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Boyer creates his wire mesh figures with minimal tools. One, the bottom tool, is a concoction of a brass fireplace ornament and a piece of railroad track, devised to coax the rounded shapes of the human figure from the metal.

Inside the artist's studio

In a new series, the Sun Valley Guide takes you inside the creative spaces of valley artists. This issue: The wire mesh world of sculptor Eric Boyer. Text by Jennifer Tuohy. Photos by David N. Seelig.

Eric Boyer

Two blocks from Hailey’s Main Street, in an old, purple garage, Eric Boyer creates life from metal. A sculptor, Boyer manipulates steel wire mesh into sensuous, wholly organic human forms, which cling effortlessly to walls or float on hand-crafted bases.

Stepping into an artist’s studio is a compelling experience. A single glance reveals as much about the artist as any serious study of his work. Boyer is a family man. During the renovation of his 600-square-foot garage into a studio, he split the space equally to afford his girlfriend, Laura Higdon, a place to create her colorful, hand-painted children’s furniture.

Boyer’s 300 square feet is in stark contrast to the bright organization of Higdon’s. Crammed with boys’ toys, such as drills, hammers and assorted other tools, the industrial nature of the studio actually has more to do with Boyer’s ongoing project of remodeling their historic home (one of the oldest in Hailey) than his work as a metal artist. Despite the distractions of family life (two children, three cats and two dogs), the stamp of an artist is unmistakable on the cramped, eclectic quarters.

Sculptor Eric Boyer combines practical uses with creative juices in this 300-square-foot studio he converted from a garage.

A large picture window affords streaming natural light year-round, along with soothing views of sparrows and finches exploring the maple trees in the front yard. Various misshapen objects decorate the walls, ranging from the tools of his trades to half-finished creations by the artist, intermingled with favorite objets d’art. One of the most treasured is a small watercolor landscape, painted by his grandfather, from whom Boyer believes he inherited his artistic leanings.

The 47-year-old artist experimented in many artistic mediums during his youth, but it wasn’t until 1985 that Boyer discovered wire mesh. He was working at a blacksmith shop making fireplace screens.

"We’d have these little scraps of mesh in the shop, and I’d play with it during my lunch break. I’d wrap it around and pinch it, and I discovered that it starts to become a figure or an arm," he explains, while deftly manipulating one of the many scraps littering his workbench. "I became fascinated by it. It was a synthesis of all the other materials I’d worked with before. The way it works with light, you can mold it like clay, but it’s really a fabric, but it’s a metal. It was so direct and tactile."

By 1989 Boyer had mounted his first exhibition, and over the next two decades he developed into a highly successful mesh artist. Originally based in Vermont, he now shows his work across the country. A little over five years ago, Boyer picked up his tools—"a roll of mesh, the shears to cut it, the torches to burn the edges and then the rest is just my hands and a couple tools"—and moved to Hailey to be with Higdon.

As notes from the Beatles waft through the studio, Boyer bends over his small worktable massaging human shapes out of the stiff metal mesh.

"This studio is one of the most comfortable spaces I’ve ever had, because I built it myself to correspond to my own needs." He pauses, laughing as he glances into Higdon’s comparatively pristine workspace, and corrects himself. "To our needs."