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Studio Conversation with Metalworker Lane Walkup

Posted on 24 June 2016

A few years back, Lane Walkup moved her life and her studio from North Carolina to Portland, Oregon. Bending steel wire into playful shapes, characters, and words, Lane's work is unlike anything we've seen. We've been longtime fans, so it was a pleasure to hang out, see what's she's working on, and talk about Southern Hospitality and Beyoncé...

How did all the metal work start for you? 
My dad was a welder in his early 20s while living in NYC, and has always been into making things like furniture and decorative pieces. One day I was bored of trying to paint and asked him to teach me how to weld, so he showed me how to weld “beads” and I started joining scrap metal together. I started blacksmithing soon after that because I wanted to bend and shape objects and not just join them together. After blacksmithing for awhile I progressed into areas like casting and sculptural components. What pulled you away from the more traditional, structured metalwork to the playful, loose, and instinctual stuff you’re making now?
Furthering my technical skills allowed me to become more creative in my building approach, which enabled me to form ideas in a way I wasn’t able to in the beginning. Plus, the longer I do metalwork the less I feel I have to prove to people, so now I’m just getting weirder with it.

What inspires a piece? Images, films, experiences, or something else?
I don’t really know. I think it’s just what people take in on daily subconscious level that evokes some sort of emotional response that inspires the things one makes. I have noticed I’ve copied the style of a lot of stuff I had when I was a kid, mainly in how certain things made me feel when I was first discovering what I liked. I had this wacky fruit backpack I looooved when I was in, like, 3rd grade. I can make pieces now that make me feel the same way that backpack did. Usually I’m trying to simulate that feeling of thrill whenever I finish something.

You mentioned fun being essential to your work? Why is that?
Escapism!What kind of music do you listen to? While you work? And when you’re not working?
I listen to tooons of podcasts. Musically - new wave, soul and hip hop basically 24/7. 

What are your big aspirations for your work? Where would you like this work to lead?
Ideally I would find an avenue that was less about selling each individual piece on a website, and more about building full conceptual ideas- like ornamental or functional installations for spaces with people. I would also love to make props for photo or movie sets one day! I currently have a part time job that allows me to make stuff I enjoy and not just pump out things to pay rent, but I would love to be self-employed one day in the near future. I can crank work out all day long, but I am trying hard to learn about marketing and business as I go. It’s a scary process trying to break into any creative field since people inhale visual content like sugar these days, but I’m remaining positive!Who are a few artists you’re inspired by?
Alexander Calder, Tom Tom Club, Selena, Oprah, Keith Haring, Biz Markie, Beyoncé, Barbarella, chef’s on Chef’s Table, Caroline Walkup.

Last one, if you weren’t making things out of metal? What would you be doing instead?
I got a degree in Nutrition and Public Health, but I didn’t enjoy working in the field as I learned more about the foundations on which healthcare is built in America...so, maybe trying to be one of Beyoncé’s backup dancers?

You can check out more of Lane's work on her website.
And don't miss her and other great PDX Makers at our July 7 Pop-Up.
Check out everything Lane was wearing and using in our metalwork collection.

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