Artfire Artisan Spotlight: Nancy Rodriguez, Urbanpuppy
Posted by pauljvguillaume on 08/08/2011 at 08:57:58
Please start by telling us a little about yourself and your studio.
I was raised in Tucson and have very strong ties to this community. My mom and dad came to Tucson when it was still a very small town. My sibs and I grew up riding horses, swimming for our neighborhood swim team in the summer, and having the freedom living in a (then) small town offers. Much of my metalwork reflects the southwest I love so much.
Urban Puppy began as an offshoot of my metalsmithing hobby several years ago, when I was managing the dog training facility at the local Humane Society. There was a small retail store in the building that sold the standard aluminum machine-engraved tags to new pet parents. The tags served a purpose, but had no personality and they wore out quickly. I thought that I could do better by designing a few copper and silver tags. I made a few for friends and family, and the rest is history. Over the years my line of handmade tags has evolved into about 40 designs that folks are very receptive to. Many of the designs began as ideas suggested by friends and the volunteers at the Humane Society.
What role does your family play in your art?
The encouragement of my family is what has allowed me to make the transition from weekend hobbyist to working full-time in the Urban Puppy studio. In addition, they help in a more tangible way during busy times, often turning our family room into a packaging and shipping assembly line.
Aside from my two adult kids and my lovely husband David, I find lots of inspiration in our "furkids" who, on any given day, are either sprawled out on beds in my studio while I work, or are creating a "situation" in another area of the house. We have two cats, Daisy and Mudge, and our dog Rico, whose smiling face you see in my shop. They are all former animal shelter inmates and the inspiration for my more humorous pet tags.
Where did you learn your medium?
In high school I felt at home in the art classroom. From the beginning I had a wonderful art teacher who understood why the art room was a place of sanctuary for certain kids, and she encouraged her students to spend more than just classroom time there. A consistent group of us came in early before school in the morning and returned after school had let out. She let us take our learning as far as we desired, and in my case, silver and other metals were my passion. I found a sense of community in that classroom, made some longtime friends, and also learned a great deal about metals and their behavior.
What is the best piece of advice you can give other artists?
Believe in yourself. There are a lot of talented folks out there who are hesitant when it comes to selling their work. Here's how I look at it: If you wake up in the morning looking forward to getting your hands dirty creating something, go for it. Even if you're not sure where you're going with it, don't be afraid to get in and get started. You might not end up where you had originally thought you would, but the path you choose and the direction you take while you're on it is completely up to you. And the best part of this journey is that if you're passionate about creating it, someone out there will be passionate about owning it.
Why do you think that buying and selling handmade products benefits society?
I believe that the real benefit of buying a handmade product is that each and every item is unique. When you purchase something handmade, you will receive something that can never be reproduced exactly. That piece of metal, painting, woven piece or glass object is truly one of a kind.
And to the artist, it's very personal: each handmade item is a little piece of themselves that is created individually, and then sent off to be enjoyed by someone else. After all this time it still surprises me that something I've created with my hands can cause such a positive reaction in the person who receives it. In the big picture, this might be a small benefit, but to the artist and to that customer, it's huge.