Interview with *stillifewithshadow

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An interview with stillifewithshadow -  Eric Z is perhaps the only practioner of this very unusual craft.  Thank you for doing this for the club and all it's members!

Make sure to visit :iconstillifewithshadow:'s most excellent gallery and leave some comments and faves!

How did you get started and how long have you been doing your most unusual craft/art form?

I developed the technique myself, as far as I know I’m the only one doing it. It was about 4 years ago while I was at the University of Chicago, and as a guitarist I found myself with a lot of broken strings. I used to unwind the wire from the lower strings, it makes a kind of whooshing sound and the core wire whirs around. But what I ended up with was a half wound string with a long thin unwound wire attached to it. I figured I could use this debris to make something so I looped the still wound section, and drew a spider web across it with the thin wire. I later added an insect and turned the whole thing into a necklace pendent. The final element came when I put glue between the wire frame wings of the insect, mimicking the cellophane like transparency insect wings have. My sister suggested that I should try nail polish, so I painted in the wings and loved the pearly abalone like effect nail polish can have. That’s basically how it all started. I only made jewelry at first.

What tools and materials do you use?

I basically use guitar strings of different gauges, a bucketload nail polish bottles, and a pair of normal pliers. I’ll make the pieces first and some end up being bonded to a ceramic tile. With these somewhat unconventional materials, the techniques I use must conform completely to their limitations. For example, nail polish will hang in the space between a wire frame, like liquid soap in a bubble wand, but the size of the frame can only be so large, and the manner of brushing it on so it will stay is very specific. Also different types of clear topcoat can stretch over larger size frames, and leaving the top off for 10 minutes can make all the difference. I use my thumbnail a lot.

Since I had to invent the techniques I use, I am also, for better or worse, the only engine of their evolution. I am constantly developing the work, and realizing new tactics, which further expand its potential for rendering objects and expressing more complex ideas. At first I felt very limited in what I could create, and I’d struggle with having to imagine a sculpture within the limitations of the technique. Some innovations changed everything, like using thinner wire to section off the bigger frames, thus expanding the size of the space the nail polish could stay in (see the fender on the motorcycle). Now I feel as though I can create almost anything, and this opens up my ability to imagine further.

Co-Mission by stillifewithshadow

Where does your inspiration come from?

Well first it comes from a desire to create very intricate, small spaces, worlds unto themselves that draw me in and I hope might do so to a viewer.

If you look at a lot of my work you’ll see a lot of repetition, similar objects, and the same type of characters dwarfed by their respective situations. In this way the sculptures are all part of one larger sculpture, a broad panorama of miniatures, as well as self-contained scenarios. I think of them all as part of one larger sculpture, one population.
While the characters in the sculptures look similar, their character is based not on how they look, but on what they do, and what they have made to hold on to. The umbrellas which protect from the madness of weather, but isolate, the magnifying glasses of analytic thinking, and the masks of identity, all stand as parts of my symbolic vocabulary, used to tell the characters stories.

The Davis Family 2 by stillifewithshadow

How big are your sculptures?

My sculptures come in various sizes: small, little, miniscule, or tiny. The smallest are about 1” x 1” x1”. The motorcycle might by my biggest single piece to date it’s about 5” x 3.75” x 2” HWD.

Can you give us a short tutorial on making one of your sculptures?

I’m fairly disorganized when it comes to making them. I generally do not multi-task and instead work on one part at a time, which means a lot of drying time.

So for example, I would wind a wire person, then paint in the spaces with clear topcoat, once that dries, I would use colored nail polish over the top coat, and then an extra topcoat layer to make that shine. Once this is somewhat dry, but not too much so, I would bend the figure into the position I want him in. I then would begin attaching details like a small hat, or shoelaces. That’s generally how I approach it, piece by piece and smaller details once the general shape is more together.

How hard was it to do a piece like Head-Shrink-ing?

Head-Shrink-ing by stillifewithshadow

Head-Shrik-ing was a commissioned work, made for a psychologist in Colorado. It actually came together in my head rather quickly, I drew from my symbolic vocabulary and used the analytical symbol of the magnifying glass. The difficult part was really positioning the patient, doctor and the illustration of the patients dream. I was worried if the doctor was focusing too closely on the dream scene she would appear neglectful of the patient. So I went for a tight supportive triangular composition. The word bubble was something I’ve never done before, but always wanted to, I think it hightens the comic aspects of the miniatures.

Counterpoint is a synthesis of two art forms combined in your own unique style. It looks to have many component pieces, do you make each separately and then attach it?

The flower and body is all one piece, all the music notes and other components were made separately and attached.

Counterpoint top by stillifewithshadow

Another extremely detailed piece- Co-mission... how quickly did this piece come together from concept to completion?

Co-mission Side by stillifewithshadow

This was a custom work as well, and the woman who approached me wanted a sculpture that featured her husbands Harley Davidson Softail with a specific color scheme, she had no other specific desires. She sent me photos of the bike and I worked from that.

After I built the motorcycle I then began adding a narrative and character.  In the end the sculpture featured the motorcycle but also becoming an allegory for the turbulent adventure that love can be, and hanging on through this turbulence. You can see how one character is holding a rose that loses petals to the wind, and the other collecting them in a net, as they both hang on for dear life. I also added some extra personal elements, like the recipients name in wire, on the license plate.  This whole process from conception to the final details, took about a week and too many hours to count.

Do you take your own photos?

Yes I do, I use a pretty cheap digital camera actually, but it has a good macro feature. They are very hard to photograph and I’ve never felt the photos really do them justice. Obviously one reason is because they are meant to be viewed from many angles continuously. I have problems with choosing the right angle for a master shot, also lighting them so that their reflective shine is evident, but so the pictures won’t have blown out sections. It’s actually a headache capturing them.

Do you participate in any shows or exhibitions?  

I have participated in a few art shows. I love showing the work and seeing peoples reactions, there is generally a curious look followed by a smile when people get closer an realize what the work is. All of the opportunities for customs I’ve done have come through the few shows I’ve done. I would love to do more but I’m very busy with teaching and playing in my band Night Gallery ( ) and scoring films. I plan on doing a few this summer.

Sometimes I hear, due to the size of the work and its delicate nature, is that people love them but have no place to put them. I can sympathize with this, I unfortunately have no decent/safe place to display them in my apartment either!

Do you market your sculptures?  

I did make an etsy site it’s at , I haven’t had a chance to market that site yet. The majority of my business comes through custom work and selling at art fairs/shows. I don’t spend much time on the internet so I haven’t had much success there.

Do you belong to any organizations?

No, other than the Artisans Craft Club.


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Varied Artist
Male/United States
Deviant since Feb 27, 2007, 2:38 AM

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WireMySoul's avatar
Beautiful art, great interview! Thanks!