Maine is the state in which blacksmith and painter Lara Max needed to be. She was drawn to its landscape and found its people endearing. It just felt like home. It’s now been 25 years since she traveled from California and then Texas to attend college on another coast. And, it is here that she makes her home, crafts her designs in metal and continues to balance a “simple farm life” with that of an artist. The seeds for her blend of creative pursuits were planted early on, and she credits her grandmother Fern for inspiring her to paint at an early age, and also her great grandfather who operated a blacksmith shop in the early 1900s. Quietly weaving this heritage into her work and her life and into those spaces in between, Ms. Max creates not just to keep occupied but more so as a tribute to the state which long ago captured her affections. “What surrounds me here in Maine is inspiration.” says the artist.
In addition to crafting stunning sculptures and jewelry, Lara is widely known for her custom ringing bowls which she has been creating for twelve years. “My ringing bowls are one of the main items I create in my blacksmith shop. The idea for these bowls came from a creative exercise which inquired, ‘what shapes can be made from a flat piece of square sheet metal?’ I use traditional blacksmith techniques to create the bowls – most of which are fashioned from a flat piece of steel. The shape allows it to ring. A bowl’s size and the number of hammer blows produce the piece’s unique tones.” The product information invites users to tap the bowls in order to hear forged steel ring. And when one follows these simple instructions they are treated to an ethereal hum – a perfect companion to yoga and a perfect invitation to taking one’s attention inside. “At first I thought the bowls would only be of appeal to those practicing yoga or meditation. I’ve had to let go of that notion though listening to customer tales. Through the years, I have heard from school teachers who ring the bowls to corral their students’ attention or reward them in a lesson. Same for musicians and parents. Wedding parties, house-warming gifts… even remembrance ceremonies at hospitals. One of my favorite experiences was watching a lady at an art fair ring every bowl and try out all the mallets with each. In the end, she exclaimed, ‘I want one just because it makes me happy,’ as she tapped the one she had chosen.”
Lara Max’s full line of designs are available through her website and at a host of boutiques, galleries and fairs throughout Maine. This fall will find her wandering from her beloved state as she heads to western Massachusetts for the 100 year anniversary of the Big E, September 16 – October 2. You can also stay tuned to her schedule through Facebook.
The finish of the day often finds the artist meditating – a natural extension of the centering she practices while in the (blacksmith) shop, a space she refers to as her quiet place. “It might seem like multitasking to some, but when I am working on something, be it painting or blacksmithing, I can focus on each step of a process towards creating something… The fun is in a new hammer and what shape and tone will it lend. Here, I lose track of time – it’s my place for mindful tasking.”
Images courtesy of the artist