South African artist Estella Fransbergen’s (estellafransbergen.com) mixed media sculptures are the embodiment of femininity.
Estella Fransbergen, silver-plated bronze torso with topaz, quartz and Swarovski crystals skirt, 38 inches tall with shoes. PHOTO BY ESTELLA FRANSBERGEN
What elements go into your mixed media sculptures? I like to use materials that are a representation of Mother Nature’s beauty. I use clay for my torsos, but also bronze and glass. For the embellishments I use all different types of natural gemstones such as quartz, diamonds, pearls, amethysts and several others. Sometimes I need to use nonorganic materials such as wire, but that supports nature’s elements in my pieces and allows them to remain sturdy. Beauty, to me, is looking at nature and how beautiful the imperfections are. Occasionally I’m given jewelry or glass from a client to make into a memorial piece, and it is always an honor to work with materials and elements that have a deep meaning to someone.
Why do you focus on dresses and the female form? The female form is easily identifit able, but it is also a representation of Mother Nature. I use all natural stones and organic materials in my work to showcase nature’s beauty, and stones that radiate energy in their environment. All these elements work together to help me create sculptures that bring us back to what nature offers—beauty and stability. I started this style of sculpting in 2004 and it has evolved. The goal was to incorporate natural stones into my work because I wanted to use the energy the stones produce. Using the energy of stones is a passion of mine, and that is how this particular design aesthetic evolved.
How does South Africa influence your work? It’s represented in the primitive techniques I use, especially the sawdust firing. This is when you take a metal container with holes, bury the sculptures into the sawdust, build a fire on top that is nice and hot, and then let it smolder for a day or two. During this time, the sawdust and fire paint colors on the torso. The smell reminds me of South Africa: In the thatched roof huts, there’s a fire burning inside in the middle, and the smell that creates is reminiscent of the sawdust technique I use.
Are there any materials you hope to work with in the future that you haven’t already? I never know what I’m going to use, but it will come to me when I’m ready. For example, I have a friend who does glass blowing, and when he was alive I never considered using his glass. After he passed away in February 2020, I had a dream that I would use his work in my pieces. It came to me unexpectedly but I knew I needed to use his glass. I wasn’t sure how or what it would become, but recently I’ve been able to access some of his work and build it into a sculpture for his family. The whole process is organic and evolves. Chic Evolution in Art, multiple locations in Alpharetta, chicevolutioninart.com