A respected sculptor who has taught in Wrexham for more than 30 years has launched an exhibition.

Born in Liverpool, Stephen Hitchin studied sculpture at Liverpool and Manchester Art Colleges. Since graduating he has taught at various institutions, including King's College Wimbledon, Wirral Art School and - since 2012 - Wrexham Glyndwr University, as well as working as a visiting lecturer at School of the Art Institute, Chicago and Brigham Young University, Utah.

His latest exhibition, Shooting the Sun, opened earlier this month at the Williamson Art Gallery in Birkenhead, and is open to the public until Sunday, April 14.

"There's a real sense of achievement when you see two years' work set out like this," he says. "Taking it out of the studio you can really evaluate the work and move forward. That's the real key to the exhibition as it lets me work out where exactly I want to go for the next two or three years."

Stephen has exhibited extensively, including, on several occasions, the Royal Academy Summer Show. His work is held in public and private collections in the UK, Sweden, Switzerland, Israel and USA. His recent projects and commissioned work can be found throughout the UK in various corporate and public collections in Manchester, London, Coventry, St Helens, Ellesmere, Portsmouth, Street, Wigton and Liverpool.

"When I moved to sculpture as a student I found it a more encouraging environment to work in," he remembers. "I had a great tutor in Sean Rice, who was quite a famous sculptor and he supported me to progress my stone carving.

"I've been carving stone from about 1974 but came into teaching before concentrating again on producing my work since the early 80s. The appeal of stone is the actual physicality of it - you go through a very long physical process of reducing it down into a set of shapes and forms that you are looking for.

"I never directly translate from a drawing to a final piece and instead I like to explore the possibilities as they reveal themselves and as I carve through the stone sometimes I go off on a tangent from my initial aims. Then you start to get into a more refined process where you develop shapes and then with marble in particular there is the use of papers to get the delicacy of the finish. You've gone from a very rough and aggressive process to something that is very delicate."

Stephen cites the extreme environment of the maritime world as the main inspiration for his work. His studio faces directly on to the River Mersey, next to the Woodside Ferry Terminal - with the whole area closely linked to the maritime environment. Cammell Laird shipyard and the Tranmere Oil Terminal are close and add to the overall sense of movement and change that takes place on a daily basis.

"It is the energy and the continually changing environment which I find inspiring for my practice," he says. "Artists have been captivated by the sea for centuries: romance, tragedy, myths, exploration, trade and communication have all been facilitated by the sea. Navigation was traditionally based on plotting your course by 'Shooting the Sun'. The term refers to measuring the altitude of the sun in order to determine latitude, essential in locating your true position at sea.

"The love of the sea stems from being a young boy. My family all worked in the shipping industry, but we moved away to London and I always remember being brought back to Liverpool on visits and being taken to the docks to see the ships. I love the notion that within a few miles of the end of the Mersey you are out into deep water and from there you can move anywhere in the world - it's a gateway and is very romantic."

Stephen has taught at Wrexham Glyndwr University since 2012 where he is a senior lecturer in Fine Art. He also has links with its forerunner, NEWI, with his connections stretching back to 1987.

"I left NEWI to go to the Wirral Arts School to run their degree course but then returned to Wrexham in 2012," he remembers. "My teaching is very much about leading by example and I have a studio ethos because I much prefer to be in there working and talking with the students - hopefully they appreciate that.

"It's a small arts school but its site on Regent Street is excellent and it offers a range of different courses. Because of its size it provides an intimacy and is a friendly environment to work in and be taught in as well.

"Each year we produce a talented group of students and many go on to do Masters programmes, work in galleries and continue to develop their own practice and undertake commissions."

The Dean of Wrexham Glyndwr University's Faculty of Arts, Science and Technology, Prof Alec Shepley, opened Stephen's exhibition and paid tribute to him as both artist and lecturer.

Prof Shepley added: "Students who study Fine Art with Steve at Wrexham Glyndwr University know that they are working with an expert in their field. The quality of his teaching speaks for itself - as does the quality of his work.

"We've been discussing this exhibition for quite some time and I am really excited to be opening the show - and to see the exhibition itself."

Shooting the Sun runs at the Williamson Art Gallery, Slatey Road Birkenhead until April 14. For more information go to: www.williamsonartgallery.org Find out more about Wrexham Glyndwr University's BA (Hons) in Fine Art at www.glyndwr.ac.uk/en/Undergraduatecourses/FineArt/