Stacey Lee Webber Sculptor/Jeweller - Philadelphia, USA

Can you discuss the two influences on your art, your childhood from a family of tradesmen and your arts educations at both Bell and finally your Masters, at the University of Wisconsin-Madison?

I did not grow up going to museums and art galleries. I am an artist, raised in the Midwest by a strong German Catholic family who believes in family values and working hard for everything they have. My roots influence what kind of person and am and what kind of artwork I am interested in making.

My education in the arts has shaped my life. I fell in love with metal smithing and jewellery after taking an introductory course at Ball State University. I have always been ‘artsy’ but after my first swing of the hammer on the anvil…I was head over heels.

“Plum Bob” image by Joseph Leroux

I have been fortunate to have amazing teaching in my education and been encouraged and pushed to reach beyond what I thought was possible. After getting a BFA in metals and went straight to graduate school at UW-Madison where I really got a chance to learn more about art and what type of artist I want to be.

You make exciting pieces of jewellery using American coins. Can you expanded on Custom made:

– Guitar Pic Holder

This piece was thought up by a customer from Philadelphia who appreciated my artwork, and wanted a custom piece. He was getting jewellery for his wife and daughter and son and it was all to be made from vintage coins from his families’ coin collection. The customer had seen my coin lockets and it hit him that he could have a larger style locket with a larger coin and the guitar pic was appropriate for his son.

Guitar pic holder custom made entirely out of heirloom Morgan silver dollars

– Abe Chain Necklace

The pennies are solid copper and date pre-1982. Each penny has a tiny hole drilled, the blade of a jeweller’s saw is laced through the hole and Abraham Lincoln is hand cut out and linked together!

This linkage system has been a classic for me in designing coin jewellery. I cut out the coin leaving Abraham Lincoln and the rim around the coin and link multiple units together. I use this linkage for bracelets, earrings, and singularly in cufflinks.

– Silver dollar hoop

The silver dollar hoop earrings were designed after making many screw hoop earrings and wanting to make a hoop style in coins. The silver dollar was a nice bolder, larger sized coin and I had not yet used it in my jewellery line, so it seemed perfect.

Two antique silver dollars are hand cut to form subtle coin jewellery with the reeds fashionably on the outside of the hoops.

Do you make pieces using coins from other countries?

I do! Different coins are different alloys of metal depending on years, countries, etc. So sometimes it is difficult to use a variety of coins when you are unfamiliar with their melting temperatures, hardness scale, etc. But I have been able to mould coins so that I can have a workable metal that still looks like the original coin or I can cold connect foreign coins (no heat required). On the ‘installation’ section of my website,, check out ‘The Grand March’.

The Craftsman Series takes coins from small personal jewellery to larger objects. Where did the inspiration for this series come from?

The Craftsmen Series, Silver Collection: Hammer
Materials: silver mercury dimes

All of the coin work started with this series. The Craftsmen Series was inspired by the struggling US blue collar worker during the economy crisis in 2007. The series highlights the decreasing value of hand labour in the United States by fabricating US pennies into traditional hand tools.

“Penny Hacksaw” Image Joseph Leroux

Are the pieces made to scale? If not how do you decide on the size?

All pieces are made to scale.

Can you expand on the making of ‘Tape measure’?

”Tapemeasure” Image Larry Sanders

I was commissioned to make the tape measure with a collector’s personal vintage coin collection. While researching tape measures I came across a vintage Craftsman tape measure which had a low-tech mechanism for rolling the tape in and out- a small hand crank. I fell in love with that tape measure and used its design to fabricate the tape measure sculpture. For the tape I decided it was important for it to articulate, so I soldered hinges onto each dime, to create $5 worth of dimes that roll out and roll back in.

How do you decide when to use copper or silver coins?

George Coming Out Series: Pop Out
Materials: quarters Image Tom McInvaille

For the silver series, they are mostly all commission pieces. The silver coins are very expensive and cannot afford to make them without funding. I think of the pennies sculptures as more political statements and the silver sculptures as monuments or celebrations of the objects.

Moving from coins to hardware.

“Screwball: Spiked” Materials: drywall screws, Image Joseph Leroux

Do you only use screws?

So far only screws. I tend to find it more interesting to stick to a specific material and expand people’s minds on what its possibilities are.

The material you use is so familiar and then you insist that we look beyond. Is this what you are wanting in ‘Screwball’ pieces?

I think of the screwballs as large samples. Often times I make small samples of the zillions of different possibilities of the material and with the screwballs I upped the scale a bit. They have always reminded of spool of yarn or basketballs…they are a cross between a lot of different objects, which is why I kept making more- different viewers saw different aspects to them.

“Screwball: Pushed” Materials: drywall screws, Image Joseph Leroux

Then you take us further away and make flowers so beautiful out of such masculine materials. Discuss this work?

The screw flowers are my newest pieces. They are celebrations of the working class families and are extensions of ideas surrounding The Craftsmen Series, but delving more into the family life of blue collar America.

“Portraits of Post Industrial Americans” Sunflowers, Image Joseph Leroux

Where do you get your materials?

Most of the coins are bought from EBay or my local bank. The screws are bought in bulk from EBay also.

I love EBay!

What is your studio space like to enable storage and art space?

I spend most of my rent on my studio space; it’s huge- 2,500 square feet attached to a 500 square foot apartment. I am a bit of a studio rat, and have always loved to be fiddling away on something in a shop type environment. I have decked my studio out with a large screen TV, radiant heat, and many more luxuries to make it as comfortable as possible and to keep me hard at work.

Does working at Worth Street, continually nurture your work because of the heritage of the industrial space?

Definitely. I pass by huge industries going home and live in a thread dye factory that was closed down in 2005 and turned into creative studio spaces. My neighbourhood is hugely inspirational and the long history of industry in Philadelphia.

Vintage silver quarters with handmade hinges soldered together to form a reticulating bracelet


Contact details.



Stacey Lee Webber, Philadelphia, USA

Interview by Deborah Blakeley, February 2013