Leslie Leong (Yukon)
Photo: Alistair Maitland/Yukon News
Visual artist Leslie Leong’s work uses and is inspired by a wide variety of materials that may no longer be considered “useful” for their original purpose. These include computer parts, old maps, copper pipes and bits of Gold Rush-era glass, all turned into pieces of jewellery.
Leslie was originally inspired to create art from things that would otherwise be considered “waste” shortly after moving to Whitehorse in 2009. Her husband was trying to get rid of an old computer, and when he was unsuccessful in doing so, she and her son decided that they should take the opportunity to see what was inside it. She found the contents of it beautiful, particularly the pieces of motherboard with gold contact pieces, and decided to make herself a necklace with pieces of it, for which she received many compliments. She started making jewellery to sell in 2010, and continues to expand in terms of both the original materials and final products. Indeed, at the beginning of our conversation she showed me one of her more recent projects: earrings made from old guitar strings.
Her work is driven by her motivation to reduce the need for new materials by increasing the lifespan of products and materials that are already available. “We have so much stuff in the world; we don’t need new stuff, we should just use what we have now,” she says, adding, “I hate that planned obsolescence thing…I want to un-planned-obsolescence things!” Her workroom is filled with items that already have a planned re-use, and others that she has picked up but isn’t quite sure yet what she’s going to do with them. “I’ve got all sorts of things that I just need to find a use for, but I like them!” she says, pointing out for example a number of old mirrors lying against one wall. Those she might attach to old silver trays, giving them new life with a different, old-timey style.
In addition to making jewellery, Leslie has also been introducing young people to the potentials of material re-purposing. She has done art programs in schools, and this summer has been an instructor at a camp put on by Arts Underground to make art from recycled materials. She’s interested in spreading the idea that many materials don’t need to go straight to the recycling or garbage bin when they’ve been used once. “I don’t think people realize how useful the materials are that we have right in front of us,” she says, before rummaging through her workspace to show me one more item that she’s found a new life for.
More examples of Leslie’s work can be found at leslieleong.com.