Featured Member

Each month a new Featured Member is chosen from the completed member profiles on our website. Their interview and work is highlighted on our blog and social media. Visit our archive of past Featured Members.

October 2017

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Ed Lay

El Cerrito, Ca

President’s Note:
This past week, the metalsmithing community suffered a great loss. Long-time MAG member Ed Lay lost his battle with cancer. He was an amazing metalsmith, mentor, collaborator, and friend. In his honor, we are reposting his Member of the Month interview. We miss you.

Tell us a little about yourself.

I have a lifelong interest in education. For 30 years, I wrote programming languages for kids and teachers at the School of Education at UC Berkeley. Now I teach metalsmithing, stone setting and enameling at the Richmond Art Center in the East Bay.

What is your favorite tool and why?

The hammer. I find it the most expressive tool. I think of a lot of my work as a conversation with the metal and hammers are my voice. From rhythmic heavy forging to shape and form to the light caress as I refine an edge, the vocabulary of a hammer is enormous.

Which materials do you create with most and what is your attraction to using them?

I work mostly in copper and enamel. My initial attraction to both was that there seem to be so much to learn that I would never get to the end of it. Currently, I also like the interplay between the metal and the glass. The color of the glass can change depending on the condition of the metal and the color of the enamel. One particular advantage is that copper firescale can act as a pigment. This allows me to capture marks of the metalsmithing process in the glass.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?

Everywhere. Nature of course, but looking at nature, I try to discern underlying patterns and processes which might be appropriated into my work. There are patterns all around us, both natural and man made. I have (or will) made pieces inspired by sources like the changing moire patterns of chain link fences on a pedestrian overpass as I drive underneath it or the miniaturization of architectural metalwork. A wonderful book which captures this attitude is: “How to Use Your Eyes” by James Elkins

How long have you been working in metals and what brought you into this field?

I have been working in metal for 16 years. I fell into it by accident. After years of taking by daughter to art classes and dropping her off, I thought I might take a class myself. The metal studio is next to the kids studio and the rest is history.

What piece of advice would you give to someone just starting out in metals?

Patience. Take the time to master basic skills. It will be longer than you think because you are not just training the mind, but the eye and hand as well. Even if you intend to 3D print everything, hand fabrication will provide you with an intuition as to what is possible. Embrace mistakes, they appear at the edge of knowledge and show that you are learning. Over time, they can lead you to your own style. Never stop learning.

What has been the biggest challenge for you as a metal artist and have you overcome it, or how are you working to overcome it?

Time. I addressed the issue in 2 ways. Many of my demos for my classes are dual use. With some extra finishing, many of them end up for sale at the gallery that carries my work.  Also, explicitly scheduling studio time is important.

Favorite resource/vendor or website you would like to share?

Favorite Vendor: McMaster-Karr – Great place for obscure needs like specialty steels.

Favorite Website: ganoksin.com and the Orchid mailing list is the largest most comprehensive jewelry resource on the internet.