"I walk steadily, holding a little flame in the cup of my hands."
Anna-Wili Highfield began her career as a scenic artist for Opera Australia before stepping over to her path as an independent sculptor. Working by commission, her pieces are held in private collections around the world and have led to collaborations with Anthropology and Hermes, amongst others. From her Sydney studio, Anna-Wili creates dynamic paper sculptures representing animal life, allowing her artistic process to be both a guide and focal-point of her work.
What was your pivot point?
I'd always known I would make art, it's what I do best. But I think a mental shift took place when I became a professional artist. I decided to 'make not think'. Of course, I think about what I'm doing constantly, but I don't think about its reception or where it fits in any lineage or canon. That way it comes out truthfully and I think people respond to that. From that point, my career led itself alongside my prolific making.
What’s the one piece of advice you’d give someone who’s going through their own transformation?
I think you can have anything you want, and create any path, if you focus on your strengths and find a way to do what you're good at, do it well, do it bravely and trust your instincts. If you focus on one thing at a time, give it your all and are nice to people and support them, then support will come your way too. The funny thing I've noticed, though, is if you don't need the work it comes, just like love. I think people like to find you caught up with something and watch you before joining.
Where in the world would you describe as the place that speaks to you - your soul place?
I grew up on Pittwater in Sydney. That landscape of sandstone, gums and water heals my soul, but difference and other cultures excite my soul.
Are you following the path of a trailblazer or being guided by a mentor?
I try to be brave and careful and take it day by day. I don't have great plans. I like to be open to change, but steady, and to feel things out until they find their evolution. I guess I make the path but I don't blaze that trail. I walk steadily, holding a little flame in the cup of my hands.
If you could do anything, what in the world would you want to do next?
It's funny, my dreams are formal and process-based. I want to work with bronze and concrete and large scale, and I also want my work to lead me to travel.
All images used with permission of Anna-Wili Highfield.