By: BRIAN ECKHOUSE - Staff Writer, The Californian
TEMECULA ---- Amid the homogeny of antiseptic strip malls full of
ubiquitous chain stores putting up the same old holiday displays year
after year, Bel Villaggio of Temecula is decorating with a splash of
United Development Group, which owns Bel Villaggio, commissioned
Elizabeth Berrien, a Northern California wire sculptor, to hand-twist
aluminum welding rods into seven elegant, understated holiday ornaments
in various shapes, including candy canes, jumping deer, a wine bottle
and glass, and a Christmas tree.
Nancy Walters, president of Very Special Events, United Development
Group's marketing company for the display, said the firm selected
Berrien because of her ability to fuse elements of Temecula Valley,
particularly Wine Country, with elements of the Christmas season.
"A lot of malls put up decor, but we wanted to do something that
reflected (Temecula's) lifestyle," Walters said.
Berrien, who has been a professional wire sculptor for 37 years, has
melded childhood interests including weaving, knitting and basketry
into a hybrid wire-sculpture technique of lacing and engineering.
"Most illuminated wire sculptures are what you find in the hardware
stores," Berrien said. "They call themselves wire sculptures. They're
rather simple and, frankly, rather crude. They all look alike."
Thursday afternoon, Berrien, 54, and her husband Nick Viesselman, 58,
hooked the aluminum ornaments into something familiar, at least for
Berrien ---- long strands of aluminum rods along the mall, including
between two posts outside Macaroni Grill.
Berrien bought some candy canes as an intended model for one of her
aluminum creations. That didn't last too long.
"I've learned to follow the wires more than to follow my own sketches,"
said Berrien, who won the 2005 Victor Jacoby Award for innovation in
'Following the wires' has keyed her success. Berrien's sculptures have
been displayed at Disneyworld, San Francisco's Union Square and the
But she doesn't believe making pieces for malls compromises herself as
"We all fantasize about one big patron who will be in a position to
support us to bring everything we wanted for life," Berrien said. "In
real life, it doesn't happen that way.
"You have to run yourself as a small business. Certainly, maintaining
art standards is an (imperative)."
Tonight beginning at 5 p.m., Bel Villaggio at Overland Drive and
Margarita Road will celebrate the illumination of Berrien's pieces with
live music, including jazz, and seven tasting stations from restaurants
in the mall, including La Carretta Mexican Restaurant, the Original
Pancake House and Korean Barbecue Village. Wilson Creek Winery also
will host a tasting station.
Contact staff writer Brian Eckhouse at (951) 676-4315, Ext. 2626, or