Mere pocket change to most, Stacey Lee Webber, ’05, uses coins to create astonishing works of art.
Cutting copper pennies by hand with a jeweler’s saw, Ms. Webber solders them into sheets she uses to shape hollow, ghostlike re-creations of tools — from hacksaws and hammers to a pair of shovels now on permanent display at Smithsonian’s Renwick Gallery. Recently, she switched to power tools, complete with cords and plugs. They are all made with pennies minted before 1982 (after that date, pennies are mostly zinc) and purchased in 20-pound bags on eBay.
The painstaking labor she puts into these sculptures is a reflection on America’s blue-collar work ethic, Ms. Webber said. It’s a theme she began addressing in her work as an MFA student at the University of Wisconsin and continues to explore in the 2,000-square-foot Philadelphia studio she shares with her husband, a fellow artist.
In fall 2017, Ball State’s School of Art hosted an exhibit of Ms. Webber’s art in the Atrium Gallery, inviting the artist to give a lecture at the closing reception. She also critiqued students’ work and spoke to them about making and selling art.
“Stacey has been remarkably successful at building her own business and thriving from the sales of her artwork,” said Jessica Calderwood, an associate professor of art in the metals program. “Students are interested in hearing her story and understanding the road she traveled to reach that level of success in her career.”
Taylor Fentz, a senior metals major, was impressed.
“Sometimes it is hard for me to fully believe that I could have a successful career making things that I am passionate about,” Taylor said. “It’s nice to meet someone like Stacey who has graduated from the same university I’m attending, studied under some of the same professors and has gone on to become the sensation that she is.”
A full-circle moment
Ms. Webber said her campus visit “really felt like a homecoming and a full-circle moment.”
She grew up in Indianapolis, a self-described “artsy kid who could make things.” At Ball State, she studied with Patricia Nelson, George and Frances Ball Distinguished Professor of Art (now emerita).
“Pat Nelson really swept me up and showed me metals, and between just loving the material and being frustrated by the material and loving Pat Nelson, I knew I had a major,” Ms. Webber said.
Her dream to be a full-time artist came true in 2015. Along the way, she learned what pieces moved people. From her experience working for a jewelry store, she launched her own line of handcrafted jewelry and accessories, now sold at shops across the country and on her website.
Ms. Webber exhibits her artwork internationally and tours America, giving lectures, workshops and selling her art at trade shows. She also strives to grow as an artist, challenging herself with increasingly complex pieces and exploring new forms. For her new Specimen Series, she delicately slices objects such as a padlock or gun and purposefully arranges the pieces in resin, “pushing the viewer into seeing them from a new perspective.”