In 2011, we met artist Susan Wallace and saw how she was changing the faces of houses with her sculptural metal screen door designs. Since that story posted, Wallace has received commissions from all over the country as well as in her hometown of Austin, Texas. Come take a look at the leaves, birds, flowers, geometric designs, fish and even a potbellied pig that grace her recent projects.
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Part of this restoration and addition project utilized several of Wallace’s doors as well as a gate. The historic part of the home is an 1860s limestone house in Old West Austin, and this is a breezeway that connects the original part of the home to the addition. A set of matching doors is located directly across from these, putting the “breeze” in “breezeway.” Note the way the two doors complement each other without matching exactly. “My designs are not symmetrical, but it’s organic, there’s no tension between the two doors,” Wallace says.
Her clients were interested in adding some birds to the botanical design. “This was the first time I used cutouts,” Wallace says. The project led to similar doors with silhouettes of other birds, which Wallace chooses from species that are indigenous to the home’s region.
Out on the patio, Wallace applied the lotus design to a steel gate. The design was cut with a waterjet. The steel was rusted and then covered with clear coat. The door allows air flow but provides privacy from the street.
A client in Denver commissioned this door from Wallace. She plans on a fuller renovation of her porch in the future, but she began with the fresh new screen door.
In order to determine what kind of design would suit the client and the home, Wallace looked at many photos of the house and its beautiful grounds and gardens. “This client loved the idea of celebrating spring, so we started from there,” Wallace says. “At first she suggested butterflies and dragonflies, but I was nervous to get into insects because I have to think about scalar relationships and they are too small.” This inspired her to think a little bigger — hummingbirds. After sending her client some drawings, it was a go.
A fish biologist’s wife commissioned this door as a gift for her husband’s at-home research area. “The background was tricky to work out with these small swordtails, as they are only around 2 inches long,” Wallace says. In addition to consulting with the husband to get the fish silhouettes just right, she also relied on his expertise about the vegetation in the pools and streams where the fish live to come up with an organic design that was to scale.
Side note: The marine biologist’s name is Gil. How great is that?
This is a tack room in an upscale barn; the door leads to an apartment upstairs. “The inspiration for this was old-fashioned general store screen doors, the kind that would have a push bar with something like a loaf of Wonder Bread on them,” Wallace says. “It’s also reminiscent of belt buckle designs.” In order to celebrate the farm, she created the silhouette of a female rider lassoing “Momos” on the top. The bottom panel is a wagon wheel with a silhouette of the clients’ pet pig, Petunia, in the center.
This Boulder, Colorado, homeowner had already commissioned Wallace to create this screen door when he came to her with a challenge: Camouflage the hole in the bricks next to the door where an old doorbell had been removed. “I didn’t want to design anything that would detract from the door,” she says. Instead she came up with a clever solution to complement it, creating a painted metal application that matched the design on the door. “It’s four pieces of aluminum painted black with a matte finish,” she says. “I sanded it a little so that it wasn’t too perfect and would work with the Boulder winters.” It’s affixed to the bricks with 100 percent silicone. The result: a hole covered up in great style.
The same client had become very interested in Wallace’s work and wanted to collaborate with her on a piece for inside his home. “This gave me the chance to explore layering in my work,”
Wallace says. The base layer of the sculpture is a series of circles within a circle, with the more organic portion of the design placed in a layer atop the geometric base.
In this public housing complex, the openings over the railings needed to be covered for safety reasons. “It was important that the results feel open and not claustrophobic, and to be sensitive to the people who live here and the greater community,” Wallace says. She looked to the creekside trail that flowed through the property, creating a design with a meandering path and trees, leaves and rocks around it.
The shadows the screen would cast on the wall were an important part of the design. Though you can see the perforated mesh in this photo, Wallace says that when you look at it straight on, the mesh is transparent, with only the organic design visible to the eye. “These panels were a way to create art and be protective at the same time,” she says.
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