Get to Know Us: An Interview with Ed Lay
Many of you might know Ed Lay as one of our longtime metals instructors and as a dedicated and talented working artist. Ed was born in the Philippines, and raised (mostly) in New York. He has worked primarily in the academic tech world and has a lifelong interest in education. For 30 years, he wrote programming languages for kids and teachers at UC Berkeley’s School of Education. Now he teaches metalsmithing, jewelry fabrication and enameling at the Richmond Art Center, and we are proud to have him as a core member of the teaching artist team. You can see Ed’s work currently on exhibit as part of our Teacher Is Artist: Studio/AIC Faculty Show, which features select pieces from our teaching artists who inspire so many through our Studio and Art in the Community programs.
What do you find most inspiring about working with metals? Tell us about your current projects.
I was initially attracted to the inherent contradiction in the properties of metal: seemingly rigid and unyielding in the finished product, yet malleable and
plastic when engaged with the right tools and techniques. What has kept me engaged in metals is the huge number of possible ways to work the metal. It became clear that there would always be something else to learn.
I am currently working on a piece for the Halstead Design Challenge, a Project Runway like competition where we are all given the same kit of materials and a theme from which we will produce a brooch. I am also playing with origami style transformations applied to sheet metal. Finally, an ongoing interest of mine is to produce specialized tools for the metals studio.
How did you become involved with the Richmond Art Center?
I fell into it by accident. After years of taking my daughter to art classes at RAC and dropping her off, I thought I might take a class myself. The metal studio is next to the kids studio. One class led to another to becoming a studio monitor to teaching.
What was your path to becoming an artist? Please share some of your favorite work.
I’ve always made things and I’ve taken art classes whenever possible. It seems less a path to becoming an artist and more a matter of waiting for life circumstances to allow for the time to be one. Some of my favorite work includes the Gates to the Renwick Gallery at the Smithsonian, Art Nouveau jewelry and the 3D printed sculpture of Bathsheba Grossman.
Who are your inspirations?
Rene Lalique, one of the premier Art Nouveau jewelers. Hugh Power, my mentor. He taught advanced jewelry fabrication at the Richmond Art Center for 43 years. He didn’t just teach us how to make things, but how to think. I try to practice that every day I’m at RAC.
What do you like to do when you’re not taking art?
I read. A lot. Mostly fiction and graphic novels. Non-fiction has become too surreal.
What’s on your bucket list?
Not much. I try to be a live in the moment type of guy.
If you could meet one artist, living or not, who would it be and why?
A few years ago, Metal Arts Guild of the Bay Area used this same question as the theme of a show. We were asked to choose an artists and produce work inspired by that artist. I chose Dr. Seuss.