture for the first time, I was genuinely blown away by it.

“Andy had captured my girls at a moment in time, which will be preserved forever.”

Mr Sinclair travelled to Northampton to meet the Penman girls - Francesca, aged eight, Scarlett, six, and Claudia, three - to take pictures, measurements and any personality tips that would help him add character to the sculpture.

But the idea came from Mr Penman’s wife, Catherine, who wanted to do something unique for her husband.

After finding Mr Sinclair through a Google search, she said: “It was amazing. Jeff didn’t speak for ten minutes – he was really blown away.”

“The children loved working with Andrew. He was really good with them and really engaged with them, which was great.

“But the hardest challenge was convincing Jeff to travel to Devon without giving away the surprise. At one stage as we were driving past a wind turbine, he thought we had organised a visit up one of the turbines.”

The bronze bust will now take pride of place in the family’s new kitchen which is being built in converted stables at their home.

Mrs Penman, aged 42, said: “I could have bought him a watch or a ticket to the next rugby World Cup but I wanted a present for the whole family to enjoy, one that can be timeless.”

Andrew now runs The Sculpture School at his base in Bondleigh Devon.

He said it was a “delight” to work with the family and they are already thinking of commissioning him again to create a similar sculpture of their dachshund, Frankel.