Leslie Nix finds inspiration in the unknown. The Los Angeles–based artist and lighting designer crafts one-of-a-kind pieces that capture the spirit of far-flung places. “Whether it’s visiting Thailand’s Andaman Sea or the animal and nature reserves of Africa, my art is a way to relive and translate the wonder and awe I feel during my travels,” she tells Business of Home.
As a child growing up alongside the Yellow River in Georgia, Nix divided her time between exploring and painting. In college, she studied oil painting at the Savannah College of Art and Design, before setting off in an old 1971 Ford pickup truck with her dog Huny to explore the country, creating and exhibiting artwork along the way. “It’s how I honed my painting skills,” she says.
Throughout the course of her travels, Nix opened several different studios across the globe. “I have had so many unique spaces: a converted Chicago ice cream shop with preserved tin walls and ceilings; a multilevel former factory in Berlin next to Tempelhof Airport; my grandparents’ spooky basement in Grand Forks, North Dakota; and finally, a beautiful historic building at the base of Mount Washington in Los Angeles—where I live and work now,” she says.
The idea to utilize slag glass in her designs came as a result of Nix visiting her sister in a small town in North Carolina years ago. “[There was] an area with old shacks being used as shops with hand-painted signs that said ‘gemstones,’” she says. “The shops used wine barrels to display slag glass, and the vessels filled with shiny glass rocks filled me with delight and inspiration.”
She began collecting glass and discarded metal scraps salvaged from the studio of her partner, artist and furniture maker Damian Jones. “Slag glass is a cast-off, the result of breakage and rejection during the glass manufacturing process,” says Nix. “Glass factories empty vats of molten glass, and as the leftover glass cools and hardens, chunks of glass break apart and leave these beautiful fragments.”
Nix prefers to work on multiple art projects at once, alternating between various paintings and bespoke lamps—sometimes for years at a time—until they reach fruition. To forge her lighting designs, she often hand-sculpts the bases and casts them in brass or bronze before adding in everything from carved wood elements to etched markings and nickel accents, and of course, a slag glass top. “Some pieces can take decades to complete,” she says.
In February, she debuted her latest exhibition of artwork and lighting designs, “Encaustic Impressions of Mpumalanga,” at the Coup D’Etat gallery in Los Angeles. She’s also currently hard at work on a new line of sculptural bowls and trays inspired by her travels to Africa. “I made molds from dry river beds found in the Ngala game reserve, and elephant dung—yes, dung,” she says. “The vessels will be cast in bronze and encrusted with semiprecious stones.”
If you want to learn more about Leslie Nix, visit her Instagram.
Homepage image: Leslie Nix inside her Los Angeles studio | Dan Arnold