My Metalsmith Journey Started With Coins
Do you know the quote “Love gives you wings”? Well, my love story is different. My name is Lora Lee and my love gave me roots.
I met Wayne in 2011 in an online dating site. It was like meeting your best friend from high school. We talked for hours on end, saw the sun come up several mornings. Phones plugged into the wall because we were killing the batteries. This man changed my life. After two marriages ended that were full of mental and emotional abuse, I was just a shell of a woman with no true sense of self. Meeting him changed EVERYTHING. Within a month I had taken a huge leap of faith and moved out of my home state with my child, to join Wayne in Louisiana. He gifted me a coin ring that he had made as a promise ring. Well amazed was an understatement, I was stunned and curiosity bit me hard! I’ve created things with wood, quilted, grew flowers, raised animals but had never worked with jewelry or metal like that. I had to learn more about these “coin rings”.
I started working with coins and creating rings like the one Wayne had made me. From there I learned what else I could do with the coins. I am self-taught - meaning I have never taken a class to learn what I do. It has grown and evolved thanks to a lot of hands-on trial and error and watching youtube videos. I learned how to cut designs using a jewelers saw, torch powdered glass to add colors to earrings, and hammering different textures on the metal, all crafted from coins. I then incorporated reclaimed copper (gutters and electrical wire) into the mix.
I loved the idea of recycling these items, the coins, and copper both, into beautiful jewelry and art. This was a never-ending rabbit hole of ideas. Wayne encouraged and supported my leaving a full-time factory job to do my jewelry making full time. This was the key to not only a better future but also inspired the business I have been growing into over the past 7 years now. One thing leads to another idea and I’ve been nonstop for years now. Handcrafting one of a kind pieces.
I used these coin designs to start my business. Selling first to friends and family in person and doing small local art shows and festivals, the ones with low booth fees. This helped get my product in front of people and let me get comfortable with telling my story about why I create what I do. I found that with each event, I grew more confident in speaking to new people. I learned to put that smile on and engage people. Some are more open to conversation than others so I had to also learn when to cut it short so that I didn’t miss connecting with other customers too.
I started a Facebook Business page for Lora Lee Artist first and then later my own website to sell my products online. Picking a name was hard. I used the “artist” title because it covered any mediums I choose to work in. Learning how to write about my work and describe it so that people understood what it was and how it was made was a lesson I have learned over time. I really wanted visitors to my page to understand that I handcraft using raw materials rather than buying components and putting them together. I value both methods but choose to create my own as much as possible. It’s the challenge as much as the joy of the creating process that makes me work like this. Writing about the process you have to remember to think like a customer. What would they want to know about these creations, as well as telling how it was made, or what inspired the item?
When you learn on your own you will face many ups and downs. I’ve gotten so frustrated with it all I’ve considered quitting but after a good cry and a few days rest I found that I just can’t stop. You eventually learn to take some downtime and refresh yourself. Sometimes I take a month away from jewelry and create in other mediums, I always come back at it full of fresh ideas.
My advice to anyone looking to get into metalworking or starting their own business would be to join groups on Facebook and start asking questions. Watch videos on YouTube and talk to other artists and business owners. Attend craft shows and art shows and talk to the artists. I watch YouTube to learn more techniques, I read every book I can get my hands on from my local library about metalwork of any kind. Constantly educating myself on my metals and what they can do, and on everything, I need to know to sell online and in person. I even learned how to build my own displays for my jewelry and how to set up my booth display.
I want to share love and joy, by creating in metal. I want that joy to be reflected in each piece I send out into the world. I now can say with a huge smile, I have pieces of my work all over the world. From Chile to Ireland. From Alaska to almost every US state. I've been published a couple of times in magazines but what I'm most proud of is that through creating all these beautiful pieces over the past years I have come to find the beauty in ME personally. I have found my worth. I know my value and I feel I have found my Voice! I have become the woman I always looked up to. Surviving emotional and mental abuse from the hands of people that say they love you to truly finding Real Love. Using all of that to inspire and uplift other women and my own children. Hopefully encouraging others to be strong, to face life head-on and be true to their dreams.
Wayne gifted me more than a coin ring that day in 2011. He gifted me roots. A space to plant myself and grow into the strong, creative, determined and educated woman I am today.