By Molly J. Anderson-Childers | Updated June 9, 2018
Angela Hook is a wire artist, art director, graphic designer and equestrienne. This amazing woman has always shared her life with horses. She was educated at the Alberta College of Art, and there began to blend two passions for horses and visual art with her first sculpture. Now a successful artist in her own right, she's taken some time to reflect on her career for us. Read Angela's creativity articles on Creativity Portal.
Q: What was your first job as a young woman?
A: My friends and I would take groups of tourists for trail rides at a local riding stable when we were young. The pay wasn't great, but we were able to ride their horses for free!
Q: What inspired you to start working in this fascinating medium? Are you also interested in other types of creative expression?
A: I began experimenting with different media in college. That's one of the fantastic things about a traditional art education I intended to be a graphic designer and work in the digital realm, but being surrounded by so many tempting choices at the Alberta College of Art was often distracting (and fun!).
In my first year, I created a life-size foal from chicken wire, cheesecloth, flour and water. It was so much fun, and the way it took form in my hands simply from childhood memories flowing into the wire really stuck with me.
Years after I graduated, I found myself twisting and turning a piece of wire that was just lying around. Since anything I ever did was always a horse so too was the fate of this piece of wire! That was my first equine wire sculpture.
Q: How did you make the leap from day job to 'Dream Job'? Any advice for young artists wanting to break into this field?
A: It was a tough decision to leave my full-time job, because it was actually a great job! I included this quote on my resignation letter, in hopes that my boss would understand my choice:
"Live a balanced life learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some." Robert Fulghum
I had started building up my art business, and selling my work on a part-time basis while still at the day job. I would definitely recommend this route, rather than just jumping ship and hoping you will be an instant success as an artist.
Maintaining a few design clients on a freelance basis now allows me to 'work some' so that I can 'play some' with my wire sculpture, painting, writing, and other fun stuff!
Q: Tell us a little more about the fantastical, magical creatures you've lately been inspired to create.
A: Well, I recently received a commission to create a winged unicorn. This seemed reasonable, since it was really just a horse with accessories! I had a lot of fun creating that piece. Around the same time, I watched the movie 'Eragon', which tells a tale of dragons and their riders. From this, I was inspired to create a wire dragon. The basic form was unfamiliar to me, so it challenged both my skill and imagination. I would like to experiment further with creating fantasy creatures maybe a centaur or a griffin?
Q: Give us the low-down on your recent trip to the Big Apple? It sounds like you had a fabulous time, and found a few wire artists there to make you feel more at home.
A: New York was amazing! I was so delighted to find a street vendor on our very first night in Times Square selling wire sculpture. And, of course, the Museum of Modern Art was so inspiring. It was like walking through the real-life version of my college textbooks Picasso, Monet, Van Gogh oh my! The highlight was discovering an Alexander Calder mobile in a stairwell. It was much bigger in person than I had imagined. Yes, the big city was exciting, but it also made me appreciate my sleepy little hometown.
Q: What inspires you and keeps your creative juices flowing?
A: Hmmm sharing. Sharing thoughts and ideas with friends/family (and strangers!) always gets me excited about a project or creative direction.
Q: How do you deal with creative blocks? Share some strategies for those who might be feeling stuck in the muck.
A: Personally, I need to get out of the studio. Whether it's getting out into the yard, riding, driving, or even shopping. Just walking away for a bit clicks my brain into a different mode and I'm able to start fresh thoughts.
Q: Can you share a simple project idea that can be made at home?
A: One of the first things I did with wire when I started this bending frenzy was to decorate glass objects with it. Whether you wrap a votive holder, vase, or wine glass a fanciful embellishment of wire and beads adds a little sparkle and is an easy way to personalize a gift for someone. I would recommend starting out with a smaller craft wire until you are able to gauge the pressure needed to manipulate your larger wire without potentially cracking the glass. I don't have a specific pattern for this. Just make some loops or squiggles or spirals as you move the wire around the object. Add a bead here and there, and have fun! The results are sure to make you smile (or maybe even giggle!).
Q: Congratulations on your new post as Art Director for Penticton Business & Lifestyle. How is that working out? Can you tell our readers a little more about a typical day there, so they can understand what the Art Director position entails?
