About Me

I’m one of those maker types. My general ease and purpose – in truth my deepest sense of spiritual rightness – is fed assembling objects and lost in projects creating harmonious beauty (with good tools of course). Utility is pretty cool in process and necessary in outcome. We need utile beauty as a species I think. Lamps are a natural trajectory born from my early school arts, through 31 years of oil painting on an almost daily basis, 20 years of design and computer graphics, and building a custom timber-frame home from the drawings up in Southern Vermont. Oh and gardens too. It’s been a life of gratifying self-expression and I’m just getting started!

My childhood was spent growing up on military bases largely without a TV and predominately in elaborate imaginary playtime dramas with my two sisters, limitless neighbor kids and relatively few props. We used our words. I spent the ages of 6 through 10 in Japan with my restless Canadian mother who was always prowling for the next immersion in the foreign culture well. When not playing we spent a lot of time touring the highlights of local Japanese culture in the tense late years of the Vietnam War. My memories are of playing for hours with little supervision and boredom not even crossing our minds; of Japanese monster movies and angry youth protesters marching outside the perimeter of our base; of toy stores and outdoor markets jammed with manufactured eye candy that also made absolute “high design“ sense. All this tempered with visits to classically quiet parks with a pervasion of Asian precision that spoke to the budding artist of pattern language. The Japanese fix everything in a gesture that bows to both the manmade and natural – resolved within ritual form.

Then I moved to Washington DC for my teenage years. More protests. Although they were the less adamant, early 70’s versions of Johnny come lately hippies vocalizing for legalized pot, baby harp seals and nuclear disarmament. More classic parks and monuments and the wealth of a national art collection were just a public bus ride from home. My early years and placement surely engendered my paradoxical orientation toward a fringe, bucking the tide lifestyle and an operating reverence for the traditional arts and fine craftsmanship.

When I went off to SUNY at Purchase in 1980 – New York University’s flagship art campus – my passion for making art was firmly rooted as a life course. Yet I discovered that I craved the rigors of a classical training and was enrolled in an institution purposefully powering the dialectics of post-modern conceptual art against foundational realism. I could exhibit a big pile of debris and write 10 single spaced pages to justify it, but I could not find a model to paint. So I left in my senior year to study at the National Academy and The Art Students League in NYC for six years. Both were studio schools built on the academic European atelier tradition of studying with the same teacher until you got it right. There I could paint the same model for six weeks, and honed my eye/hand/materials chops to a level that eventually allowed me to cross over completely into a boundary world between the overlays of expression and execution. My art training resolved into art making that married, and still does, precision rendition with the process of intuitive expression and mixed materials.

After 9 years in NYC I moved to Southern Vermont… just the perfect little hub of hippie, crafty, homespun, liberal small towns in an unabashedly beautiful rural setting; with a little bit of work ethic and facing-the-hardships-of-nature thrown in. It takes a commitment to live there. There are a lot of urban transplants who steered their course there. And the community spirit was a real eye opener after my 17 years of city living. I didn’t have/desire broadcast (or cable) TV for 20 years. I grew some of my own food. I built a house. I built a wonderful “family” of friends. But most importantly I raised my incredible and accomplished son up to the age of 19 and his tragic, early passing from the complications of leukemia. It’s too sad and important a story for these pages, but the comportment of grace is the only adequate response to loosing your only child. He brought me joy; he brought me reason for being; he brought me grace. His name was Jesse.

When Jesse died in 2009 my compass turned to the broader world. I had sold my house; I was in a wonderful partnership with my best friend Alan, and in desperate need of a shake up – down to my core essential being. The signposts pointed to the Bay area to be closer to my Burner community (just google burningman) and a return to an urban art life – but first I structured a year off in between my East and West selves to travel. In 2009-2010 I crossed the country twice and went to Alaska, Hawaii, Costa Rica, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Nepal, India and Bali. Nothing heals like footsteps in beauty. And nothing delivers grace like unopened time and nowhere one has to be.

I went out on my trek prepared to rewrite a lot of personal code. An important mission was to discover how I wanted to make art into the second half of my life. My clarity landed on the conviction that I really wanted to make beautiful objects that work. I wanted to craft utile things that brought lively visual interest to a space and were somehow interactive. Light is inherently the ritual form of Spirit, and it’s a completing metaphor for my deep interest in the world of metaphysics. My art career had spanned both the gallery world and the world of design, but somehow I knew I wanted to stay out of the ivory tower of paint and self-reference, as well as the digital process of the computer, even though essentially I think that all making is born of design. When I built my house the materials, techniques and aesthetics were arranged around creating a green, energy efficient house that would look as if it were 100 years old upon completion. Douglas fir timbers, hewn and oiled, supported plaster walls and all-wood windows, doors, ceilings and floors. To compliment this scheme I had sourced antique lighting and plumbing fixtures. That’s where my love for antique and vintage lighting was born and my skills restoring and re-wiring honed…  plain old Yankee practicality solving the problems at hand. Plus a good bit of my father’s early training in basic electrical skills. It doesn’t take much to understand lighting circuitry. Though I think it takes a lifetime of varied experience and focus to craft fine art objects.

I now live in Berkeley, California with my fiancé Alan, my dog Sydney and two good friends from Vermont. We share a house in the hills with a little studio where I craft my lamps. Across the Bay lies San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge, where I fix my gaze, daily, on nature diffracting through the touch of man. I see my lamps as inspired by nature; a little fringe in their expression but also a lot classic in their form. Everyone needs lamps! Hopefully mine will inspire you or even compliment your taste and become an heirloom in your collection of objets d’art – torches of light streaming out, in service to the world – from the lampworks of a templemouse.

Signed ~ Lisa McCoy  |  designer/owner  |  Templemouse Lampworks