Qualicum Bay artist Sheena McCorquodale’s wire sculptures can be found around Vancouver Island and the world.
Her creations, made with half-inch galvanized chicken wire, are shaped into the likeness of humans, animals, fairies and angels.
Two of McCorquodale’s sculptures even made it to Blenheim Palace in the U.K., where they were part of the palace’s Christmas light display. The two wire angels hold spears as they chase snowflakes away as part of The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Anderson.
“I think it’s delightful that there’s some Canadian chicken wire in the palace,” McCorquodale said.
Blenheim Palace, finished in 1722, is the U.K.’s only non-royal palace and was built to honour John Churchill, the first Duke of Marlborough. It is also the birthplace of Winston Churchill.
McCorquodale was surprised when palace representatives reached out to her, after discovering her artwork online, and commissioned the two full-sized angel sculptures.
She said the internet has been a game-changer and allowed her sculptures to travel to places as diverse as Austria, Texas, Montreal, Florida and England since her first online commission in 2020.
Her work will also go on display at the Federation of Canadian Artists Gallery on Granville Island.
“It’s a real honour, that I’m exhibiting with them because I didn’t even know if they would accept chicken wire as a medium,” McCorquodale said. “But it’s another medium. Whether it’s wood or chicken wire or whatever, you’re making something into something else.”
She began creating the sculptures in the 1980s, originally with papier-mâché over top of the wire, but decided she liked them better with just the wire, which also means they can be displayed outdoors.
Marketing and selling the sculptures was difficult in those days and the wire sculptures went on the back-burner while McCorquodale enjoyed a career in commercial art, which included time as head of the graphics department for Let’s Make a Deal, when it was filmed at Panorama Film Studios in West Vancouver in 1980/1981.
She worked on graphics for the game show’s sets and zonks — joke prizes awarded when an unlucky contestant picked the wrong door.
“I’d have somebody run into the art room and say, ‘we need six dancing swans in an hour!’” McCorquodale said. She also helped with animal-related zonks.
“I’d be helping put the pajamas on the cow, or the wig on the pig.”
The show, hosted by Monty Hall, filmed 248 episodes in West Vancouver before moving on to a new location.
“Monty Hall was just a lovely man. It was a time where Canada was trying to promote Vancouver as Hollywood North,” McCorquodale said. “He would have a bathrobe and fuzzy slippers on, down the hallway. Just a really nice man.”
She went on to work as art director for Pattison’s Neon Products, which later became Pattison Signs, where she designed marquees for places such as the Orpheum and shopping centres in the Vancouver area.
After moving to Qualicum Bay, she opened the Comfy Cat Kennel (5320 Island Hwy W), and to draw attention to it she built some wire sculptures.
The sculptures often begin as a sketch. McCorquodale uses bent nose pliers and snippers to contort the wire into figures. “And then I whack it every now and then with a hammer.”
A larger piece, such as a horse, can take a month, while a full-sized human sculpture represents a week or two of work, she said.
The cat kennel allows her the freedom to be an artist and inspired the name of her art gallery, the Cathouse Gallery (5320 Island Hwy W).
“I didn’t have to worry about making my living from my artwork, because the cat kennel looked after that,” she said. “It just lets me play with art, which is such a key to the freedom of being able to do what you want to do.”