A chance encounter on a school trip led Celia Smith on an artistic adventure to draw the lightness and movement of birds with wire.
“I see wire as a drawing medium and enjoy creating 3-D drawings ‘in space’. Being able to draw with wire in the field is very exciting. The medium is tactile and provides an immediacy which allows me to work quickly to capture a bird’s gestures in-the-moment before my subject flies away or walks out of sight.”
Celia has spent much time over the years studying many British birds in their native habitat. She frequently visits nature reserves for insights into their behaviours and characters.
“I have two favourite birds. I love the sound the Curlew makes over wetlands and estuaries and its long legs and bill are irresistible to make in wire. It also lifts my heart every Spring when swallows return from their long migration. To me, their twittering is the sound of the British summer.”
Celia’s three-dimensional sculptures are captivating and portray the essence of a bird in flight or wading on the shoreline. In the same way birds use twigs to build nests, she bends, twists, and shapes the wire without the need for soldering.
I especially love the dynamic movement, energy, and avian nuances Celia is able to achieve in her pieces. They are very loose and free, and embrace the joy soaring birds must feel as they maneuver themselves on the breeze. Her free-standing sculptures look like they are about to waddle off.
Unusually, Celia’s love of birds has come from making sculptures and not the other way around. Her initial project was making wire chickens. The success of these allowed her to open a studio and start drawing with wire fulltime. It’s also where she creates more contemplative larger pieces using drawings made on trips.
Visits to a local scrap yard have helped her build an assortment of wires. “My wire collection is extensive and includes differing densities so when I’m drawing with wire I am able to incorporate thick and wafer thin lines. I’m drawn to the patina of rusty, corroded wire and am always on the lookout for old and interesting wires I can recycle into my sculptures.”
Celia says one of the most satisfying things is making sculptures that bring people joy, and passing on her knowledge to others. “My work has just evolved and I take opportunities for new challenges as they arise. Working with children is great fun. I’m often introducing them to making with wire for the first time and this pushes me to consider new ways of making. For instance, how do I make a life-size wire cow with 60 students in just two days? Sometimes I get new ideas for making via teaching as people often approach or make something in a way I have never thought of.”
Celia is currently halfway through an MA in printmaking and is using the opportunity to experiment with printing with wire.
Image captions (all images supplied)
Feature image: Flying Swallows 2010. A maquette for a larger installation. Steel wire approx 50cm x 50 cm. © Photographer: Peter Stone.
Clockwise from top left:
- Swift Circle 2008. Steel wire. approx 1m in diameter. © Photographer: Peter Stone.
- Detail from a Ponderance of Plovers. An installation of 50 flying Lapwings made for House of Fraser retail store Rushden Lakes, Northamptonshire, UK. 2017. © Photographer: Holly Bennett.
- Puffin 2013. Copper wire and telephone cabling approx. 17cm tall. © Photographer: Peter Stone.
- Walking Heron 2015. Steel wire and telephone cabling. approx 27cm tall. © Photographer: Peter Stone.