By Aila Boyd
Editor’s note: This article is the second in a series of articles that will feature all 14 artists that will be participating in the 2019 Open Studios-Botetourt tour on October 26 and 27. Each week leading up to the two-day event, The Herald will feature one artist – highlighting their passion for their chosen artform.
Lois Bisese, a Buchanan-based artist, has been crafting unique, handmade pieces of jewelry for the past eight years.
Originally from Virginia Beach, she came to Botetourt County in 1973 as a child because her parents wanted to raise her and her sisters in a more wholesome environment.
“I’ve always loved art, but I found out early on that it’s difficult to support yourself as an artist unless you’re extremely phenomenal,” she said. “I’m not someone who can sell myself really well. I knew that I would have to have a regular job.”
She eventually left the county for college at Virginia Tech, where she studied geology. While in college, she took a jewelry making class that caused her to become “obsessed” with the art form.
After college, she settled in Richmond and worked in an environmental lab. She eventually felt the same pull towards Botetourt County that her parents did years earlier. She explained that once she started thinking about having kids, she realized that she wanted to raise them in the same environment that she grew up in, so she returned to Buchanan.
Later on, she took additional jewelry making classes at The Studio School in Roanoke. She explained that the classes she took there helped lay the foundation for her, which in turn allowed her to later branch out and find her own aesthetic.
“I like it. I can manipulate the metals all different ways. I can set real stones. I just like being able to work with almost anything,” she said of why she enjoys creating handmade jewelry. “I get to do a hodgepodge of everything.”
She compares the attention to detail that jewelry making requires to the same attention to detail that is required when working in a lab setting.
“My work is very spiritual. I love all religions. I like nature, color, and fantasy,” she said of her inspiration, adding that life in general inspires her creations.
Although she never makes more than one of a given piece, she occasionally incorporates elements that she’s particularly taken with into several of her works. Some of her current pieces feature Viking artifacts.
When considering whether or not she has a favorite piece that she has created, Bisese said that she always finds herself being drawn to what she’s working on at the moment. “I’ll make something. I’ll love it and wear it, but then I make something else and then wear it,” she said. However, she said that she prefers rings over earrings and necklaces. Her single guiding light throughout the design and execution process is that she only makes things that she would want to wear herself.
After several years of going with her daughter to the studios of all of the various Open Studios-Botetourt participants, Bisese decided to join their ranks. This marks her fourth year as a participant. She will be showing with Dreama Kattenbraker during Open Studios-Botetourt later this year. She noted that Kattenbraker does a lot of the ceramic elements that she utilizes in her jewelry. “It’s so nice to get to show with someone who is so accomplished and has been doing it for years and years,” she said.
While reflecting on Open Studios-Botetourt, Bisese said that she was astonished to find that there were so many quality artists in the county when it first started. “Having grown up here as a kid, it didn’t seem very artsy,” she said. “I realized that this area has a lot to offer. I was so thankful to Open Studios because when I went, I saw phenomenal artists.” She added that the variety of mediums that local artists practice is striking.
“I want people to realize that there are a lot of gifted, talented artists here,” she said of what she hopes participants of Open Studios-Botetourt take away from the experience.
Bisese works out of her home, which is a renovated farmhouse that her parents previously lived in. She lives with her husband and two daughters.
In addition to participating in Open Studios-Botetourt, Bisese will be showing during Gallery by the James’ Annual Jewelry Show and Sale on Saturday, October 5 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.