Maven to Know: Nancy Lee

Artisan jeweler and enamelist Nancy Lee, owner of Nancy Lee Designs, gives us the scoop on her career and the helmet exhibit that’s currently showcasing her work.
Featured Image Nancy Lee MAVEN TO KNOW

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Nancy Lee

Looking for a breathtaking, one-of-a-kind piece of jewelry? Check out the work of metalsmith, goldsmith, and enamelist Nancy Lee. You can find her jewelry and enamels in her gallery in the Circle City Industrial Complex (open by appointment or during First Friday open house events), as well as at Art IN Hand Gallery in Zionsville and on her website, Let’s hear from you now, Nancy!

My Maven Superpower is … Extreme attention to detail.

A fun fact about me is … I graduated from college in 2020 with a degree in English Creative Writing and a minor in Women’s Studies. Since there was no graduation ceremony due to COVID-19, my husband filmed himself giving me a fake diploma while we both wore Groucho glasses with fake mustaches.

A necklace by Nancy Lee

The skill I most want to learn is … Doing the splits.

The best book I’ve read lately is … “Portrait of a Thief” by Grace Li and “Cloud Cuckoo Land” by Anthony Doerr.

My first job was as … A lifeguard. I owned a bikini for every day of the week.

Nancy Lee making a ring

My favorite nonprofit to support is … Planned Parenthood.

Self-care habit I swear by is … Yoga every morning and a walk every night. 

I feel most confident when … I’ve slept for eight hours, exercised, and eaten well. And am wearing a great blouse.

A ring by Nancy Lee

The best career advice I can offer is … Do what you love. Until you make money at it, do whatever it takes to pay the bills. 

Favorite purchase lately is … The many art classes I’ve taken online at Pocosin Arts. Oh, and my first pair of shorts in a long time, from J.Jill. 

My favorite local restaurant dish is … Salmon from Salt on Mass. 

The thing I’ve been binging lately is …Only Murders in the Building” on Hulu.

A Maven you should know is … Faith Blackwell. The woman is everywhere and does everything! And she’s a kind human being. She inspires me.

Nancy Lee with her helmet

The thing I’ve achieved lately that I’d like to celebrate with the Maven community is …  I was excited to be selected as one of nine artists to create a helmet for “Sleek: The Art of the Helmet” exhibition at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum (IMSM), guest curated by Amiah Mims. Our prompt was, “If you were a race car driver, what would your helmet look like?” I knew mine would involve leaves, because they have been appearing in my enamel work a lot lately. As a way to connect my project to Indiana, I chose the tulip poplar, the Indiana state tree. As a way to connect my project to the Speedway, I chose to add the Schwitzer logo to the back of my helmet. Louie Schwitzer was involved in the early days of the Speedway, was a philanthropist, and built the building where I have my studio, now known as the Circle City Industrial Complex. My work is titled “Wind through 500 Poplars,” and is currently on display at the IMSM through Jan. 8. The helmets are currently being auctioned off as a fundraiser for the Museum.

What’s next for me is … I’m well versed in jewelry making, so my current goal is learning more about enameling on a larger scale. I purchased my enameling kiln in 2016, thanks to an Individual Artist Grant from the Indiana Arts Commission, and have been working on learning new techniques and experimenting with ideas ever since. I have made several 2D, wall mounted works of art since then. The IMSM exhibition was my first chance to do something dimensional with my enameling, and it was a fun challenge. So, more of that! I’m also working on plans for a backsplash behind our kitchen range; we will see where that kind of project takes me. What can I say? I love standing in front of a 1600-degree kiln!


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Stephanie Groves is the Executive Editor of Indy Maven.

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