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Mary TaylorMary C. Taylor   SAA, AFC Mary Taylor
welded steel sculpture
As a child, I was always drawn to art, in fact, it was my favorite class in elementary school and upwards on through college. My family owned a collection of John James Audubon elephant portofolio prints which hung on the walls of our two-storied front hall wall and as a very young child, I recollect feeling such mystery and awe at these huge images of birds. I would venture downstairs at night with only a night light lit in a wall sconce to my parent's bedroom and the dim light would cast an eerie glow upon these unusually shaped birds, looming over me.

My mother was an excellent portrait drawer and my sister was very successful with oil paintings of landscapes. Both of them, as well as my father's ingenious handiwork, were very strong influences on my development as an artist. Working with clay and drawing were my primary media while growing up. Welding steel was introduced to me after I was married and out of college. I took to welding rods together immediately and started making basic armatures, within which I filled the spaces with more rods and then added feathers or rods for fur onto this initial frame. This concept came to me very simply while practicing basic welding techniques and has stayed with me continually as my mode of creating. This beginning in my early twenties with welding steel rods together was truly the commencement of my life-long love affair with metal. During the 80's, 1 carved marble, soapstone and serpentine. The marble carving was particularly strenuous but served as a release for my tension during my divorce. I made rather large sculptures of a Snowy Owl, a Great Horned Owl and Peregrine Falcon and also a nude female figure. During the 70's and 80's, I worked in stained glass making windows and lamps of various sizes. This technique rubbed off on my ceramic tile and mural designing which I was involved in for twelve years at the McIntyre Tile Company in Healdsburg, California.

Both of my parents were ornothlogists, particularly my father.
While growing up, at the drop of a hat, he and my mother would leave home for any corner of the globe with one day's notice, to see a rare bird. I think through osmosis I gleaned my love of birds and all creatures in nature from this constant influence from my parents' passion and involvement with nature. My first twenty years of sculpting was singularly birds of all sizes and shapes, from a tiny hummingbird to a 13' California Condor (which is presently owned by the San Bernadino County Museum in Redlands, CA and is standing at its entrance.) In the early nineties, I created my first mammal, a badger, which was very delightful and exciting to create as the rods which I had used, primarily to furnish feathers for my birds, lended themselves very well to fur. In a more spiritual sense, I like to balance my work with an inner self and having worked with the sky creatures for so
many years, I felt a new refreshing groundedness working with the four- leggeds and I found I could relate very well to the differing personalities of the earth animals. Insects are odd and I like that aspect. They are very weird, mysterious and intriguing and very challenging to create. Their bodies are so tiny, intricate, powerful and so very beautiful. And the reptiles, snakes in particular, are very provocative and evoke compelling and dreadful emotions. As an example, recently this year, I had finished a piece and was venturing in the void prior to starting another. Usually I have a fairly good idea of what my next piece will be, but in this case, I was frustrated and annoyed because I really didn't know what I wanted to create. I decided to go with that feeling of frustration and see where it led me. I created a very venomous viper, coiled up with opened maw and vicious fangs exposed. I hit the mark!

I've also within the last few years, included plant life along with some sculptures. They have a very feminine appeal, as opposed to the more masculine feeling of the singular creatures and the plant life also creates an environment for the piece which is not only aesthetically pleasing but also educational in the sense that I like to place the bird or animal or insect within a representation of its natural habitat.
There were three very distinct times when I decided about my career as a sculptor. The first was after my brother died at the age of 17. 1 was 15 at the time and in retrospect, in having to deal with the "why", the "where is he?" and other fundamental questions surrounded death, I had to delve deep into myself to find solace from his absence. This soul searching was the cornerstone to my needing to find expression for my feelings which I found too difficult to express in normal conversation.

Soon after my marriage at age 20, 1 was taught how to weld steel rods together and this was a totally delighted immersion. My first piece was a frog which was a disaster ... I threw it out (which was the first and only piece I ever threw away). My second work was an abstracted Great Blue Heron which still resides in my parent's residence and the third was a Golden Eagle. It was so big, so excited and gratifying to create, I knew, at age 23, that this is what I really wanted to do for the rest of my life. The third time was my decision to solo as a sculptor ... to work entirely on my sculpture, with no outside job. I had been working at a ceramic tile factory as the designer of the decorative line and also in a pottery. A good friend had been encouraging me to take the leap and work primarily on my sculpture alone and I decided to do this in my early forties. I've been at it ever since.

