Born in 1958, Wells Small spent his childhood in the Drakensburg Mountains in South Africa where his father was a nature conservationist. His youth was strongly influenced by his uncle, Gordon Small, an architect who taught him the value of proportion, detail, composition and sense of space. Wells’ fiscally minded father dissuaded him from a career in sculpture and fine art and instead Wells poured his practical and lateral thinking skills into a degree in Industrial Design at Johannesburg School of Art and Design. He came to England in 1984 and worked for design agencies and packaging consultancies before breaking away to indulge his passion for sculpture.
The shapes, forms, and textures found in nature inspire Wells Small and he loves to experiment in different media. He uses metal, glass, stone, plaster and resin amongst other materials. He combines media to achieve a harmony of contrasting textures and shapes. He says that he "draws on the wealth of materials, processes and engineering knowledge" gained from his career in industrial design. This helps him to blend and combine materials with an ease that enables striking works. He is also attentive to surface patina and sometimes uses an element of colour in his work.
His recent sculpture explores the relationship that we have with time; how we use it, perceive it and measure it. Dealing with such an abstract concept as time and approaching it from several human angles, Wells Small has realised these works in a mixture of metal and glass. In order to make his vision a reality, Wells Small pioneered a complicated glass bending process in order to make this possible.