By Gina Malone
Claudia Field spent many years as a stay- at- home mother raising her five children. To support them, she ran an in-home day care and provided hair styling to clients in her home. Throughout those years, however, she continued to pursue art as she had from childhood when a watercolor titled Little Fisherman won her a prize in fourth grade.
“Today,” she says, “my kids are grown and out on their own and now I have an opportunity to build an ‘encore’ career, following my passions to create.” Self-taught in all things artistic, she has drawn, crafted and painted. When she moved, with her husband Andrew, from New Bern to Asheville four years ago, she discovered wire sculpture and “was immediately drawn to it. I had never done anything in 3D, let alone working in wire, but I felt compelled to try.”
For her first pieces, she bent and twisted recycled aluminum wire into trees reminiscent for her of trees she climbed as a child in Massachusetts and woods in New Hampshire where her children played.
“As my skills grew,” she says, “I developed multiple twisting and forming techniques that created the look of swirling bark, gnarly roots, knots and growing branches. Later, I began to incorporate copper and brass wire and other natural elements into my work such as vines, branches and birds’ nests. For me, each one is a reminder of a time, an event or a place I carry with me.”
Her early work was flat-mounted on panels, but she began to be interested in working in the round. Sightings of turkeys, deer and bears inspired her to move from mounted trees to more sculptural animals. “What could be more right than a bear in WNC?” she asks. “So I took a leap of faith and decided to give it a try. I settled on making a bear head in the same aluminum wire as my trees, which required my first attempt at building an armature and hammering the aluminum wire flat. Asheville Bear was born, and sold in one day from Woolworth Walk.”
A friend who is a glass artist showed her how to solder her work instead of bending and twisting. “This meant I had to leave aluminum behind and work with solderable metals. So I took another leap and, using tinned copper, created an armature and soldered copper re-strip to it as ‘fur’ and finished it with different patinas to achieve some coloring effects.” These new techniques, along with a leather-fashioned nose and painted glass eyes, resulted in Anybody Home?, her second bear.
Another piece, Great Horned Owl, was created for a show at Posana Restaurant’s Adler Gallery and, Field says, was the greatest creative and technical challenge she has met so far. She merged the various techniques she has used to date— twisting and bending wire, building armatures and soldering copper and bronze. “I first had to research pictures of owls and study their anatomy and dimensions to ensure I captured the look and feel of a real owl, even to the point of setting taxidermy eyes and fashioning a hand painted bill from clay.”
Plans were to include more copper covering on the wings and back of the piece, but when fellow artists saw the work in progress and thought it finished, Field realized that “‘finished’ is not necessarily about achieving a high level of detail or some arbitrary level of reproduction. Perhaps ‘finished’ is when the piece conveys the message or feeling I want to get across.”
Field says she needs to be “busy, productive and creative.” While creating her pieces, she feels calm and centered.
“If I am not actually creating in my studio,” she says, “I am creating in my mind. Sometimes I have a hard time turning it off. I see something in nature and say to myself, ‘How can I create that from wire?’ Sometimes life throws roadblocks in the way that just slow me down. But I always get around them and back into the studio.”
Contact Claudia Field at Mountain Roots Studio in Leicester at 252.671.6109, or find her on Facebook and Instagram. Her work may also be found at her Mountain Roots Studio booth at Woolworth Walk. In March, her pieces will once again be part of a show curated by Constance Vlahoulis, titled Storm, at Adler Gallery at Posana, located at 1 Biltmore Avenue, Asheville.