One look at the sculptures of Anna-Wili Highfield, and you are mesmerized by the craftsmanship. Highfield is a figurative artist based out of Sydney, Australia who creates magnificent sculptures of animals using paper or copper wire. Horses and birds appear to be her favorite subjects, and each one holds unto itself a different personality.
“I like materials that have a bit of resistance to them. I don’t like things that are too malleable that you can do anything with. I like paper and copper because they have an integrity to them that you cannot manipulate too much. I like materials that have limitations if that makes sense.”
Highfield has found joy in creating these creatures out of paper, a style that came about accidentally late one night while she was pregnant and decided to make a present for her unborn daughter. She came across some paper and began making a small wren –although at this point she used glue to assemble the pieces. The artist had such fun making the sculpture that she began making more and more. Presently, she takes the cotton paper and hand sews the pieces together with cotton thread. Highfield finds beauty in the obvious appearance of the thread that holds her sculpture together “I leave the stitches and the threads on the surface so you can see. I find it intriguing when you can see how something is made… more intriguing than when it is hidden.”
Anna-Wili Highfield studied painting at the National Arts School in Sydney. While she still loves painting, Highfield is most passionate about her sculptures because she seems to have found something that works best with her thinking process. Painting, she says, was too limitless, one can create anything, and Highfield found herself overthinking her artwork. “Now that I am working with paper the material takes me in different avenues. I work more than I think and that works really well for me. The artwork evolves throughout the process. It’s more process driven. With these I could start and I don’t really know what’s going to happen until it’s finished. And it’s fun!”
But perhaps most interesting is Highfield’s choice of subject. While she considers herself a figurative artist, she prefers sculpting animals to people. The artist put it best herself when she explained how animals lack self-consciousness though simultaneously maintain personalities that we as humans can relate to. These personality quirks are ultimately expressed through her work with each bird completely different from one another.
The next animal she cannot wait to sculpt? Bats!
Highfield works by commission. Her sculptures can be found in homes around the world.