Lisa Grabowksi trained in metalwork as a jeweller, but specialises in resin. ‘It’s all about the colour,’ she says. Resident in Leeds since 2016, Lisa has moved around. A lot. She is the latest guest @TheNailBar.
Lisa Grabowski does not consider herself from anywhere in particular. Indeed she finds that an odd concept. “Firstly, I’m of Irish and Polish heritage. That’s important as there’s no real ‘roots’ in this country from the get-go. I’ve lived in twenty-one (different) houses. I was born in Liverpool and have moved to a variety of places – Kiel in Germany, Aberdeen, York and Sheffield.”
‘I get asked a lot by people, Where’s your accent from? I tell them I got it from the BBC sound archive!’
“Aberdeen was a great place to grow up,” she says. The city is near the sea and enjoyed ‘proper’ winters and long summer nights. Despite its reputation for miserable weather, Lisa spent a lot of time outdoors playing and creating. “The surrounding Grampian mountain region is indescribably beautiful and you can see the Northern Lights – so magical and eerie. I was spoiled in that respect.”
The local council acknowledged the arts, so performance and creativity were core to her daily life there, she says. “I found schools supported an artistic approach to education, which was very lacking when I moved to England.”
Lisa studied Art Foundation at Loxley College in Sheffield and has an Honours degree in Metalwork and Jewellery from Sheffield Hallam. “Loxley is where I came to love contemporary art jewellery,” she says. One of her tutors, Young Bort, encouraged her to think of it as a form of sculpture and not just a commodity.
“She was really inspirational. I was shy and awkward, and I wanted to be near friends and my boyfriend at the time. (Yes! I was that girl who made choices based on her boyfriend!) But, as Sheffield was such a ‘good’ course, it made sense.”
“Resin is a warmer substance. It’s more playful and it’s kitsch!”
Despite focusing on metal in her course – Sheffield being the Steel City – Lisa’s own jewellery line is all about colour and humour. “I don’t want to make pieces which are monochromatic,” she says. “Resin is a warmer substance. It’s more playful and it’s kitsch!”
The process starts with a cast around which compositions are made. “Usually I have the image in my head and will make castings directly from my thoughts,” she says. “I’ve been revisiting an old project called Push It, Feel Good which are squeeze silicone pieces. They’re mostly based on mushroom forms I’m madly obsessed with, but they’re hollow silicone so you can squeeze them. They’re a bit like a stress ball, but come as brooches, pendants and rings.”
Lisa hates the term self-care, so I begin by asking her what things she does to make herself feel better?
A daily meditation practice because I am that millennial! This helps manage IBS effectively. Then little pampering things like a face mask, a bath – after learning how to take a long soak. My former flat-mate was spending an hour in the bath and I couldn’t work out how she did that. When she explained she took in a magazine, then listened to a podcast, I finally got it. Walking is great, I pretty much walk everywhere. I like the freedom and I’ve noticed there needs to be trees on a walk. I love trees!
What were your film and music tastes growing up? Have these changed?
I just like anything that speaks to me, makes me feel something be that joy, sorrow, rage or excitement. I love documentaries, quirky comedies and anything hyper-colourful, and that has always been the case. I was lucky that my parents were quite out there with their film choices. I watched a lot of foreign language films (Jeunet and Caro being favourites) and again, strong female characters always got me hooked.
I’ll admit an obsession with [Rachel Talalay’s film of Alan Martin and Jaimie Hewlett’s comic creation] Tank Girl that I’ve still not grown out of: a girl, a tank; another girl, a jet plane; Ice-T as half man-half kangaroo, all wrapped in a soundtrack curated by Courtney Love. What more does a girl need?! I can pretty much quote the film beginning to end.
I have a real soft spot for cheesy 80/90s teen flicks too, and if they can combine a strong female lead like the original Buffy the Vampire Slayer film, then more the better! I don’t have a genre of film I tend towards. I want to explore things I’ve not seen before or be blasted with visual excitement. If I feel like running after a film, then it’s a good one!
Music wise when I was very little, long car journeys were filled with my parent’s tastes: Peter Gabriel, Simon and Garfunkel, Barbara Dickson, The Carpenters. I still have a soft spot for these, but I discovered the local metal station on the radio when I was around ten, so moved off the mainstream fairly early.
I have always tried to ‘collect’ female artists and most of my youth was spent listening to Riot Grrrl and other bands fronted by strong women. I never got into just one genre. I love 80s New Wave and Goth and have a mild obsession with The Cure. I don’t think there’s anything from my growing up that hasn’t stayed with me, though I do appreciate laid back bands now more than I used to.
Is 2020 a good time for women?
We are a long way off! There are tides and waves. This wave is rolling back now and we’re getting the backlash. I have no advice for young women! The problem for women is that we live in society that has been set up by men. It has rules and systems and ways of living that are set up to suit them, so we need to be changing the structure of our society and that’s a really big task.
No amount of Instagramming is going to change things. I would just say keep on. That’s all we can do. Keep talking. Women are really good at talking and sharing their stories, and we need to make sure we’re not sat alone thinking we’re the only one. That’s why Riot Grrrl was a huge thing when it came into my life. I realised these girls felt angry too and suddenly had these voices of girls who wanted to change things.
I come from a line of feminists who weren’t feminists, they were strong women who just got on with life. Like my great aunt who was on a dress making course. She made herself a pair of trousers and got thrown off the course! She didn’t call herself a feminist or say she was making a feminist statement. She was just determined.
Sometimes we have to just do, rather than talk about doing.
Lisa’s current ready to wear items are available online here. Contact Lisa for variations on designs shown as well as for special commissions.
Lisa has trimmed nails (she often sands them accidentally when making jewellery!). After some cuticle care she selected a shocking pick and bright yellow combo in OPI Shine – a regular polish designed to be longer lasting.
Lisa’s shades: Running with the In-finite Crowd and Sun, Sea and Sand in my Pants.