Craftsmen: Anna-Wili Highfield crafts moments of connection

photo by Louie Douvis

The people who inspire me the most are those who forge their own path in life.

They carve a lifestyle out of their passion. They are masters of their own art. They live and breathe a life that is true to their core. They make a difference; they contribute something beautiful and meaningful to our world.

These are the sort of humans I admire and who I'll be interviewing for my new series on The Society Co. 

I'll be chatting with them (makers, bakers, artists and more) to find out what drives them and what we might be able to learn from their passion, resilience and courage (I'm guessing these are the qualities they'll all have in common and what's allowed them to do what they're doing... we'll soon see). 

I'm calling the series Craftsmen. And I'm kicking it off with renowned Australian artist Anna-Wili Highfield.

Anna-Wili was born in Sydney in 1980. The daughter of a Puppeteer, she studied Fine Art at the National Art School in Sydney, then worked as a Scenic Artist for Opera Australia. In 2008, she began making paper animal sculptures in her spare time. It wasn't long before her work was being commissioned by clients all over the world. Today, her sculptures are held in private collections and Hermes store windows and have featured in publications ranging from Vogue to the New York Times.

photo by Anna-Wili Highfield

There's a reason why Anna-Wili's work has resonated so deeply with so many. Like all Good Things, her sculptures are more than the sum of their parts of paper and wire. Each sculpture is a manifestation of our relationship with nature, a medium through which we can connect with our animal counterparts.

"I want my creatures to engage the viewer in a moment of connection with nature. For people to sense a spirit we can relate to even though we are different species. I want my animals to look at the viewer. I think the eye contact forces us to engage. It's nature staring back at us."

Photo by Petrina Tinslay

Come face to face with Anna-Wili's animals and you come face to face with what you truly are - a being that is no more or less important than any other being; a being that, just like every other life on this planet, is simply trying to survive.

There is an exquisite beauty in Highfield's ability to have this effect on us.

It's almost a service to humanity.

Yet when I ask Anna-Wili what drives her to create, I'm struck by the charming simplicity of her motive.

"It makes me feel good. I think we all get a thrill out of creating things. It's good for the soul. Some people cook, some garden. I make sculptures."

On how Anna-Wili manages self-doubt:

"I'm critical of my work but I don't doubt my ability. If I'm having trouble with a piece I often rip it apart to build on the ruins, this re-energises a work so there's never a failed piece. You have to be brave to tear apart hours of work, but it's always rewarding." 

Sound life advice, too.

Images of kangaroos and owl above by Petrina Tinslay. Image of wrens by silversalt photography. Image of Anna-Wili above via marie claire.


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