Animal instinct for sculptures

Animal instinct for sculptures

LIVING and working on a farm provides Catherine Sonnemann the perfect opportunity to study a range of animals, and gives her access to materials to create amazing metal animal sculptures.

“Living on a farm you need to be versatile and able to fix most things yourself so there is always been plenty of work and sculpturing to keep one busy,” Catherine said.

“My metal of choice for my sculptures is steel – high and low carbon.

“Most of the metal comes from our farm, however on occasion I am given metal from people who would like to see their scrap recycled.”

Catherine is a self–taught welder and has completed a blacksmithing and knife making course in New Zealand, as well as a sculpture class, which she says has widened her knowledge base and helped her find her own style of creating life in metal.

“I have had a fascination with metal since I was young, when I would watch my brother work with metal and I love the liquidity of it.

“It can be shaped to create something of beauty; I re–purpose once discarded or unused farm metal and implements to give them a second life as something of beauty.”

Catherine’s first sculpture was a memorial to her parents’ dog – a Schnauzer – and her country life influences her art, and what she creates.

“My husband Neil and I live near Beechworth where we farm cattle and I go on field research and education trips in the pursuit of really knowing the animal I’m going to create a sculpture of,” Catherine said.

To create the life–like sculptures, Catherine works from the animal itself, taking photos, looking and understanding the anatomy of the animal, and the character and characteristics that she needs to capture.

“It is so much easier to create an animal if you understand where it lives, how it moves, and the environment it comes from,” she said.

Catherine works on one sculpture at a time to ensure the best result.

“Every piece I create deserves 100 per cent of my time and effort,” she explained.

“They have to have the look, feel and character of the subject and you don’t get that if you are not putting all your efforts into it.”

To date, Catherine has created an Eastern Quoll, horses, a mother and puggle echidna, a four horned Chameleon, a black crow, spiders, a lace monitor and a black headed python and other works and the detail on each piece is quite exquisite.

“Creating the sculpture itself can be a very complex process, but basically you decide what to create, draw and find images on all aspects of the animal and then you slowly assemble the metal, which is when the creating really starts.

“The metal is forged, cut, shaped and manipulated to fit the area I am working on and you never really stop learning what works better or an easier way of doing things.”

Many of Catherine’s works are life–size or scaled to fit her requirements but large animals such as horses are scaled down to suit.

In 2022, Catherine was encouraged by artists and friends to show her work publicly and the response was more than Catherine could have hoped for – winning the Creative Cocky Award at the Spirit of the Land Festival and coming 3rd at the Kemppi Australia Sculpture Competition for her piece entitled Iron Atlas.

“I am looking forward to entering more competitions in 2023 but even creating pieces just for myself or friends and family is rewarding – creating a sculpture like my parents’ Schnauzer create a memory that lasts forever for the people who own it,” Catherine said.

Locals and acquaintances are not the only ones enjoying the fruits of Catherine’s labours with biologists and ecologists having purchased her work and praising her skill in producing anatomically correct works.

“Specialists have a passion for a particular species, and when I have an expert in that field give praise to my work it is indeed an honour.”

Catherine specialises in reptiles and Australian and some overseas fauna, with most of the animals listed as either endangered or on the IUCN list of threatened species.

To see more of Catherine’s work, follow her on Facebook at

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