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Peggy Foy: Metals with Meaning

At first glance, Peggy Foy’s studio is your typical maker space. You see a display case in the front window and rows of shelving tucked into the rafters above. We reflect on how the building’s history has come full circle. Billboards in old photographs once boasted silversmiths working within this very space in decades past. Foy finds solace in continuing their legacy.

Relocating from Atlanta to Seattle, Foy was in search of new horizons. Knowing there was a thriving metals community, especially in the Pioneer Square arts district, Foy explains “It’s really kind of a dream I ended up in this building. This is what I moved to Seattle to do.” She’s been in the space since its inception in 2011.

“The great thing about Seattle is that there’s art everywhere; whether it’s public art and sculpture, or just passing by storefront windows.”

Peggy enjoys the small pleasures of huge windows and high ceilings in her space. Being in the middle of a neighborhood with vibrant urban life adds to her experience as an artist in the ‘57 Biscayne. She enthuses about her great neighbors and the team spirit among the artists, cheering each other on. With the addition of new jewelers in the building, Peggy looks forward to opportunities of collaboration and bringing more community spirit into the space. Her favorite part about being in the ‘57 Biscayne space is its frequent art walks. Usually involving live music, she notes how the expansion of the third floor has created an element of critical mass; making more space and art for guests to explore.

Metals truly are Foy’s life work. For years she was active in the Seattle Metals Guild, serving as its president for a stretch. In addition to this, she teaches, saying ““I’m a big advocate of the arts, everyone should be doing their thing. That’s why I teach.” She took the most recent opportunity of being laid off from her day job to immerse herself in another attempt at full time artistry.

Peggy explains, “It’s been a rocky road, but I don’t know anyone who’s had it easy. I think that’s part of being an artist.”

Foy’s designs are influenced by the art of pre-Christian Europe, the medieval, and the occult. She gushes, “I love it when people wear my jewelry all the time, that’s the best thing.” Aesthetics aside, she designs with balance, making pieces which lack sharp edges and are meticulously crafted to last. My work is about having meaning. Wearing jewelry is having something like a talisman. The embedded symbolism is an ancient approach to the way we make jewelry.” Adornment is deep in our psyches, such as the way you present yourself to the world. This is where Peggy draws inspiration for her work.

Look out for Foy’s upcoming bridal/engagement line on the horizon, using ethically sourced pieces that are unique to her style.

Lin-Lin Mao

Lin-Lin Mao works in 2-dimensional and multidimensional spaces and sees painting as the act of putting marks onto or into a space. A mark could be a strand of yarn, a loop of crochet, an origami crane, or a dirty plate from last night’s dinner. Lin-Lin’s art work invites a viewer to investigate and discover, and to interpret the work in their own way with what they bring to the conversation. Her multi-dimensional “paintings” use human scaled rooms so that viewers can move around to investigate the work from different perspectives. She received her MA in Fine Arts from Bath Spa University in the United Kingdom in 2017 and has since produced works within the UK and United States. You can find more of her work online at http://linlinmao.com/

What are your feelings towards the space here in the Good Arts Building?

When looking for a studio space, I received a notification from Space Finder and remembered it as one of the places I would love to have a studio house. When I saw there were 13 new spaces, I immediately emailed Jane and then I went in the next day. She showed me all the spaces and I was just super excited that there was a place that I would be able to have all my own. 

I just feel so fortunate. This space, it feels like a very safe place for artists. I think Jane has done a lot of that. I know she’s done a lot of work to make sure that it is a safe place because she’s an artist and understands and has experienced this thing. I feel she really has selected a good variety of different types of artists. When I was in art school around the other students, one thing I knew was if I didn’t have a studio among other artists, I would miss that type of interaction and learning to cross pollinate. Doing art can be very solitary, but to walk down the hall and pop in and see what people are working on –  there’s so much talent in the world, you know?

What relationship does your art have with the space here?

Jane knew that I had worked with installation before. This (above) was from my final thesis project. I had set up two installations and both of them used crocheted yarn. So when she mentioned to me that it would be nice to have something under the skylights on this floor as well as the stairwell, I was just so excited. This is one of the pieces I had made when I was in art school and it was one of my thesis project installations—but that piece was in a very small room. I hung yarn from it and that installation touched the floor. When I thought about it here, it would be very high up, but it’d be nice to resurrect it and see what it looks like in this space.

And so that’s what I did. And I was really pleased because I feel like having that piece now in a new space and not on the floor, I had to figure out, how am I going to hang this here where people could actually walk underneath, since it’s a hallway. I ended up rolling up the bottom threads to make them more even so that people could walk under it. If you’re walking under it and you look up, you see the art work in a different perspective. And I hadn’t even thought about that. Why I like to create art is when you try to adapt something for a different environment, I feel like many times I do learn something other than what I first intended. So with that piece, that was a learning experience thinking, “Oh my gosh, this art piece is still giving.” Because even last year when I first created it, it was actually the first installation I had ever done. Before that, I used to just paint. What I learned in art school was with contemporary art, it really is about materials and anything really goes. And so then I started to thinking about using yarn as art and that opened up a whole new world for me.

With the piece in the stairwell, that was another opportunity. I feel like as a creator, you’re always learning, you’re problem solving. When Jane had asked me to do an installation with that space, well, first of all, I started overthinking it, and then I realized, “Oh, I have a thousand cranes from last year when I was at art school.” The reason why I did the 1000 cranes is just, you know, the feeling that a lot of us have these days about how things are going the wrong direction in terms of the why. Why is there still a war or global warming? So the thousand cranes is a Japanese legend that if you make 1000 cranes and make a wish then your wish will come true. So that’s my motivation for folding the 1000 cranes – my wish for good things to start happening for the world.

