Sunday, February 27, 2011

Twist and Shout

I have always loved wire. There is something about the way it looks, rusty or new, that I find endlessly appealing. That it can be made to look like a line drawing is fascinating. My love affair began with Alexander Caulder-famous for his wire work in mobiles, sculpture and a spectacular circus (more about that later) and continues now with Marie Christophe. When in Paris last October I was able to visit Ms. Christophe's atelier...

 Marie Christophe is commissioned by Hermes of Paris, Dior, Cartier, and Bergdorf Goodman here in the United States. She is a sculptor who works in wire, fashioning all manner of things.  From the everyday such as a bicycle, clothing, sand shoes -  to the exotic and sublime including chandeliers with baccarat crystal, angel wings and gem encrusted birds.  All using nothing but wire, wire clippers and her hands.

   Slight and a wiry herself, she was kind and welcoming when we arrived. Not a trace of ego in the house in contrast, for example, to a local Providence-based writer who replied "contact my agent" when I wanted to interview her. Marie lives and works in the building with her designer husband. Born and raised in France, her dad was an architect-maybe that's where she gets her ability to fashion the extraordinary out of the ordinary...

Wire birds soared over head in her well-lit studio.  A wire rhino head looked down onto a table filled with angels’ wings. Chandeliers, embellished with chunky green glass beads glinting in the sunlight, hung from ceiling to floor. A full-size bicycle rested against the wall.  The bike's bell was made of sparkly diamond-like beads, as was the seat.

   "That was very difficult to complete," said Marie in her charming French accent. "I may not make another."
 When asked how long it takes to make a chandelier she said "about a month" which to me seemed unbelievable.  She explained that she works, as most people do, eight hours a day and now that she is used to working in wire she can complete objects faster than when she first began.

I asked if she wore gloves while she worked and she said she did not. I asked to look at her hands.  They were surprisingly soft and not at all the calloused as I expected."I need to feel the wire, so I cannot wear gloves," she explained. 

Her work has a very fluid look to it. Marie takes a cold-to-the-touch length of wire and convinces it to curl and twist, purl and whirl, wind and pirouette into something gloriously unexpected.  Her work is oddly transparent, more akin to a 3-D outline of an object than a solid object itself. With her hands she creates magical juxtapositions between hard and soft, heavy and light, transparent and opaque.  Believable and unbelievable at the same time. She is able to coax astonishing movement from a length of wire. In a word, fascinating.
While we were there she was working on angel wings...

She is a trained artist, although she taught herself how to work with wire (as there were no programs available) and she was lucky enough to get the commissions from Cartier, Vuitton and Dior early in her career. Her first commission was a series of horses for Hermes.

Marie says she works with clients, getting an idea of what they want and then giving input, "it's always an exchange between me and the client." She has no favorite piece of work, instead finding new adventure in each project. She "recharges" her creative batteries by traveling, reading and going to exhibitions.

Visiting her and seeing her studio was one of the highlights of our trip. Marie Christophe is represented in the United States by Lisa Fontarosa,
You can visit Ms. Christophe's website for more pictures and information at:

to watch Alexander Calder's circus click on this link:


  1. How could she not be inspired. She probably sees the Eiffel Tower every day. The worlds largest wire work of art.

  2. Incredible: your writing, Marie Christophe, and Alexander Calder. I had never heard of the second two so I clicked on the links you provided. I can't decide between incredible and amazing so I'll use both. Incredible and Amazing!

  3. awesome post my friend. maybe one of these trips to france will include me & I'll get to see this awesome artist! xo chris