You don’t have to be a modernist to appreciate the clean, bold and sophisticated furniture, accessories and sculpture created by internationally recognized Vancouver artist Martha Sturdy. I first discovered her stunning resin collection in the early 1990’s and I’ve been a fan of her work ever since. She has a refreshingly honest outlook on life.
ARTIST/SCULPTOR: Martha Sturdy
Martha Sturdy is a creative perfectionist who thinks big. Her oversized statements in casting resin, leather, steel and brass are ever-changing, but always strong and minimal. Each piece of her artwork is handcrafted at her studio in Vancouver or her weekend retreat in Pemberton – a reincarnated saw mill with a breathtaking view of Mount Currie.
Ageless, in her trademark square-toed Dayton cowboy books, Martha looks much younger than her 67 years. Never one to copy others, she loves the thrill of translating her ideas into large-scale works of art. While she always strives for simplicity, this means the details have to be exacting and precise. In a recent documentary on the Knowledge Network, the artist said, “I absolutely have to make things.” She often comes up with an idea, figures out how to make it and tests it in her own home until she’s certain it can withstand the rigours of everyday life –which for her, often includes visiting children, grandchildren, her dogs and horses.
The brass collection is a perfect example of modern warmth.
Family and a close circle of friends have kept Martha grounded as she’s achieved international recognition and success. She has always had an affinity for large uncomplicated living –relishing gardening, cooking and being physical. Watching her wield large sculpture and objects in her studio, you realize how fit she has to be to do this work.
At her strikingly rustic 250 acre retreat, she built an indoor arena for her horses and is currently putting the finishing touches on a cross-country course for jumping which includes a massive outdoor sculpture made of yellow cedar logs. She thinks nothing of operating the tractor and hauling logs or using the chainsaw or wood chipper.
Martha Sturdy donated this massive sculpture to Vancouver General Hospital. It’s rendered in Icelandic Poppy Red – her favourite colour – photography by Raeff Miles
A graduate of the Emily Carr University of Art and Design, Martha started her career designing jewellery. It was a practical choice for an artist who was more drawn to sculpture, but needed to earn enough money to raise her three children. It didn’t take long for her to establish a name for herself internationally selling her sculptural jewellery in colourful resins and burnished metals to top department stores in New York. This gave her the opportunity to exercise her creative muscle and venture beyond wearable art.
A striking resin collection debuted in the early 1990’s and is still available in 20 mouth-watering colours. Martha began selling to a new industry and through exposure at trade shows in Paris, London and New York, she started working with many of the world’s top designers.
Martha’s resin collection continued to do well, yet she pushed herself further to create larger scale furniture, floating resin tables and sculptural chairs. She became known throughout the world for the scale, quality and originality of her pieces. In 2001, Metropolitan Home magazine named her one of the top 20 designers/artists to watch for in the next decade.
One of the reasons her modern designs seem so inviting is that resin is warm to the touch. She designs her silhouettes so they conform to the shape of the body. Martha even makes an Adirondack chair in resin. Unlike a traditional wood chair, she points out you can sit on the arms of her resin chairs and they never wear out.
The club chair (above) has garnered a lot of attention as it can be illuminated with white or multi-coloured LED lighting. The striking chandelier is hand-made from strips of resin.
She’s also recently launched a new line of home accessories for The Bay. It’s called the Heritage collection. The designs are inspired by the original Hudson’s Bay blanket in sand and black stripes.
The Heritage collection designed for The Bay
With no signs of slowing down, Martha now spends much of her time creating large wall sculptures, standing steel structures and 3D sculptures, all of which incorporate her love of bold, dramatic oversized work. Each is unique and reflects her instinctive approach to art and life itself.
Resin and acid on steel
Resin on steel
Resin on steel
Her work is available in hundreds of stores in Canada, the US, Europe, the Middle East and the Far East, although there is nothing like seeing her complete collection at her gallery showcase in Vancouver.
Being open-minded and fearless, Martha has never lacked the courage to live life as she sees it, remaining connected with the earth and the raw materials she uses to express herself. She says,”With life as my muse, I continue to push the boundaries of my art, vowing to never stand still.” To learn more about Martha Sturdy’s art, check out her website here or her studio. Photography courtesy of Martha Sturdy Inc.