Liz had a lovely conversation with Lora Lee, a metal jewelry maker and artisan of all things copper. Lora has a love for her work and it really shines through in this little interview. We hope you enjoy listening just as much as Liz did.
LZ: What art do you identify with most?
LL: I can't say that I identify with one more than the other. Sometimes my ideas that I sketch out or want to create or in mediums that I don't have the skills to create in (yet). For example I may see something in metal, but not having the tools to create it like I want, I have to use a medium I can manipulate. For example my paper sculptures. I wanted to create those in metal so fiercely but due to not having the knowledge at the time I created them using paper, glue and wood. So I just jump in and use whatever medium I can easily get to. I have never had any classes or one on one tutors to learn any of my skills. I have learned it all by online videos, blogs posts, tutorials, and talking to other artists. I don't believe you need a college degree to create. Just use what you have, where you are, and learn as you go.
LZ: Can you describe a particular real life experience that inspired you?
LL: There is a story behind every individual. Some long, some short, some wild, some tame. I don't happen to think mine is very impressive but then I lived it and am still going strong so I guess that is something. I am a survivor of emotional and mental abuse. I firmly believe that words can hurt you worse than a hand ever could! A bruise will fade, Words will be with you for the rest of your life! I had let myself be reduced to what they believed I was. I have come to learn after being surrounded by some amazing people that truly love me that my value is not in what others think of me, but in what I believe of myself.
I have always been creative. Drawing, Painting, Quilting, Sewing, Photography. Was nothing special to it, just something that came easier than most other things. I've always loved working with my hands, carpentry work, mechanic work, gardening, etc. A few years ago I walked away from all the negative in my life. Divorced, Started College for the first time at age 37! Single mom with 3 beautiful children. They are 16, 19, and 22 now. I found out real quick that I could accomplish a lot of things on my own, but also learned that sometimes you have to ask for help. That doesn't mean you're not strong enough, it just means your smart enough to lean on the shoulder that is being offered. Two can be stronger than one!
I met Wayne in August 2011, and he changed my world into this amazingly positive and inspiring eye opening world! He carried me to my first Art Crawl and music concerts. He introduced me to artists and creative minds that I am now blessed to call friends.
He created a beautiful nickel coin ring for me as a promise ring and it opened up a world of possibilities! I wanted to know how you could turn an ordinary nickel into something beautiful like that! So he showed me, and it started me on this strange and crazy dream that became Centsations, created in September, 2011.
LZ: Can you talk about your first piece of jewelry you made?
LL: I started with a simple carpenter’s hammer, a nickel, and a concrete floor. Created my first ring, and then soon a matching set for Wayne and myself to wear. I was familiar with power tools of all kinds, but not a lot of hands on experience. With a lot of trial and error I now use a variety of tools, but still resort to those simple hammer and anvil, concrete floors rarely now. To size rings I used his socket set for the longest time, now I have a ring mandrel. Lots of elbow grease goes into so many of the coin projects. It takes a lot of strength to create the coin designs. The engraving wears out your hands and back. The hammering out rings wears your shoulders out. I work a bit on one thing and then switch to the next. So that by the end of a really busy day I hurt from head to toe, but the beautiful things that lay out before me are so worth it. I love what I do very much! I get inspiration from everything! The TV, the hardware store, other shops creations, magazines, nature! You name it! Creating this jewelry allows me to express my creative side, but more than that, I hope to one day be able to profit from it to the point that it will be a blessing to my family as much as it has been a blessing to others.
LZ: What other jobs have you done outside of making art?
LL: Oh wow! I have done a little of it all. I have worked in Oshkosh & Carhartt sewing factories, cleaned houses, motel housekeeping, movie rental store, waitress, babysitter, bartender, office clerk, roofing, carpenters helper, and now the hardest one of all, running my own shop. I wouldn't trade it for any of those other jobs. Being your own Boss is worth all the ups and downs. I love the creating aspect, not the business/office aspect. I will never go back to a public job as long as I can create instead.
LZ: What is your dream project?
LL: I think my biggest dream project is going to be sculpting our future mud/rock home. We have been dreaming of a cob home for years. Drawing numerous blue prints for it. Designing the handcrafted doors and windows. Creating it with our own hands, hammering out the drawer pulls, curtain rods, gates and lighting all from my creative mind and copper. Using all these skills I have acquired over the past 5 years to make our future cob home a haven of eclectic creations.
LZ: Now that sounds like a blast! What's the best piece of advice you've ever been given?
LL: I think the best advice I ever received was from myself. I stripped my fear down to the basics, the fear that all creative minds have, and I decided that I was done with it. I was done with being scared of sharing my work. What I do is unique and creative. I love each and every piece- and my biggest fear was no one else seeing that. I decided I was done with that fear. From now on, I would create out of love. Love for what I can do, Love of the creative process and the finished result. No more comparing myself with anyone else. Just doing what I love because I LOVE it so much. If you busy yourself doing what you love, you have no time worrying about what anyone else is doing. That is so freeing!
And as a bonus, here is a snippet about her favorite creation yet! A beautiful 2 foot tall angel named Liwet made from copper & pennies.
LL: I spent a whole month hand crafting this life size sculpture. The wings are created from a salvaged copper gutter Wayne brought home to me (better than flowers any day). There are 46 feathers, 23 on each wing (The same number of chromosomes in the human body). They are 2 inches wide and 9 inches long. Each one was hand cut out of the flattened gutter. Folded in half, hammered, opened back up and hammered some more to create the feather texture. So every mark you see on the feathers is a hammer blow I put there. The bust is a paper mache bust that I made based off of my daughter who was 13 at the time. We stuff the bust full of paper and then covered the whole thing with pennies. It is sealed with a thin coat of resin. The wing span is over 4 ft across and it's over 2 ft tall. Right now I have it sitting on my book case, but it is also made so that it can hang on a wall. I named it Liwet after doing a search for Angel names. Liwet was the Angel of Innovation and creativity. I thought that was very fitting. :) She will eventually be transported to TN to display in my oldest daughters home.
So you can see my journey of being an "artist" has seen many transformations. As I grow and learn in my metalsmith journey it has opened up larger possibilities. I now know I can use my techniques from jewelry creating and apply them to large scale sculptures. I learned blacksmith work so I could use that in my sculptures and home projects like drawer handles, curtain rods, garden lights and large copper chandeliers. It all ties together. I am by no means at a stopping point. I firmly believe there is so much more to learn and I am eager to continue doing so for many many years to come. In some ways I still feel that I am just getting started. Life is nothing if not a huge journey of learning.
Thank you so much to Lora Lee for sharing her beautiful journey and creative mind with us! We invite you to attend our Celebrate the Arts event with us on September 9th, 2016 from 6-9 PM.