Amazing sculpture captures 'the magic of Norfolk's marshes'

Tree of Life by Cindy Lee Wright

Tree of Life by Cindy Lee Wright - Credit: Contributed

Whether she’s working in wood, charcoal, paint or metal, Cindy Lee Wright’s work is a celebration of the natural world - especially the part of the world she calls home. 

Recently, Cindy’s focus has been creating large, outdoor installations in laser-cut steel, such as the eye-catching Tree of Life, which features woodland creatures including hedgehogs, badgers, pheasant and leaping hares, and Earth Angel, a striking, seemingly floating winged figure, with a dress made from cascading leaves. 

Artist Cindy Lee Wright

Artist Cindy Lee Wright - Credit: Contributed

And this coming week she plans to start installing a new work, Life of Cley, at Norfolk Wildlife Trust’s Cley Marshes reserve. 

Cindy works as what she describes as ‘an almost-full-time artist’.  

“Even though I had planned from an early age to become an artist, I actually trained as an actress instead and after a few years touring went on the study theology,” she explains. 

“I started making art when my younger son, Eddie – who has Down’s syndrome – left school and began to be more independent and content. 

“I come from a family of engineers, so working with tools comes naturally to me, but it’s only in recent years that this has been directed towards making art rather than home making.” 

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Her artistic practice is an exploration of her spirituality, as well as a reflection of the natural world around us. 

“I have always felt very connected and involved with and now feel increasingly responsible for the non-human wild world,” says Cindy.  

“I am married to wildlife writer Simon Barnes, who has recently been studying and obsessing with botany, so I feel our understanding is getting bigger every day.  

“Also, spirituality is very important to me, which is why angels keep popping up in my work,” she says.  

Earth Angel by Cindy Lee Wright

Earth Angel by Cindy Lee Wright - Credit: Contributed

“Sometimes I think we all live a much smaller life than we need to, which is why I feel it is essential to make connections in several directions, with each other, with the wild world and with the big spiritual one.” 

Cindy lives in Norfolk, with family roots in Suffolk. 

“My family are from Suffolk, and my first home was in St Cross, but I didn’t return until after my first son was born 28 years ago. We lived in Peasenhall, so the move over the border into Norfolk felt like a betrayal at first! But there are no regrets. 

“I am so lucky to live in this county. My home is in the middle of the marshes with the river Chet running past in the distance, so the wildlife is abundant and inspirational.  

“This is what makes me want to try and capture and share the beauty of the wild world I experience and to want to help to protect those habitats and species I know are struggling,” she says. 

It was during the pandemic that Cindy moved into laser sculpture and working with steel. 

“I am happiest working with wood, but during lockdown, Eddie needed my attention on a daily basis, so I had to find a way to meet my sculpture commitments without spending all day in a dusty workshop,” she says. 

Working with what she describes as a “limited palette and form” presents Cindy with some enjoyable challenges. 

“Laser sculpture is essentially about design,” she explains. “First, I work on the drawing, then transfer that onto software. It’s a long process, but very satisfying. Trying to solve the problem of how to get the essence of a creature.

“The file then needs perfecting to make it compatible with a laser machine. I don‘t own one - they cost thousands and are constantly updating and improving - I send the file to a steel fabricator and hope for the best!” 

Working with steel for outdoor sculptures means that pieces will continue to evolve as they spend time outside in the elements. 

“Most of the work I do seems to be for outside spaces, which means it’s usually large and complicated to install,” says Cindy. 

“It’s mild steel, so it’s not going to rot in a hurry,” she continues.  

“Of course, the ones with a rusted patina will need some attention over the years to prevent corrosion, but that’s quite manageable.  

“Also, the rust has a creative life of its own. In the rain or early morning, it’s strong and dark, but in the middle of a sunset looks like burning orange. 

“The great thing about laser profiles is that they can be reproduced and this means that it’s possible to create affordable art.  

“I do feel that art should be for all not just an elite, but that is often difficult to achieve with the constantly rising costs of materials.” 

Artist Cindy Lee Wright working on Life of Cley

Artist Cindy Lee Wright working on Life of Cley - Credit: Contributed

Cindy has been working on Life of Cley since last October, and it’s enabled her to start becoming more intimately acquainted with the Cley Marshes reserve through the changing seasons.  

The installation will feature an avocet, barn owl, bearded tit, bittern, buzzard, curlew, heron, kingfisher, lapwing, little egret, marsh harrier, swallows, swifts, spoonbill, oystercatcher, pintail, tern, otter, water vole and common toad, nestled around reeds and teasels. 

“Until recently, when my time has been taken up with helping to manage the Sculpture Trail at Potton Hall, I visited every week. It has been amazing getting to know that very special and glorious place,” says Cindy.  

“I feel like I have just scratched the surface and would like to continue to add more and more,” she continues.   

“I am hoping to be able to express the abundance of life there as well as celebrating the achievements of the amazing Norfolk Wildlife Trust.  

“To a casual visitor who isn’t a birder looking out over the sea of marshes and lagoons at Cley, it’s not instantly obvious that they hold so much magic.” 

Life of Cley, by Cindy Lee Wright, will be on display at NWT Cley Marshes from Thursday, July 14. 

The Tree of Life is currently standing in the gardens of Otley Hall and Earth Angel guards the cafe at Potton Hall near Dunwich.  

Cindy has smaller pieces on sale at the Octagon Gallery in Diss, and at Ferini Gallery in Pakefield. 

She will also be taking part in the Raveningham Sculpture Trail from July 30 to September 6 and From Avocets to Angels, a celebration of art inspired by wings, will be at the Aldeburgh Gallery from November 17 to 23. 

For more information about her work see her website, cindyleewright.com and follow her on Instagram @cindyleewright.artwork