A: Well, I don't actually go anywhere the magazine is created in my home studio. The publisher sends me the stories (and usually photos) with a brief outline of the content for the issue. From this, I put everything together on the computer in a format that is ready for the printers. Each issue takes 60-80 hours to complete (including creating ads for our advertising customers). It's pretty crazy around here for a week or so each month! But, I don't necessarily have to get out of my pajamas to do my work, so I feel pretty lucky.
An Art Director is generally responsible for the overall look of a magazine, ensuring consistency and quality. This may involve art directing photo shoots, or working with an illustrator to get visual material for an article. It usually involves supervision of the graphic design, as well. In my case, I do all of the design and production work myself. It's a one-woman show!
Q: Are there any new challenges you're facing at this point? What are some of the rewards inherent in working in this field?
A: My biggest challenge right now is getting my new studio space built before the snow flies again! Working from home is wonderful, but it can be difficult when work space starts taking over the family living space. We are currently building an attached garage/workshop/studio that I hope to move 'all things creative' into before the end of the year. This will help to separate the business from our home a bit.
Q: Tell us a bit about your connection to the animal world. It seems that your work is largely inspired by horses who were the most important horses in your life, and why? How does it feel to have another horse in your life after a twenty-year hiatus from riding?
A: Wow! Answering this question could very well require a whole book. Let's just say I was a horse-crazy girl early in life my grandparents fed my addiction by buying a horse and keeping it on their farm for me. My parents made it possible for me to attend a private equestrian school in 1981, where I learned the finer points of the equine world.
I am, admittedly, under the magic spell cast by horses on humans all over the world. Their power, strength, and gentle beauty stir my soul.
I love my new horse, Chester. Without really knowing it, I guess I chose him to carry on the spirit of my beloved Keeba, who was my equine partner for many years as a teenager. Chester is the same breed, same size, and same color. Amazingly, he also possesses a similar character and personality to my 'main man' twenty years ago.
Q: What delights you, makes you shine and glow inside?
A: Well, other than horses you mean? Watching my husband play guitar my beautiful daughter turning sweet sixteen my grandparents celebrating 61 years of marriage a flea market filled with treasures a riverbed of rocks Junior Mints and stickers! I really like stickers!
Q: Who forms your support system for your creative career?
A: Everyone in my family has been very supportive of my unconventionally creative career!
My husband, Jeff, left his full-time job several years ago to join in the self-employed fun. His background is in audio and video production, so we work together sometimes on our freelance media projects. However, he has also built me a fabulous display booth for my wire art, and even started bending wire in his own creative ways! We're a really great team, and I don't know how anyone can imagine doing something like this without their spouse's support.
My mom and my daughter have both been a big help over the years, too. Having someone always there to lend a hand in sales, production, administration, or even workshops has been such a benefit, as we've struggled to keep this creative dream alive.
Q: If you could travel back in time to visit your thirteen-year-old self, what advice would you give her?
A: Never mind boys stick with the horse!
Q: What does the future hold for you as an artist?
A: I'm just about to submit a proposal for an Art Show that I'm very excited about! It's titled 'Unbridled' and will be a collection of my equine wire sculpture, combined with some of my own photography and drawings that I have used as reference and inspiration along the way. It will look at the contrast between horses for show and horses for pleasure. The 'show' portion will be shiny and stark, featuring some nickel-plated sculpture, while the 'pleasure' part will feel warm and natural, with many copper, gold, and brass pieces.
I'm also creating some new work for the Grand National Rodeo's Celebration of Western Art in San Francisco! That will keep me busy.
Q: Looks like you're in the process of building your own studio can you tell us a bit about the challenges of this huge undertaking? What is your vision for the completed space?
A: Yes, we decided last year that expanding our facilities at home rather than leasing commercial space would best suit our lifestyle and benefit our business. So, we are constructing a two-level studio that will house workshop space on the top, and a gallery-style boutique on the second level, where I will also set up my computer and be able to work on graphic design projects from there. I'm really looking forward to seeing that space take shape. It will be nice to have a more public area that we can welcome people to come and visit you know, a hangout for creative folks!
Learn more about Angela Hook's wire art and books at www.wireinspire.com.
Next Interview: Pat Conway, Poet, Photographer, and Librarian
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