Are you a creative creature wishing you could make something out of your love of dogs? Yes? Well, UK artist Bridget Baker has your dream life.
Since retiring from teaching Animal Physiology, Bridget now spends her time sculpting minimalist dogs out of wire and a few dabs of enamel paint. BarkPost spoke with Bridget about her adorable wire dogs — and how an artistic, dog-filled life is possible.
BarkPost: You obviously love dogs! Do you have a dog of your own? Tell me about them!
Bridget Baker: I have never owned a dog, but find them to be very appealing and remarkable creatures. Fortunately, I live in a rural village which has more than 80 dogs. I see them every time I go out for a walk.
BP: What is your favorite type of dog?
BB: If I were to have a dog myself, it would be either a big Lurcher or a Staffordshire Bull Terrier. Lurchers, like Greyhounds, are poetry in motion when they run. Staffies are terrifically loyal.
BP: You started creating your wire dogs after attending an Alexander Calder exhibition. What was it about Calder’s work that inspired you to make your own sculptures?
BB: After I retired, a friend in Switzerland took me to an Alexander Calder show. I was fascinated by the wire heads of his friends and the shadows they cast. The idea of making animals from wire occurred to me immediately. I could hardly wait to get started.
BP: Why dogs instead of people?
BB: I have made wire head profiles of my family and people in my village but, being a zoologist, animals were more appealing than people. This training also meant that I understood their anatomy, which is a big help in making the wire versions. I am inspired by what I read or see on TV and often go online to get more ideas.
I make all sorts of wild and farm mammals — reptiles, frogs, fish, and many types of birds in addition to dogs. However, the group of animals I am most commonly asked to make are people’s pet dogs.
BP: Most of the sculptures of yours that I’ve seen on the Stockbridge Gallery site are about 4 inches tall. So intimate! Do you ever work in a larger scale?
BB: As you point out, most of my animals stand about 10 cm tall. This is partly because I use 1mm, or finer, galvanized wire (e.g., garden wire) to make them with, which is easily available and not too stiff to work with. When I’ve made dogs bigger than this, I feel the ratio between wire and space is somehow wrong. Also, when it’s bigger, the animals become more wobbly. Flying animals such as birds and bats, however, do come out about 30 cm across as they are suspended from a thread.
BP: What is your process? Do you spend time with the animals or work from photos? How do you figure out the character and posture of each dog you represent?
BB: I always work from photographs, whether it’s a picture of a local dog I’ve taken myself, or whether it’s been emailed to me. I find it is crucial to be sure of the animal’s relative proportions, its coloring, the set of its ears, its tail length, and so forth. Then, I draw out the profile of the sculpture before I start. People love to talk about their dogs and describe their little foibles, and this is very helpful as well as entertaining. I choose a pose that reflects a dog’s character — maybe it’s a dog that likes to carry around big sticks, or fetch the newspaper, or is great at catching its favorite ball.
BP: Do you consider this a business or a hobby?
BB: I make wire animals only as a hobby. I find making them very cathartic. I sell my finished pieces at craft fairs or local craft shops. I do not run a business, but I give the money at Christmastime to my chosen charities.
To get one of these fantastic creatures or a custom creation, you can find Bridget’s work at the Stockbridge Gallery.