Answering: “I wonder if I could do that?” has gotten Emily Mann, East Tucson-Based Metal Artist, deep into adventure and personal growth. As a former educator who emphasized curiosity and continual learning with her students, she first started creating metal art as a xeriscape answer to barren areas on her property and as an opportunity for thoughtful reflection. Beginning with a simple oxy-acetylene cart, she now has a full-fledged shop of dream machines, most heavily used: the plasma cutter and MIG welders, where she continues to grow, develop and innovate the distinct style of her custom mailboxes, insect art, sconces, sculpture, and most of all, her solar and low-low-voltage Shadow Lights.
She describes her work as Rustic-Refined ornamental and functional metalwork incorporating light play and various mediums like glass and mica. Inspired by the countless color tones & textures, and the magic of rainstorms, her work draws upon the flora and flow of the landscape, and truly flourishes after a nice long hike or challenging mountain bike ride. The hardness of the medium is softened by a woman’s touch and whimsy; the rustic nature is made sophisticated by intricate designs, tailored finishes and inlaid glass.
Her metal art has a delicacy in its detail and organic flow. Because it is hand-cut, outcomes can be unpredictable and she uses that precariousness as an inevitable source of inspiration. Every project is flavored with whimsy and she jokes about the inevitability of a “woman’s touch” that gives it more flow, especially when considering the exaggerated eyelashes on her pre-historic angler fish.
Shadow Lights, which are her biggest focus currently, are Emily’s landscape lighting designed for solar and low-voltage installation. They are an exploration of negative space to create unique dancing light patterns. It is a subtractive process of rendering a complex design from a simple square column form.
About her company, Solaz Designs: Solaz is the Spanish word for solace, and it was chosen as the company name because solace is what Emily finds in the mesmerizing glow of melting and joining metal while absorbed in the imaginative escape of creation. In search of reflection time, working with tools that require safety clothing and coverings means no interruption by others, or risk danger. --a great situation for uninterrupted thought. Since its founding, the name has grown as a play on “solar,” as solar lighting became a speciality, as well as Sol (Sun) + AZ, which sounds hot and would be fitting for an artistic pursuit that runs well above 1200 degrees.
Solace is also what Emily celebrates in the complex beauty of the Sonoran Desert.
Emily is a Tucson native who didn’t realize how much she loves beautiful Arizona until being gone way too long. After undergraduate studies at Rice University (one semester at the University de Chile, Santiago, one in Costa Rica) in Houston, Texas and swimming for their Division One Team, she spent some time gathering perspective and seeing the world by sampling Central & Eastern Europe and Central America. After living the ski bum dream in Crested Butte, CO & working as a high school dorm parent, she returned to Tucson for graduate school. With a firm and inspired educational philosophy, she went into the schools as a fledgling first in Tanque Verde Schools teaching Spanish and Technology; then into professional development for Pima County Schools Superintendent’s Office as a Technology Integration Specialist and teacher-trainer. Though certified in CTE (Career & Technical Education) to teach welding, she instead spent her last few years in TUSD and Sunnyside as a technology coach for teachers, librarian and student tech team coordinator.
During her career in education, Emily and her superlative husband, John Fitzner, used swimming, hiking, building forts, mountain & road cycling to unwind physically from the work day, with a bit of fun creativity like papier mache or jewelry, but once Emily started welding at Pima with their Welding for Artist class, metal work emerged as the great passion and place of “solace.”
Now blessed with an amazing workshop that would make Tooltime Tim Taylor growl with envy and awe, she offers full-day workshops in welding and plasma-cutting and spends day and night out there banging away with powerful equipment to create beautiful things. See her website for more information. solaz.biz
Emily Mann is a member/co-owner of Chris Bubany and Friends Gallery located at 6538 E. Tanque Verde Rd. Suite 140. Her work is also at Tohono Chul, Old Town Artisans, Etsy and Raku Gallery in Jerome. She participates in the Tucson Museum of Art Fair, Chris Bubany’s Harlow Garden Show, the Forth Avenue Street Fair and Tohono Chul Holiday nights.