TTU Jewelry-Metals Artist Shines
by :: Daniel Horsch
After dedicating eighteen years of her life as a high school art teacher in New Braunfels, Leslie Lewis decided she needed a change. Despite several Educator of the Year awards and the successes of her students, the work had become dull and monotonous. She had grown tired of playing hall monitor and handing out bathroom passes. Lewis had no excuse to leave her teaching career other then the burning desire to become an artist. Three years later, after enrolling as an MFA candidate at the TTU School of Art in fall of 2005, Lewis has earned respect as a talented artist through her studies in Jewelry Design and Metalsmithing, and will also be earning her Master of Fine Arts degree in May.
Lewis has hands that work as extensions from her eyes, beautifully manipulating materials into ornate jewelry and other exotic objects. Lewis said she always enjoyed working with her hands, which suited her particular interests. “I like the intimate scale, the real hands-on process of working through things,” Lewis said.
However, artists like Lewis don’t come along too often, according to her long time friend and degree supervisor, Rob Glover, Professor of Art. Glover, a jewelry and metalsmithing professor at the Texas Tech School of Art has taught Lewis for many years. From the beginning Glover recognized Lewis’ potential, “She is an amazing individual,” Glover said, “she has an innate sense of design, of content, and detail.”
In February, Lewis was announced as a second place winner in the internationally recognized Saul Bell Design Award Competition in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Over the last eight years, the Saul Bell Design Competition has accepted only the best artwork in a variety of categories. As a student artist from the Texas Tech School of Art, Lewis was among a very distinguished competitive field.
Along with her growing portfolio of exquisite artworks, Lewis boasts a repertoire of awards that also includes three NICHE awards. Competing artists come from schools all over the country for the NICHE competition, including the Chicago Art Institute, California School of Art and Craft, and the Parsons School of Design. In 2007 Lewis won two awards in separate categories. One was for her work in ceramics and another in non-wearable-metals. Most recently she won her third NICHE award in the teapot category. While Lewis remains confident in her ability to create, her recent success has not hindered her stride.
She graciously accepts her successes, but has taken it all in stride and blended back in as one of the students. Tucked into her design space at the new 3D Art Annex, a humble grin grew over Lewis’ face as she described the events leading up to the submission of her piece. “At first I didn’t even want to submit my application. It was $45 and that was a lot of money to spend for one entry in an event I didn't think I had a chance of being selected for.” Professor Glover insisted, however. He even paid her entry fee.
The award winning piece is a teapot, which is entitled Arachne , and is an example of Lewis placing a piece of herself into her artwork. “My art is a cathartic experience, examining the quiet desperation of my life and allowing new ways of looking at and dealing with the mendacity of life’s struggles,” Lewis said. An avid reader, Lewis always had an interest in mythology. Her piece connects the story of a mortal woman who had an unmatchable skill in spinning and weaving. Her unsuccessful challenge against the goddess Athena led Athena to change Arachne into a spider.
Unafraid to challenge herself to reach new heights and conquer old fears, Lewis’ work is bold, but has many familial qualities. Bold because Lewis is never afraid to take a chance, but adds soft touches to her work that is unmistakably appealing to a wide audience. Lewis’ artwork takes many forms, but she enjoys the challenge of working with a variety of metals and material. For example, her jewelry is more than a fashion piece; but as Lewis describes, is a connection to one’s celestial being. Likewise, her award winning teapot evokes a pleasurable curiosity that is unique in the art community which is constantly trying to redefine what is truly unique.
Glover, who has mentored Lewis from the beginning, believes her work is genuinely one of a kind. “Her work transcends its functionality, into the realm of a thoughtful object, an object that continually induces thought over a long period of time.”