Interview with Nancy D Lane

Interview with Nancy D Lane

Nancy D Lane creates her art under the name NancyDee Sculptures. She was recently interviewed by Elle-May Michael, owner of Incube8r Gallery where Nancy exhibits. The interview follows, along with photos of several of NancyDee’s artworks and brooches. These show the variety of mediums she works in.

Tell us a little about your background and how you got started.

My art background has been eclectic, including training in painting, weaving, ceramics and jewellery design. My current passion for creating wall sculptures all started with a long, flat, narrow piece of metal. I found it on the street on my way to the gym and picked it up. What was it, I wondered, and where it had come from?

Then I started finding similar pieces on random streets at random times. Soon I began consciously looking for them to see if I could establish a pattern. Were they from telephone poles? Street lights? Building sites? Attached to cabling or wiring?

While looking for these ‘mystery objects’, I started seeing an amazing array of metal on the road. There were nuts, bolts, washers, nails, screws, bobby pins and rusted wire – you name it! I had never noticed how much there was before.

I became intent on finding a way to reuse and repurpose these found objects, many pleasingly crumpled or rusted. Then I hit upon the idea of wall sculptures.

And about those first inspirational ‘mystery objects’? Russell from my gym class saw me picking one up. He asked what I was planning to do with that old wire from the street cleaner brushes. Aha–mystery finally solved!

What do you create? What materials and techniques do you use?

Mostly I create assemblage wall sculptures from pieces of wood, metal, tiles and plastic that I find on the streets. My husband jokes that I have become a ‘bag lady’. Whenever I go walking, I pick up objects from the gutter and take them home in a plastic bag. I sort the objects by type into containers.

I start each of my wall sculptures by experimenting. First I lay out bits of metal or plastic on a board or a tile. I usually leave my works sitting for several days, meanwhile adding or removing or rearranging the objects.

The reasons they take so long is that I like to to observe the effect of a layout in different light and from different angles. When I have played around and finally feel satisfied with the aesthetics of a work, I glue the pieces down. My ‘tool of choice’ to remove excess glue is a wooden toothpick.

But now you create brooches as well, don’t you?

Yes, that has been a more recent development. A friend I made in New Orleans through Instagram encouraged me to ‘think small’.

I finally did when I had the opportunity to enter the Australian National Brooch Show in 2019. It was so much fun that I’ve been making brooches ever since. They are all rather unusual, very much one-of-a-kind!

You seem to have a strong commitment to repurposing or recycling.

Yes, I am very committed to sustainability in my art. Creating art using only the materials others have lost or discarded is a continuing and exciting challenge.

My hope is that my creative use of unloved and unwanted trash will inspire people to think more seriously about the environment. I would like my works to remind everyone of the 5 Rs: refuse, reduce, reuse, repurpose and recycle.

So everything you use in your art is someone else’s trash?

Unfortunately, I do have to purchase builders’ adhesive to glue my works. However, I try to make up for this by donating part of my sales to not-for-profit organisations.

In 2017 I supported the Lao Friends Children’s Hospital, and in 2018, the Music for Everyone School. Both are located in Luang Prabang, Laos. In 2019 I held an art benefit for the Cultural Studies Series, which is a group in Vientiane that supports Lao culture. The proceeds from sales of the artworks were used to sponsor the publication of a Lao book written by and for Lao young adults.

What inspires you? Who and what are your influences?

Some of the arrangements I create are inspired by the skyline in Melbourne or other cities where I have worked or travelled. I especially appreciate the views at sunrise and sunset. These works I call cityscapes.

What also inspires me are the found objects themselves. Sometimes I place them in juxtaposition – for example, locks and keys, washers and wires, or bolts and stones, as in Boltstone City Blues 2.

At other times, I emphasise their rusted, scratched or variegated metal surfaces. For example, City by the Bay 5 uses rusted screws as buildings, while City of Gold features golden-coloured pieces of metal.

The artists who have most inspired me are Rosalie Gascoigne and Lorraine Connelly-Northey. Both have worked with weathered wood and rusted metals that they salvaged, although the scale of their works is often much larger than mine.

What is your day job? Or do you work full-time on your art?

Currently I work part-time as an artist. I am very lucky to have been accepted as an artist in residence at River Studios. This facility has studios for 60 artists across a wide range of mediums. It is managed by Creative Spaces for the City of Melbourne.

Being an artist in residence has provided a great opportunity for me to meet other artists doing amazing things. For example, this includes creating beautiful lampwork beads, painting large-scale pictures of women from the 1930s on cardboard boxes, handcrafting handbags from recycled leather, and screen-printing fabrics with botanical illustrations.