My primary medium is steel; mild steel (with iron) and stainless steel. Also I weld in silicon bronze. I primarily work with steel rods which I buy from a local steel supplier in 50 lb. lots of differing sizes, all 36" long; 1/16" and smaller, 3/32", 1/8", 3/16", 1/4", 1/2", 5/8", 3/4", and 1 inch bar. I do make all the tiny feathers on my birds. They are not fabricated elsewhere. Sometimes, I work days and weeks making the tiniest feathers, that all eventually are placed on the bodies of the birds, or in the cases of animals, I'll spend weeks adding straight rod to the frame which I then heat up and bend a bit for the fur. I use oxygen and acetylene gas with a torch for mild steel and when I weld stainless steel or bronze, I use a TIG (tungsten inert gas) welder. The wonderful advantage of steel is that the tiniest weld can carry enormous weight, for example, I can have the tip of a hummingbird's beak attached to the inside of a flower and the whole weight of the rest of the bird will be suspended in air, all held up by the tiny weld. The disadvantage is the weight and size of my large pieces. I need a lot of assistance and ingenuity on the part of others to help me move and transport the large sculptures.

The process that I use in sculpting my work in steel is to first make the decision about which subject I will make, be it bird, animal, insect, etc. Then I usually start at the nose or beak with a single heated rod and bend the rod according to the topmost line of the creature, for instance, nose to top of head, down the neck, across the back to the butt. Then I'll weld a rod to the nose or beak again, and bend the rod to form the line along the bottom of the piece, along the bottom of the neck, along the belly to the butt. Then I'll round out the piece by bending another rod into a half circle and welding it onto the initial pieces which will shape the neck or the belly or muzzle.

This is really the most creative and most exacting part of the whole process. After the preliminary form is shaped, then I will fill this in with straight soldier courses of rods ending up with a kind of patchwork which will be the shell of the animal or bird. The feathers, which are made off a jig or the fur rods are then attached to this shelf. The eyes and feet or hooves are made of welded rod melted on the spot and the claws or talons are made from rods shaped accordingly and then filled in with melted rod and then ground down with a grinder to make them smooth and pointed. The pieces usually support themselves on their own feet or in the case of birds, I'll attach their claws to a branch or I'll weld a hook attachment on the backs of the work to enable it to be hung on a wall.

Working in steel is significant to me because I love working in the darkness. There is a privacy and intimacy which is very calming and there is a very demanding focus that is needed as well which is very satisfying, not only to make the weld correctly but also to be aware of the flame and heat so as not to get burned.

The technique that I use was developed by myself just playing around with welding two rods together, tip to tip and also tranferring the idea of making a line drawing into a three-dimensional form. I've refined this basic technique over the years and feet very satisfied with it.

As a youngster, I gleaned a lot of input about art from my parents and my sister (see #2). In elementary, art was my favorite activity along with music and this love continued into high school and as a major in college. I studied weaving as a teenager and am involved with it at present making table runners and placemats for my relatives. Soon, I'd like to learn tapestry for wall hangings.
My favorite subject is birds for sculpting although as I've already mentioned, I like the four-leggeds, insects and plantlife as well. I have found that I like to create North American animals and I like to observe and create what lives in my immediate surroundings. Nature is so beautiful and all pervasive. It feels so natural to let it flow right through me.

My choice of piece depends not only on what I've just finished but also on how I'm feeling at the time and on what I'm willing to take the time for. Overall, I seek balance in myself, so if I've just completed a small bird, for instance, I may choose an animal as my next piece and it will probably be bigger than the last bird. If I've made a number of small pieces, I will probably feel challenged to spend a larger amount of time on a public work, a piece larger than myself. The larger pieces are really my favorite works. I feel totally filled and enthralled with "larger than myself' sculptures. Perhaps the grandness and awe of nature and the unknown are the great challenge and ultimate satisfaction. Also, my choice of piece may greatly depend upon how I'm feeling personally at the time of conception. I love to go to our library and sit for hours leafing through nature books. I will be struck bydifferent animals, different postures, unique configurations of creatures or plant life that will intrigue me and will somehow fit with my mood at the time. The ones that "stick" in my mind will likely be formed into sculpture.

Yes, I do field studies and also rely on photos and artist renderings for my inspiration. I particularly enjoy studying the structure of plants and deciding if they are suitable for my technique in steel. The formation of plants make good supports for birds and insects... and plants stand still!

