Dear Kindred Spirit, I have been
fangirling over admiring Anna Small’s work for years. Sturdy metal-ly, twirly artistic beauty – and up-close-in-person, the textures are luscious! I’m delighted that Anna has agreed to share some of her backstory in this Bold Interview. Enjoy! M x o
Regarding your training as a jeweller … How did your education in a relatively tiny art from evolve into your present architectural-scaled decorative pieces?
The art school I went was very focused on conceptual development. So we were given a concept to explore and then taught a technique to utilize to express or explore that concept. We then learnt the technique while processing a thought really.
I from the start made more small sculptural pieces or hand cut little scenes out of the metal. Kind of a drawing in metal.
I was part of the Rundle St Markets when they used to shut the street on a Sunday and sell my little metal pictures with rustic frames. People kept requesting that i make really big ones to go on their walls so that was how getting bigger started. I couldn’t hand cut the bigger ones so explored how I could get my designs cut bigger which led to the laser cutting.
Your sculptures are an intriguing mix of nature-inspired feminine swirls and hard, laser cut, weather-proof metal forms. How did you think to put those 2 elements together? Do you think this is paralleled in the fact that you create with your husband as “A Small Art Factory”?
I am not sure how I have ended up here. Maybe because drawing was my initial art form so I am converting drawings into sculptures.
Sometimes I look back and I can see the incremental steps that have evolved my art practice. I didn’t ever think intentionally this is where i was heading.
Definitely there is more I do because I have Warren’s building skills to apply to ideas. It is a bonus that we have each other to brainstorm ideas and get immediate feedback. We both think differently design wise so can open each other’s mind to an alternate idea or way of approaching an idea.
Have you done commissioned works for people with their chosen motifs, or on specific topics for exhibitions? What have been some of your favourites, ‘specially ones that you wouldn’t have tried if you hadn’t had the request?
Yes I have. I definitely prefer it if they are happy for me to design in my style. There was one that someone commissioned to go on their cafe wall in Robe. When he didn’t go ahead with the cafe I still went ahead and made the design. It has been one of my best selling big sculptures, the ‘Sprout’ Tree.
Another person asked me to make a security screen for her window in my style. I have made variations on this design and it’s also a popular one, ‘The Flower Landscape’.
What is your creative process like? How does a piece develop from sketch to final metal sculpture?
Warren and I do our own sketches, I scan the picture into my computer then work on the sketch a bit more in Photoshop to get the lines clear. Then I use Illustrator (computer software) to trace over the design to get a CAD drawing that is linear and made up of lines and arcs joined how as laser machine would like to read it.
I email the CAD file to a local company with an industrial size laser cutting machine. They call me when it is cut and I pick it up. The format is a flat cut out in raw metal.
Then I take it to our shed where we both bend and shape with locking pliers, hammer and and old chisel to bang out. Warren does all of the welding and building of any sculpture bases from wood. I do any hand cut copper pieces on a jewellery desk (with a jewellery saw) that we rivet on to the bigger sculpture.
We use a mild acid that i make up that is water based to get a rust patina on the metal or a blue green patina on copper.
What has been the best experience you’ve ever had involving your artwork?
I really enjoyed winning the SALA OZ Minerals Copper Sculpture Prize and being given the opportunity to work on a larger copper sculpture.
Mostly I love the whole experience as an ongoing thing. I love being able to be creative and make a living from it. I was in hospitality for many years while studying and this kind of became my career by default. I always still dabbled in art having one exhibition every year.
My confidence as an artist has grown over the the last ten years. I had a bit of a crisis in my life about 10 years ago and this was the catalyst for me to stop wasting my life and start believing in myself or just doing what I wanted.
Bonus Question: How do you feel about art classes/degrees in general?
I can only really answer this in reference to myself personally. It is different for each of us and some people maybe don’t need art school.
I wouldn’t be who or where I am now if I hadn’t gone to art school. The skills I have are techniques that I have learnt there or have built on from my grounding and art training. My greatest teacher was Don Ellis who taught me not only jewellery techniques but also design and conceptual thinking. I am so grateful for my time at art school it shaped a lot of who I am now.
A Small Art Factory – Metal art to warm the heart of your garden and home.
Made with love, grunt and sweat by the partnership of Anna Small & Warren Pickering.
Find them online here:
If you’ve enjoyed
this story of creativity with Anna and Warren & their gorgeous metal sculptures, click through and visit them online – say Tangerine Meg sent you!
Love Meg x o
PS You can check out all the Bold Interviews here :)