I also work part-time teaching pronunciation to professionals, whose second (or sometimes third or fourth) language is English. In the past couple years, my students have come from Burma, Chile, China, Switzerland, Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia.

In addition, I am a freelance editor. Recently I have been editing everything from a screenplay for an animated film about fruit bats, to a research article about creating biodegradable hydraulic fluid from jatropha and soybean oils.

Much as I love Melbourne, I dislike Melbourne winters. For the past several years, I have worked as a volunteer, usually between July and September, in Thailand, Laos, Vanuatu or Vietnam.

How did you get involved with Creativity Cluster?

After I retired from my previous career, I started working seriously as an artist. I thought that it would be good fun to share my ideas with other like-minded people.

That made me decide to teach a course through the University of the Third Age a few years ago. It was about upscaling art from a hobby to a second career. Several of the people in this class decided they wanted to work together to organise exhibitions and workshops, and I became the facilitator.

We have been very lucky with the venues where we have exhibited so far. In addition to the exhibitions at Renew Geelong and the Joel Gallery in Altona, we were encouraged to offer artist talks and workshops, which is what we all enjoy doing.

For our exhibition planned for The Dirty Dozen, we were extremely grateful to receive Covid-19 Arts Grant funding from the City of Melbourne to stage this exhibition online as well during the Covid restrictions.

Where else can we find you online?

In addition to being part of the Creativity Cluster website, I have my own NancyDee Sculptures website.

I display my wall sculptures and 3D sculptures on Instagram at @NancyDeeSculptures, and my brooches at @NancyDeeBrooches.

I also sell my brooches online through Incube8r Gallery, and from the online shop on my NancyDee Sculptures website.

Do you have any other creative outlets?

Whenever I travel to Luang Prabang in Laos, I love making jewellery with Nicthana at her shop called Garden of Eden. I particularly like working with unusual stones from the Mekong River.

What about your favourite book?

I am very interested in languages and how languages frame a person’s view of the world. I’ve never become fluent in any language except English, but am studying Lao and Spanish for fun at the moment.

One of the most interesting books I’ve read on this topic is Daniel Everett’s Don’t Sleep, There Are Snakes. It is about the language used by the Piraha Indians in the Amazon jungle.

Do you have future plans for your art?

My works at the moment are usually less than 20x20cm. This makes them easier to display at Incube8r Gallery and less expensive to ship.

However, I am starting to make larger works, up to a metre, which is more challenging. In particular, I’m planning a series called In the Drawer. I’ve collected about 20 desk and bureau drawers, and I’m creating works inside these.

I also found I loved working with alcohol ink when I attended a workshop run by Deidre Ogilvie, one of the Creativity Cluster artists. I have exhibited my works on Yupo paper in the Contemporary Art Society A4 exhibition, but I also want to start working on glass.

What advice would you give to young emerging artists?

I would advise them to stay creative, no matter what their ‘day job’. Sadly, it’s not often possible to make an adequate living as a full-time artist. However, it is important not to lose the artistic spark, to keep enjoying and exploring their own creativity.

In addition, emerging artists need to develop their ‘sharing’ skills. It’s important that they are willing to talk about their art, why they create what they do, what messages they are trying to convey.

They also need to believe in themselves. They must recognise their own talent and seek opportunities to exhibit, present talks and tours, and teach others.

Nancy D Lane prepares for a found object assemblage workshop in Geelong
Handbuilt ceramic vase
Street cleaning bristle that triggered Nancy Lane‘s love for found object assemblage
Forest for the Trees, miscellaneous found objects from Melbourne’s streets
Circles Within Circles Within Circles, exhibited in Immersion at Frankston Gallery
Cylindrical City, brooch
Yoga 2, brooch
With the poster for my first solo exhibition in Luang Prabang, Laos
Sunrise, Sunset, Luang Prabang, found metal on painted cement chunks
Boltstone City Blues 2, created from found bolts and stones
City by the Bay 5, rusted screws and sheet metal on tile
City of Gold 4, created from gold-coloured metal, including watchbands, found in Vientiane, Laos
Balloons or Bombs?, created jointly with Julia Zoellner at River Studios
Cylindrical City 1, natural board and cylindrical metal objects
Up, Up and Away 2
Wire-wrapped pendants from Mekong River stones, made at Garden of Eden in Luang Prabang
Temple Contemplation
Roses Are Red, alcohol ink painting in Contemporary Art Society of Victoria A4 exhibition
It’s in the Drawer: Honeycomb