Miss Richardson’s year 8 students have been looking at recreating their favourite birds out of wire in the style of Celia Smith and Cathy Miles. Students researched these artists, formulating questions and writing them letters. Two letters were selected to be sent to Celia Smith, who very kindly replied to the students’ questions.

Ella B’s letter and response:

Dear Celia,

Your work inspires me a lot. The detail, the tone, the depth, and the methods you use to attach the wire (e.g. bending, twisting……), the materials you use inside your bird (tonic tea cake wrappers) and how you present your birds (flying, standing………..) it all inspires me to do great things when I am older.

But I am not writing about what inspires me, I writing to see what inspire you to create your magnificent pieces of work that caught my eye the first time my teacher showed me pictures of them. Is it the landscape that inspires in which birds fly and lays their eggs? Or is it the bird itself?

I also wanted to ask where you get your materials from and what kind of materials you use. Do you use man- made materials or do you use natural resources? Where do you actually get your materials from (from the landscape, supermarket …………….)?

I am also writing to ask you how you attach your birds together, as my teacher has taught me a lot of terrific ways, but the wire keeps breaking and when looking at your birds, they are perfectly attached, so how to you attach your birds together Celia?

I also was wondering where you exhibited your work. As I said your work inspires me a lot, I would like to see it in first person. Has it been exhibited in a lot of places? If they have, are they famous places?

From Ella B

Dear Ella,

Thank you for your kind words about my work, I am glad you like it.

I am inspired to make my birds by going out to the countryside and seaside to watch them.  I tend to head to places where I know there will be large numbers of them like wetlands and estuaries.  Sometimes I am lucky and have bird watching hides to sit in other times I am out in the open.  I take my sketch book pencils, wire and pliers with me as well as a telescope (so I can see them up close).  I don’t travel light!  Then I just sit and observe the birds, sometimes it can take a while, but with a little patience something normally comes into view and I will start drawing it.  I do many quick drawings of the birds; as they are always moving you can’t get too detailed.  Sometimes I will make 3D wire sketches of the birds while watching them, this helps to give me an idea of the shape of the bird back at my studio.

I have attached two pictures to this letter which give you an idea of how my making /thinking process works.  One is of the sketch I made of swirling Lapwings made in a hide at the Wildfowl and Wetlands centre Slimbridge. The other is of the wall sculpture of wire swirling lapwings made from the sketch and the memory of seeing them swirling above me in the sky.

Good luck with your wire sculpture.

Best wishes Celia


From Ella H’s letter and response:

Dear Ella,

Thank you for your letter and kind words about my work.  I am so glad you like my wire sculptures.  I loved your letter with the birds drawn on it.

I first made a wire sculpture when I was at school doing my A’level art.  I was taken along with the rest of my class to see the studio of Sophie Ryder (worth looking up she does very big wire sculptures).  I was so inspired by her work I made a life-size wire dog for my exam piece and a horse’s head.  I was lucky as I grew up on a farm and there was lots of old wire I could use.

Its hard to say how long my sculptures take as each one starts with a sketch I have made while watching the birds.  Once I have a number of sketches of a particular bird and I feel I have observed them enough to really know them -then I will start to make the wire frame-work.  I often have several pieces on the go at any one time and I will work on one up to a point normally until its standing and I have a complete outline…then I will leave it for a few days and work on something else.  I do this so that I have time to think about it and not over work it (put too much wire on).  I guess a chicken sized bird might take me two days to make.

All the wire in my sculptures is twisted and bound together.  I don’t use any glue or solder.  I think the trick is to use long lengths of wire, this makes the sculptures really strong as you have not many connections to get loose.  All my sculptures start with a frame-work which is made from one long piece of wire – for a chicken sized bird the piece I start with is about 5 metres long.

Hope this answers some of your questions.  Good luck with your wire sculptures.

Best wishes