Meet Nancy Lee

I would like to introduce you to Nancy Lee.

She is my friend and former classmate at Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts in Gatlinburg, Tenn. Nancy’s work is graceful and thought-provoking. She strikes a dichotomy between soothing the viewer/wearer and challenging them with the meanings in her organic, meticulously executed pieces. She works primarily in sterling silver and copper with additions of stones, pearls, organic found materials and more.

Nancy lives in Indianapolis. She has been expanding her studio lately. Her small sculpture “Pod” was featured in a show in downtown Indie called Elegant Funk (watch it on YouTube here). (Nancy’s sculpture is featured in this video beside a Blackberry device for scale!) This piece – at just five inches high – comes from divine inspiration, she tells me, and she fought to complete it after being delayed for weeks after a tree fell on her studio. With the exception of the center “stamens,” this piece is constructed from a single piece of flat copper sheet. This piece is my favorite Nancy Digman. I admire her work and her attitude.

(Here is a view inside “Pod” from above. Click on image to enlarge.)

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Here is a piece entitled “Venus” that is also among Nancy’s recent work. The bail and outer frame are fabricated, and the centerpiece is etched, riveted and oxidized. This piece is another example of Nancy’s innate sense of design.

Nancy is a master with organic leaf and vine forms, which is so beautifully executed in this piece she made at Arrowmont called “Walk in the Woods.” She weaves meaning into a single piece in complex ways. “Walk in the Woods” is constructed of oxidized sterling, copper sheet, beveled glass, found copper wire given to Nancy by her dad and related to his work at the University of Illinois 50 years ago, three beads representing Nancy and her two sisters, a tube bezel-set yellow sapphire given to Nancy in a ladies’ room (note to self: ask Nancy about this one!), a found twig from the Arrowmont campus, and fold-formed leaves and vines. The copper background is etched with imagery of trees that reminds Nancy of her parents’ home, and the leaves and vines are also etched and given a patina of alcohol ink. This piece is exquisite.
Below is Nancy’s artist statement. I told Nancy recently how after years in the art world it is easy to become numb to art and numb to artists’ statements. But, in some ways this is a good thing because then only the really good stuff actually generates a reaction in me. This statement and Nancy’s work generate a reaction in me.

My work is an experiment in emotion and hope,
informed by everything I have ever experienced or imagined
visually, aurally, viscerally, spiritually.
A leaf.
A sewer grate.
A vision.
A surprise.
What story in these can be expressed in metal?
What structure fabricated by human hand
dares to inform the formless?
Can form create emotion
?
Do I risk answers?
– Nancy Lee Digman

I’d like to share one final thought with you. In Ruth’s Song, I wrote about my technical challenges in the process of making my piece. Nancy had a similar experience with her beautiful window piece, “Walk in the Woods.” She decided to try to use one of my power tools – a hammer handpiece for the Flex Shaft. It was her first time driving a sports car at the bench. 🙂 She was using it to set the beveled glass – the last step for this piece – because her bezel wall was quite thick. She had a little mishap in the final stages of her piece. She said something in her gut told her to stop a few moments earlier, but she continued, and consequently dismounted a stone that she no longer had access to for resetting. Oops. All work going on around her in the studio by the eight of us halted as we all rallied to address Nancy’s situation. All was resolved. Nancy tells me that she was touched that her classmates took on her share of the studio cleanup on the last day to support her by allowing her extra time to finish the piece after the mishap. But the thing that strikes me is that Nancy’s gut spoke to her. In this instance she chose not to heed (as I have also done many, many times), and well… in the end the piece survived and we all learned something. That internal sense of when to go and when to stop, how much pressure to apply, which tool to choose, and even when to walk out for coffee is something in our process as metalsmiths that simply cannot be taught. It grows more keen with years of practicing your craft, but it is instinctive. Intuitive. Born with you. Not born in you, but born with you. Nancy has it. Nancy speaks metal. I am proud to call her a colleague and friend.


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~ by gingermeekallen on August 31, 2008.

2 Responses to “Meet Nancy Lee”

  1. Ginger, Ginger, Ginger oh my goodness! Thank you thank you thank you. You wrote a beautiful story. Oh my. I started reading, tears filled my eyes. I scrolled down for MORE pictures and story and then scrolled down some more, for MORE. I stand here, mouth open, not sure what to say that could begin to convey my surprise, delight, wonder, and gratefulness for what you wrote, the time you took to do it, the gathering of the detail, the turn of the phrase to tie it all together and make it so special. It’s like, “this is your life, and it’s pretty darn cool, Nancy, little mishaps, strokes of inspiration and all.” You know me. I am honored to know you, beautiful soul. thank you again. This will be linked to my website when it’s up, and other places where I can find to put it. I am delirious to be in such fine company, I can’t hardly take it in. Again, thanks so much Ginger.

  2. That’s a great post. You make me want to meet her as well!

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