Heavy Metal

Sculpting metal dates back thousands of years, but in the foothills of Topanga Canyon the ancient art is getting a modern twist.

Terra in Italian means “from the earth.” With her contemporary garden creations that appear to seamlessly emanate out of the ground, sculptress Jennifer Gilbert Asher takes that literally. The west Valley-based “self-taught” artist and owner of Terra Sculpture says she was strongly influenced by her travels across Europe.

“I lived in Italy to study art and was of course heavily inspired by Italian design as well. My sculptural style is all about coming from the earth and growing out of it,” she says.

Raised in a highly-creative household in Marin County with a clothing-designer mother, art and the surrounding environment have always been a big part of Jennifer’s life.

“Growing up in the Bay Area, nature got a hold of me at an early age. It was my initial exposure to the power and beauty of using the outdoors as a palette that encouraged me to explore my creative side.”

After getting a degree in landscape architecture at UCLA, she had a successful career designing outdoor spaces for several years. Then her career started to shift organically as Jennifer began creating original metal works of art for her clients’ private gardens.

Word quickly spread among her designer peers about her abstract pieces like “Kismet,” which displays ribbons of metal woven together in suspended animation. Soon they started commissioning Jennifer for their own jobs.

“I realized sculpting was my passion. It was calling to me really strongly. I began growing my studio and it quickly took on a life of its own.”

Jennifer ended up teaming with a business partner and marketing expert and hired someone to oversee the metal shop. They sell directly to consumers from their online store, terrasculpture.com.

“Our clientele is really vast. We started out in private home gardens and it has grown to sculptures in city parks, commercial spaces, hospital healing gardens and libraries.”

The substantial works of modern art average about 200 pounds and start around $2,500. Finishes range from the more polished look of stainless steel, to the rustic, oxidized look of weathered steel, to the bright eye-popping hues created with a powder-coating process.

She and her team use brute strength—literally—to shape the material into contemporary works of art.

“Some machines help us bend and cut the metal but a lot of it’s still done by hand all at our metal shop located in south LA.”

Just like the works Jennifer creates, her career as an artist has been filled with its own magical twists and turns.