Saturday, March 8, 2014

Minnesota Artist Lori Norman on Creating Art with Found Materials

Below is a guest post written by visual artist, Lori Norman. Lori was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota and still resides in Anoka County. She is married to a patient man who indulges the visions in Lori's head that result in her unique artwork. She has raised two seemingly normal children, has no credit card debt, and regrets not having the opportunity to ask her Swedish maternal grandfather and Swedish paternal great grandfather, "Of all places, why Minnesota?"

Lori's family is supportive by presenting her with unusual discards to challenge her creativity and organizational skills. She dreams of winning the lottery so she can have a shed dedicated to housing numerous odd findings for her art projects and reclaim the dining room table for its intended purpose. A true Minnesotan, she enjoys each season and frequently complains about the excessive heat or excessive cold, waiting for the day the weather is "just right."

Lori is new to the Twin Cities art scene and has had three public showings of her work. She will be participating in this year's Art A Whirl in Minneapolis, Minnesota in May 2014. She sells her work on Etsy, and you can see more samples of her art on, an online gallery of work by Minnesota artists.

In the first-person essay below, we gain some inside perspective on Lori's process as an artist.


I work with "found" or vintage items and add hand-crafted elements to create interesting scenes or characters. Used objects have their own personalities or "patina."

It is hard to put my artwork into just one category. Some pieces have a semi-steampunk style, and others have a whimsical folk art style. My art is meant to be fun. Because the materials I combine are not found on conventional store shelves (but rather at estate auctions, thrift stores, or yard sales), it would be difficult to duplicate.

I enjoy watching people recognize the individual components of a piece and seeing the smiles. I am most often asked, "How do you come up with that?" And I guess the answer is really that I have developed a way to look at things differently. Where a sketch artist sees objects as lines to be drawn, I see the things I choose for my art not only as they are, but for what they could become. Using recognizable elements in a unique way draws people into the piece, evokes memories, and generates conversation. The artwork becomes personal to the viewer.

Sometimes my inspiration is the object, in itself. For example, an vintage manual typewriter element may look like a bird's feet, or an clip-on earring may look like the body of an insect. I might also begin with an idea based on a phrase, song, or story, and I'll seek items to illustrate the concept. As I begin a piece, new ideas may emerge as I work with the different elements. The end result may not be what I initially intended it to be.

The pieces combined can be surprising. And the materials I use to craft additional elements can also be unexpected. Although I often use polymer clay, the supplies I keep in bulk include shrink plastic, wire, markers, ink, resin, and paint. Paper is also an option and is more versatile than people may realize. I have also, by trial and error, learned which glues work best with different elements.

Perhaps by necessity, I learned at an early age that one person's junk may become my next treasure. It became fun to search or stumble upon a great item at a great price, and even more fun when people admire it without knowing its history. Weekends of thrift store shopping, visiting garage sales, and attending auctions for fun prepared me to "go off the beaten path" in creating my sculptures. After a period of upcycling functional pieces, it was only natural for me to become interested in assembly art. I continue to enjoy "junk shopping." Thrift stores have become my art supply venue.

Thanks, Lori!

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