It doesn’t take many visits to downtown Prescott art galleries to recognize the abundance of talented lifelong artists who make our community both unique and visually diverse.

Whether you participate in the 4th Friday Art Walk, are a collector or a sidewalk window shopper, you build an appreciation for the variety of works from this talented group.

While visiting the Valley of the Sun last week, my wife and I walked into a gallery and I said, “That’s Allison’s work,” referring to Allison Kantor, a local artist who had recently moved to the Valley. Others who come to mind are JoAnne Frerking, Slade Graves, Chelsea Stone, Dave Newman, and many more.

For nearly 40 years, Lesley Aine McKeown has built a career creating jewelry that is a reflection of her. Each piece, while organic in nature, is fluid, expressive, and detailed with layers and designs that are boldly feminine with a subtle touch of the Southwest in many.

Hailing from Missouri, at the age of 9, Lesley and her folks moved to Sedona where they owned and operated an art gallery. Her mother, Deanne, a well-known sculptor, and her father, Bryon, a jeweler, now creates handmade knives. Lesley has been a Prescott resident and active in the vibrant arts scene for the past 15 years.

Raised by artists, one would think that it would be obvious that Lesley would follow their path. However, it was a random encounter while tending bar in Sedona that Lesley struck up a conversation with a local jeweler and silversmith who started her passion for the art form.

“When I first started, I was very organic and contemporary, and then moved more towards the Southwest influences, and now, I’ve come full circle. I’m back to doing contemporary pieces, with patinated surfaces and stones that have texture,” Lesley explains.

As to what inspires her when creating pieces, “It’s everything around me. It could be a scent, a picture, or an experience that can be the impulse towards creating new piece or line. We all look at our environment, and we are all influenced by what we see. Whether it’s another jeweler or artist, we all get inspired by what surrounds us.”

Working at her father’s bench, Lesley approaches her work as a business, in that it is how she makes a living, but she has also taken the time to share her knowledge with others through instruction and teaching.

“You need to approach your art as a business in order to continue doing it, and to make a living at it,” Lesley said. “As such, I work in series so to speak, where I sketch out the designs and spend time at my bench creating similar, yet unique pieces in a series.”

Having recently completed teaching a course on The Art of Metal Manipulation, at Metalwerx, The School for Jewelry in Boston, Lesley has a full schedule of classes around the country, and online. “During 2020, when things started to slow down, online instruction became a viable way to maintain an income, and something that I’ve continued doing since,” Lesley said.

When not on the bench creating new pieces or collections, Lesley enjoys a variety of hobbies and activities to fill her time and mind.

“We have a group of friends who get together every month and cook a themed meal together. And along the way we discuss politics, art, literature and experiences. It’s way to feed yourself both physically and mentally.”<br />

Whether volunteering on a political campaign or bringing attention to a cause of concern, Lesley lives her life with appreciation and with a perspective that comes out in her work.

“One of the things I teach is how to realize your inspiration and how everything in your life affects your work, and how to approach your jewelry making, or whatever you are doing in such a manner as to mentally prepare yourself to allow that inspiration to be manifested so to be visualized in your creation.”

Along with making jewelry, and teaching, Leslie is also in the process of curating a collection for the Artful Home, and has been selected to present at the Dallas Art Guild for its Master Class Series in August.

“While the internet is a convenience to get a peek at what goes into creation of jewelry, if someone is interested in it as a career, or hobby, they really should work with a master in the field. Someone who can share their knowledge and help you understands the processes and time that go into it.”

Leslie’s work can be found at several area galleries including Van Gogh’s Ear on Whiskey Row and online at LesleyAineMcKeown.com.

A life expressed.

Barry Barbe owns the El Gato Azul and Torme restaurants in Prescott, and is the energy and insight behind the Prescott Palette. He also has a radio show, the Prescott Palette, on KQNA 1130 AM, Saturdays at noon. Email: Prespalette@gmail.com.

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