Anatomy is very important for the confirmation of my sculptured birds and animals. However, paramount is the spirit of the creature. This is imperative to capture in a given work. And this spirit makes me ponder and wonder on how close we are as humans to our animal companions.

My technique came about because my former brother-in-law had a welding oxylacetylene outfit set up in my husbands and my garage when we were first married. He was making his own sculpture out of rod and sheet steel. I was very intrigued with what he was making and asked him to teach me how to weld. I have commenced to develop the technique which I've already described and I've felt it important to stay with this method. It seems to suit me and also I appreciate its uniqueness. I haven't seen this technique used elsewhere and I like having it my own.

I play the bagpipes. I practiced twice daily and thoroughly enjoy the music. I've started going to competitions as a solo competitor. I am really competing with myself to become a better piper. My piping interest started as a child when my parents took us to hear the "Black Watch" piping band play and also to see the "changing of the guard" in Ottawa, where while sitting on my brother's shoulders, I heard the wonderful piping sound.

While a teenager, after my brother died, I took up the instrument a year later, perhaps as a way to grieve. I've taken lessons on and off over the years and am getting much satisfaction from it. I'm also weaving which seems to be an interesting contrast to the hardness and grayness of steel. The yarns are soft and colorful, giving balance to my artistic expression.

I also enjoy walking for exercise and meditation and reading books written by Wendell Berry and Thomas Berry, both naturalists and spiritual philosophers.

Support for Conservation:
Special Achievements:
  • 2015 - Libbie's Horse
    full -size Horse
  • 2014 - Florida Panther
    Grand Prize from American Women Artists for sculpture online juried exhibition
  • 2009 - The Filly
    Medal of Excellence, Artists for Conservation, Hiram Blauvelt Art Museum, Oradell, NJ

    2000 "Addy" award, Rochester Advertising Federation

    1997 Certificate of Recognition, "The Rhino", Monroe County Legislature, Rochester, NY

    1994 Leonard Meiselman Award, Society of Animal Artists,
    "The She-Wolf", Bennington, VT
    1992 1st Place, Redlands Outdoor Sculpture Exhibition, "California Condor", Redlands, CA
    1991 1st Place Sculpture, "With Kindness", Of Times and Places, Montana Art Institute, Dillon,
    Montana Judges Award, "With Kindness", Klamath Open, Klamath Falls, OR
    3rd Prize Sculpture, "With Kindness", Pacific Rim Wildlife, Tacoma, WA
    National Award, "Turtle Island", National Small Works, Cobleskill, NY
    1989 National Award, "Reclining Nude", National Small Works,Cobleskill, NY
    Best of Show, "Reclining Nude", Salmon River National, Riggins, ID
    Merit Award, "Northern Harrier", Salmon River National,Riggins, ID
    Merit Award, "Reclining Nude", 12th Annual, Minot, ND

  • 2009 - Sculptures
    Best in Sculpture, Manhattan Arts International, online CelebrateHerStory, New York, NY
  • 2010 - 
    The She-Wolf
  • 2010 - Memorial Art Gallery
    The Filly, stainless steel
  • Various Public
    Princeton Public Library, Princeton, New Jersey, 2002
    Massachusetts Audubon Society, Belmont, MA
    Gianniny & Associates, Rochester, NY, 1999
    The Flanders Group, Rochester, NY, 1998
    Bennington Center for the Arts, Bennington, VT, 1997
    Rochester Raging Rhinos Soccer Club, Rochester, NY,1997
    San Bernandino County Museum, Redlands, CA, 1995
    Canada Geese Bausch & Lomb World Headquarters, Rochester,1995
    Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, Kempton, PA, 1995
    WXXI Public Broadcasting, Rochester, NY, 1992
    Golden Eagle Memorial,Kempton, PA, 1990

Organization Membership:
  • 2009 - Pen & Brush, Inc.

  • 2009 - National Sculpture Society

  • 2009 - Catherine Lorillard Wolfe Art Club, New York, NY

  • 1988 - Society of Animal Artists

  • 1988 - International Sculpture Center



Direct Correspondence to:Mary Taylor
Mary Taylor
294 Parrish Road
Honeoye Falls, NY
USA 14472
Tel: (585) 624-9760
  Artists for Conservation Group
Email: mary@marytaylorsculpture.com
Home Page: http://www.marytaylorsculpture.com
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