[FORT WAYNE] My connection to Lisa Vetter and Paul Siefert began with a bowling ball.
I was a regular at the Covington Art Fair for years. It was close to my home in Fort Wayne, held during blissful June and featured some amazing talent. I was drawn to the eclectic and colorful: A used bowling ball with pool balls for feet and a curly copper wire sprouting from the top—at the time it held a Sprite bottle and a flower—captured my imagination. As regular readers know, I LOVE local art, so this went home with me and occupied a proud place in my entryway for years, where it always elicited comment.
Lisa and Paul are the creative forces behind that bowling ball and all kinds of bright, intriguing sculptural items employing used materials. I’ve admired their work for years, but it was only as owner of Local Universe that I indulged my full fan-girl-ness and actually reached out to them about creating their marvelous clocks with a Fort Wayne theme. They’re fantastic about sourcing vintage materials from the region, and they’re really nice people, too. To my great delight, they said yes!
I took the opportunity to ask Lisa about how she got started as an artist:
“Coming of age in the ’60s and ’70s, I was always intrigued by the multitude of colors and textures enjoyed by my generation. My initial foray into the art of handcraft came at home under the tutelage of my mother, an expert seamstress and all-around talent in any creative endeavor she lent her hand to. I began working with wire in my teenage years, making jewelry and selling it to my classmates and friends. My father bought me my first needle-nose pliers, a fine pair crafted in Germany, which I still use to this day. I don’t have any formal art education beyond high school; being self-taught, I suppose I would be considered a folk artist, or ‘outsider’ artist.”
10 percent of profits from the sale of Art Farm clocks will be donated to Charis House in Fort Wayne, a place that buys some time for women and children who need to get back on their feet.
Lisa met her husband/creative partner, Paul Siefert, around 1990. She was making jewelry and completing a degree in applied sciences with a focus on interior design. He had a degree in engineering. They each brought their talents to the table and began collaborating.
They felt inspired to incorporate the tremendous amount of trash we generate as a society, perfectly good items that just need a new use. “We live in such a throw-away society,” Lisa says. “There are so many discarded items that can be repurposed with a little (or a lot of) imagination.”
They scour thrift stores, garage sales, estate sales and sometimes antique stores for the perfect junk. “It takes a lot of time to find the things we use,” Lisa says. “Over the years I’ve met a few pickers in the area, and if we’re in need of specific items—for example, yardsticks—I’ll put a call in to them to be on the lookout. We just had a woman in Key West give us a bunch of really cool old tins that she had collected but no longer wanted and just wanted to see someone get some use out of them.”
To me it seems like a gift, to be able to look at a cast-off piece of junk and know what to do with it. As with writing music, I’m fascinated by the process.
“Sometimes we find a piece and know exactly what we will do with it,” Lisa says. “Often times we don’t but just fall in love with some weird thing and figure it will lead us into creativity at some point. I think for me repurposing comes naturally. I always loved creating environments out of whatever was on hand, substituting something for the thing I wanted to make happen but just didn’t have the specific item. Like farmers of old, we use what we have on hand to accomplish our project. The Art Farm seemed like a fitting name for our studio. We propagate art! There is nothing better than losing track of time while intently involved in the creative process. Sometimes it can be incredibly frustrating and just as rewarding.”
Paul and Lisa bought their five-acre 1860s farm north of Fort Wayne in December 2003 from an Amish family. They had no heat, running water or electricity, but they did have a vision. After spending three years rehabbing their studio and house, they moved to the farm, where they continued restoring the farmhouse. They’ve hosted a pop-up gallery at their studio in December for the past six years, including a variety of other artists and mediums. They’ve also collaborated with other artists on workshops there.
Lisa and Paul are both Fort Wayne natives and committed to the region. “Geographically it works well for traveling nationally to art fairs, and the cost of living can’t be beat,” Lisa says. “We also have great ties to the community.”
Read about why we love Fort Wayne, and what to do if you ever find yourself in this part of the Midwest.