What materials do you enjoy working with?

If I bring you back to my first memories as a child, my first memories were as a four year old looking at something that was this bag that I thought was fascinating. And then I learned later it was done by something called crochet: taking yarn or string and making this interesting bag. That’s how also I felt about origami. I was born in Taiwan and I was just fascinated that you could take a square sheet of paper and turn it into something just like yarn into a bag. So I had been crocheting since I was seven or eight years old, and my mother crocheted. So I just watched her and learned from her. The last year when I was in art school I learned that art is more than just painting or sculptures or drawings – now people use yarn. I immediately thought about crochet.  Another reason why I like crochet as opposed to knitting, is that these days with all the technology and everything – I really like the handmade. What I learned through my study and research in art school is that there are no crochet machines. There are knitting machines that can copy human knitting, but there is no machine that can copy hand crochet. So that’s another reason why I want to continue crocheting. Because for me it’s about the handmade, about knowing things, and making things with my hands.

What concepts are you currently exploring?

When I was younger I would illustrate stories I had in my head—it was a form of learning and exploring. Now as an adult I kind of take that further. When I worked on these two pieces—these are my sisters—I used paper plates as palettes. And when I was looking at these palettes, I thought, “I can’t discard them, these are beautiful.” So in this painting, I put them in here because I’m questioning both: What’s art? The intended, the sisters, or what’s in this plate? What is the conscious or superconscious here intending to do with this? And the subconscious is that I’m mixing the colors and making some decisions. But afterwards it’s really pretty. And so what I’m doing is I’m saving all my paper palettes from the last two years. And I realized the plates, some had plastic on them,  so you can pull it off and look at the reverse. I feel like I’m mining, I’m just discovering the beauty that is. 

Responses edited & condensed from comments made during an interview.




Liz Ewings

Liz Ewings creates semi abstract paintings of plankton collected from the sea photographed under a microscope in a science lab. She believes that art has the power to change how we see the world, and wants to inspire people to appreciate the 70% of it that’s covered by water. She is on a mission to show the beauty and diversity of the inhabitants of the ocean – both large and small! Liz has a love for whales, and after experiencing the ocean’s gentle giants in Australia, she was determined to learn more about them. She returned to Seattle to study natural science illustration and oceanography at the University of Washington and has since combined her love of art and love of science with her works. You can read more about her artistic adventures on http://www.lizewings.com/ and see her work in the Good Arts Gallery at Cherry Street Coffee House through April 2019.

How did you first get introduced to the studios for ’57 Biscayne?

I took classes from Jane at the Pratt Fine Arts Center. I then started coming to her life drawing group at 619 Western. When she moved into the Good Arts Building I took classes from her in her studio and kept coming her life drawing sessions. With the studio I’m in now I never saw anybody around it, so I just started to ask about the space. What’s, what’s been going with that studio? Is anybody in there? Is it just ghosts? I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s some cool paint ghosts. There probably are some ghosts. Yes.

When the studio was available I wasn’t quite ready to commit just yet, so somebody else was in here for a year and then it came up again and I thought, “its mine!”, and I’ve been here ever sense. My studio space before was my kitchen. So it’s really nice because I can leave projects out, I can work on an entire painting at once.

Why does the ocean inspire you?

I’ve always enjoyed drawing and painting since I was young. When I was in school there were programs in fiber arts and I ended up transferring and getting a degree in apparel design and working in that industry for 18 years and then I changed directions because I sort of fell in love with whales. I came back to Seattle and worked with natural sciences, but I have always been interested in art, but I ended up in oceanography school with a second bachelor’s degree in oceanography. I eventually came to the conclusion that I would rather make art about plankton.  I just thought they were really interesting when I was looking at them in school. Some of them are really beautiful or weird. They’re microscopic organisms in the ocean and most people don’t even know what they look like or what they are. So it just seemed like it would be an interesting concept to explore, and it’s something that isn’t often brought to life through arts.


What is your current artistic process?

Right now, I am working with phytoplankton, in particular diatoms which are little single celled photosynthetic plankton that have of shells made out of glass. I want to paint them as though they were a flower portrait. So on land, totally out of context. I’ve been painting glasses to try and figure out how light reflects and how the shadows are cast. I’ve been thinking,  “how does that work?” It’s a living creature as well. They’re really tiny, so I want to do big paintings of these little tiny things. As I paint, I look at the different colors. How do these colors work together? Which composition do I like best? Do I like the idea or should I try something different? You know, every idea is not the best. You sort of have to let the bad ones out to get the good one.

To gather the plankton for my pieces, I used to volunteer and work with a group oceanography project.  I started doing this when I was in oceanography school and I’ve kept it up over the years. One of the things we do are plankton tows. So I take those plankton, while they’re still alive, to the UW School of Oceanography and photograph them under microscopes. The species change seasonally, or whether you’re close to fresh water or salt water. I really like going out in spring because that is when the big blooms are.

What is your dream project?

Well, I’ve been thinking a lot over the past couple of years about how to make an installation of plankton. Perhaps a light installation controlled by a computer that changes with the tide. I think it would be cool to have a full room of plankton or have something representative of them. To imagine if you were a whale going through a school of plankton with krill all around, lit up and moving. I have seen videos of this and just thought “How cool is that”.  If you could walk through a room and the plankton or the lights are getting out of your way, as though you were a fish or a whale. I would love to bring that into the human experience.

What advice would you give artists that are currently looking to continue their craft?

Do it because you love it. It took a little while for me to get to the point where I felt comfortable doing exactly what I wanted to do. I spent so much time just doing things just because it was my job or because I needed to get paid. It’s really sort of freeing to do something weird and creative just because I want to do it.