Carroll County Times

Virginia Sperry's steel menagerie

A selection of Carroll County artists will open their studio doors to the public this December as part of the 11th annual Studio Arts Tour. To help commemorate the event, now entering its second decade, the Times will feature profiles of participating artists biweekly in Life and Times.

When Virginia Sperry picks up her torch to create, she begins the process of "gluing with lightning" as she molds steel into life-size animal sculptures.


Sperry's studio in Eldersburg, features several examples of her work in a sculpture garden, opened to the public periodically throughout the year. The garden features two giraffes, a musk ox, a kangaroo and a bear.

Sperry art has been a part of her life since childhood. The daughter of an artist and a musician, she said creativity was something that was expected almost every day.


"Whenever I was bored, my mom would tell me to draw a giraffe," Sperry said. "The thing is, I'm actually still terrible at drawing giraffes."

In her late 20s and early 30s, she said she began creating work out of polymer clay, selling her pieces through retail and wholesale shows. Though she's been drawing and creating art her entire life, Sperry said she didn't discover her primary medium of welding until 2003, when she took a course on the process.

She said she was instantly drawn to the power of the process.

"I love the magic of using electricity and heat to basically connect pieces of steel and make it do things you wouldn't normally think steel would do," Sperry said. "So often steel work is done by men and there's a very strong linear aspect to it, so I love using the welding process to use heat and force to bend things to create much more of a fluid movement to it. There's a delicacy to it."

Sperry said she has no formal art training, but her undergraduate theater studies and graduate dance therapy studies have directly influenced the way she approaches her work. She said in her studies, she learned methods to create a story through illusion and guidance of an audience's eye, while her dance studies taught her ways to capture movement.

"Not only did I study it visually, but also kinetically," Sperry said. "I did exercises like taking motions into my own body to see what the emotions were. That movement is something I see in all of my sculptures."

Sperry said she's a relatively new addition to the Artist Tour, but loves having the opportunity to see audiences view her work for the very first time. During the tour, Sperry said she will show off her finished pieces, as well as ones that are currently under construction, like a blue heron that will be placed in Piney Run Park next spring.

In addition to the animal sculptures, Sperry said she's going to show off her abstract woven pieces. The woven art begins with steel spines and wire being bent into more flexible shapes than the sheets that make up the animal work. She then weaves the steel with textiles like yarn, string and fabric.


"When it's done it's more of an expression of who I am," Sperry said. "It's different than the animals. A heron is a heron, you know? The pieces I weave come more from within me."

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Sperry said she hopes people who come into the studio walk away with a feeling they've had an experience they couldn't have had anywhere else, as well as an appreciation of the effort an artist puts into their work."

"It's work we do. We don't just snap our fingers and happen to have a giraffe," Sperry said. "I also hope they get inspired. One of the best things for me is to see another person's work and then go back into the studio and create something new."



Studio Artist Tour

In two weeks, the Times will profile artists Gwen Handler and Larry Fisher

Future artists in the series include Kelsey Wailes, Linda Van Hart, Teri Koenig, Sharon Schaeffer, Lori Baker, Carolyn Seabolt, Trista Fedoruk, Laura Wailes, Joyce Schaum, Virginia Sperry, Max Groff and Elisa Dasher.