Nancy Lee is an Indianapolis-based jewelry designer, specializing in handcrafting one-of-a-kind pieces from metals. Outside of her business, Nancy Lee Designs, Nancy is a full-time student, avid reader, poet and author of “The Complete Idiots Guide to Making Metal Jewelry.” We sat down with Nancy find out what books inspire her in her craft, education, and leisure.
Selected Poems: 1950-2012
A generation of Adrienne Rich’s poetry in your hands! Poems exploring sexuality, race, and class take shape over Rich’s lifetime of learning and discovery. Don’t miss “Orion,” “Planetarium,” and, for artists, see what Rich does with blunt scissors in “On Edges.” Genius. My copy is highlighted, underlined, dogeared and tabbed. I have found poetic inspiration in these pages, and artistic inspiration as well. Based on the poem “Diving Into the Wreck,” I am creating a placed setting in honor of Adrienne Rich, with a copper dinner plate with deep blue shades of kiln-fired enamel. The setting is inspired by Judy Chicago’s “The Dinner Party.” I hope to have everything ready by the First Friday Open House in May, which is also when I attend graduation!
This book was written by one of my great jewelry-making instructors, with whom I took several classes. Lucky me! He was the first to teach me about precision in jewelry making, and how to achieve it. With his help, I made a sterling silver hinged box with a lid that snaps closed with a satisfying “click.” It’s NFS (not for sale)! I got this book to teach myself how to create setting for stones and detailed instructions on how to set them. I used the book for a year before I saw John again, then asked him to sign it for me. It’s a treasure!
The Crystal Bible
The title describes it: it is a bible of sorts. Everything I need to know about colored gems, I can usually find in this book. I often search for the metaphysical properties of stones, and whether or not I use that information for marketing purposes, I still know what the properties are. I also get technical advice on the cuts and colors I might find in a variety of stones as well as softness or hardness, which is critical when fabricating a setting to use with a stone. You don’t want to create a setting that must be hammered, and then try to put in a stone that will not withstand that kind of pressure.
BRUCE G. KNUTH
Warning: This is not a how-to guide! It may look borrrring, but this reference guide is invaluable in my studio. I keep it right by my workbench. It is perpetually open to the page with a ring size guide that I use when measuring different gauges of metal for a ring. Other pages are chock-full of useful charts and diagrams and a glossary of terms. Indispensable.
A Room of One's Own
My former partner, Wug Laku, gave me this book for Christmas one year, and I cried. I still feel emotional when I hold it in my hands and read the inscription: “The New Year is your room to move around in.” I gain a sense of empowerment mixed with Woolf’s meandering, smart, stream-of-conscious writing around the idea of women having a room of their own. A rent-paid place where we can do our thing. With this, Woolf posits, “I need not hate any man; he cannot hurt me. I need not flatter any man; he has nothing to give me.” This is not a treatise of hate; it is one of intellectual and spiritual liberation for women.
Kyle Minor is one of my creative writing mentors at IUPUI. Through his instruction, I have been accidentally catapulted into writing a book (another book, totally different from the first). I was fearful of reading this book for many months, afraid I wouldn’t like it, at which time my hero worship would have come to a sad end. It turns out, the opposite thing happened. Buy this book! It is a grand book of short stories from Minor’s life, meandering from Florida to Haiti to the hills of Tennessee. It doesn’t seem possible that these giant stories can be contained in a small book. They are heavy. They are beauty. They are “meant to be read in order,” orders Minor in the front matter. Do what the man says.
Their Eyes Were Watching God
ZORA NEALE HURSTON
Thank you, Alice Walker (author of “The Color Purple” and more) for giving Zora Neale Hurston’s work a second life, and for buying a tombstone to mark her grave. Thank you, Rad Drew (my husband) for encouraging me to read this book long before I enrolled in school. Thank you, Professor Missy Kubitschek, for the opportunity to read this book in depth for a special class project. Thank you Professor Angenita Williams, for assigning it to me this semester, for a welcome third read. Dive into the story of Janie and Teacake and the blossoming pear tree and the Florida hurricane and the “sea [that] was walking the earth with a heavy heel.” Read it and rethink what it means to live with your whole entire heart.
A Wrinkle in Time
This was the very first book I read and loved that wasn’t a Nancy Drew Mystery. (Of course, I loved Nancy Drew mysteries because of the namesake—sharp readers will notice that my husband’s last name is Drew, and mine is not. Talk amongst yourselves). I so loved square-peg Meg! I related to her far more than the perfect Nancy Drew. Meg had wild feelings like me. Did that mean I could be brave like Meg, too? I loved that she rescued her father and the selectively mute Charles Wallace and brought them back through the tesseract, but to be honest Mrs. Whatsit kind of annoyed me. WARNING: AWIT is a gateway drug to Ray Bradbury/The Martian Chronicles
This is a glorious book of poems by my poetry mentor, Karen Kovacik. She taught my first class at IUPUI, Reading, Writing and Inquiry (where I wrote a literacy narrative that happened to reference the impact of L’Engle’s work). I studied Kovacik’s book of poems as a special project in Hannah Haas’ Intro to Poetry Writing class, and how lovely it was to dive deeply into Karen’s words. I still adore “The Art of Poetry,” in which Karen uses “blood-colored davenport” and “plush valentine” to describe a sofa floating off the Cleveland shore. Her sensual use of color and verb impregnate this book of lush poems, set in locations from Cleveland to Poland. She signed it for me, but it’s a gem even without her signature. Get your own copy.
Madame Curie: A Biography
My nerdy interest in science, female trailblazers, and Eastern Europe (I’m half Lithuanian) culminates in this biography about the discoverer of radium, two-time Nobel Prize winner Marie Curie. Her story is all the more compelling due to the risk her family took to educate her in secret while Poland was under the red fist of Russia. Her mother died when she was ten. So meager were the family funds that Curie had to wait years to go to school in Paris. Once there, she lived in an unheated attic and fainted from hunger often. Her discovery of radium, with the assistance of her husband, Pierre, earned her a Nobel Prize, a first for a woman. During World War I, Curie developed mobile X-Ray units called “Little Curies.” The units were paid for with money donated and run by women, including her teenaged daughter Irene, because the military wouldn’t fund her. Thousands of lives were saved by her ingenuity. This is only one paragraph. Read more about her!