An Interview with Stacey Lee Webber

April 08, 2020

An Interview with Stacey Lee Webber

Stacey Lee Webber is a Philadelphia-based artist and contemporary metalsmith who we’ve loved to collaborate with for years now. Stacey utilizes American coins for the basis of her work, and always has new ideas to turn old materials into new treasures. With permanent installations in locations such as D.C.’s own Smithsonian Renwick Gallery, and the Fuller Craft Museum in Massachusetts, Stacey has spread her love for metal and jewelry work widely across the United States. Today, her limited production compositions and unique jewelry pieces are found in galleries and Americana stores across the country (like ours!). We chatted with Stacey to learn more about the process of creating unique works of art from found objects of the current world and the past.

Imagine Series: M.I.A.

What first sparked your interest in using coins as the basis of your art?

"I started working with coins in graduate school at the U. of Wisconsin Madison. I began a quest to question the value of labor in a penny sculpture tool series titled The Craftsmen Series. From there I began to manipulate coins in many different ways. I am a trained jeweler and metalsmith, so making coin jewelry was natural."


How were you able to strike a balance between art for art's sake and commercial, saleable jewelry and home decor?

"I am consistently trying to strike that balance. My husband and I are making a living from artwork and jewelry. So it is always a balance of the project we want to be working on alongside things that might pay the bills in the moment. It's not easy, but we are getting better at time management through the years. Overall you have to really have a passion for being creative and coming up with new ideas to consistently reinvent yourself and your work.  We work really hard, harder than we've ever worked, but find it to be the most rewarding, satisfying life passion - we wouldn’t want it any other way."

What are some of your favorite materials to work with? 

"I really love working with copper and in particular solid copper pennies (pre 1982).  The metal is very valuable and forgiving. It is much softer than what people traditionally think of as metal. I love soldering and working with torches to fabricate objects out of copper and other nonferrous metals - brass, bronze, nickel, silver."

What happens to the leftover materials from your art?

"Oftentimes I try to reuse coin scraps in other pieces, especially if they have been hand cut coins. For example this necklace. I've even made a 'Remnants' wall piece series. Otherwise, sterling silver goes to the refinery to get cash back or metal back."


How do you come across the currency that you utilize? Are they given, bought, found?

"I buy vintage coins through Ebay. Mostly in bulk through coin dealers. Sometimes I get really special commissions w someone's old coins or coins that were in their family and make those into jewelry."


Which other artists, if any, have you taken inspiration from in the past?

"Ann Carrington, Jasper Johns, Lisa Gralnick, Andy Warhol, and Allison Schulnik."

 

How long, from start to finish, does the crafting of a pair of coin cufflinks take? Can you walk us through the process?

"Probably an hour or so. Some cufflinks are castings of the original cut out coins, others are the original coins cut out with cufflink backings. Everything starts by hand cutting the coins out with a basic jeweler’s saw manually. Then either casting that piece or using it. After soldering the backing on, the cufflinks get hardened in a tumbler and then oxidized. After oxidation, the cufflinks get lightly matte buffed to bring the silver color out and leave the black oxidization in the recessed areas."


A huge thank you to Stacey for taking the time to chat about her incredible pieces. We found it extremely interesting to hear more about her thought process and inspiration. If you want to learn more about Stacey and the incredible work she does, check out our blog post Collaborating with American Crafters: Stacey Lee Webber.




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