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Art People: Piper Foreso | sculptor

  • Piper Foreso talks about her sculptures at her home in Florence Monday, May 20.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Piper Foreso talks about her art beside a work from a series titled "Look Within" at her home in Florence Monday, May 20.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Fireplace and firewood caddy by Piper Foreso at her home in Florence.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • "I Love my Buttons" by Piper Foreso<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Trowel herons by Piper Foreso<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • "Spirit Guide" by Piper Foreso<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Detail of "Devious Creatures" by Piper Foreso<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Flying rabbit by Piper Foreso<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • "A Modern Day St. Francis" by Piper Foreso. Another sculpture, "Devious Creatures" is in the background.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • "Visiting" by Piper Foreso<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

What makes for good art? As Piper Foreso sees it, a good bit comes from basic perseverance.

“I’m very stubborn and persistent,” the Florence sculptor said, with a laugh. “When I decide to do something, I’m determined to see it through.”

That kind of mind-set has served Foreso well over the years — first when she taught herself how to make stained-glass sculpture and then jewelry, and in more recent years when she switched to making steel sculptures by learning how to wield a welding torch and a plasma cutter.

“I’ve always been a fix-it person,” she said. “My dad was a carpenter and a real handyman. We did things ourselves — we never called a repair person.”

Many of the fruits of Foreso’s newest technical skills are outside and inside her Florence home. She makes a variety of ornamental steel sculptures, like garden trellises and freestanding human-like figures of wrapped steel. Much of her work is a blend of clean, graceful style and humor: The trellis “Devious Creatures” combines steel rods, a silhouette of a cat and a thick cobweb (and small spider) made from copper wire.

Although she’s worked predominantly with steel in recent years, Foreso includes glass in one of her most inventive creations. She takes harrow wheels from old farming equipment, heats one side of the disc, then cuts and peals it back to expose the disc’s interior. In that cavity, she embeds layered glass, with adjustable lighting that reveals various patterns in the glass.

“I love the idea of reusing something old and giving it a new life,” she said.

Foreso, who works out of Cottage Street Studios in Easthampton, had been interested in art when she was younger, and she had several artist friends. Yet she didn’t feel she had any particular talent along those lines herself.

But in 1987, while living in Cambridge and working as the business manager for a small company, she took a continuing education course in stained-glass making — and the experience transformed her life.

“It just felt so natural, like it was something I was made to do. ... I had to try and figure out how to make this work as a career.”

She did just that, though after moving to the Valley in 1997, she found less of a market for stained-glass art and switched to making jewelry. After an additional stint in which she designed clocks, she felt the need to try something new — something bigger.

“I’d been doing all this highly detailed work, and I got to a point where I thought, ‘What’s next?’ ” she said. “I wanted to do something different, more expansive.”

Foreso’s pragmatic, fix-it side also shows up in her interior work: In her home, she’s built a glass and steel coffee table, CD cases and a firewood holder. But she finds her greatest satisfaction in coming up with new ways to fashion steel and old objects into unconventional art.

“I love the unpredictability of it,” she said.

— Steve Pfarrer

Piper Foreso’s work will be on display this weekend at the biannual Cottage Street Open Studios in Easthampton. Hours are Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m.

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