All Leslie Pontz photos are credited to the Leslie Pontz Studio

A Perfect Studio Day with Fiber Artist Leslie Pontz

By Louise Feder

As a curator, one of my favorite parts of the job has to be doing studio visits. I can’t think of a better way to get to know an artist, their practice, and their art than spending time together in their workspace. For sculptor Leslie Pontz, visiting her studio means a trip to her home in Philadelphia. Four fast years ago, I had the privilege of curating her solo exhibition, Leslie Pontz: Integration at the James A. Michener Art Museum in 2018, which happily meant lots of time talking together in her studio.

Since then, Pontz has been busy creating commissions for private collectors, and exhibiting her work in the Philadelphia region via the Gravers Lane Gallery as well as a large slate of juried exhibitions both nationally and internationally. Her most recent series of work, Jewelry, is a playful group of massive fiber sculptures conceived of as jewelry for architecture. Colorful bracelets, earrings, and necklaces taller than I am are built, woven, and crocheted together by Pontz in a serene environment, preparing for their future unleashing out, into the world.

Located right in the heart of her contemporary house near Wissahickon Valley Park, Pontz’s studio is tucked behind large, sliding doors and is a window into her process. Sculptures hang from bars across the ceiling; crocheted pieces are tacked to the Homasote walls, and materials like chains, monofilament, yarn, and metal implements are always within reach. It’s an active, organized, thoughtful place that is forever in flux. I spoke with Pontz recently about how her studio space intersects with her process and her artistic output.

Louise Feder (LF): If you had a perfect day in your studio what would that look like?

Leslie Pontz (LP): Well, let’s see. To feel like I’ve gotten work done, that I wasn’t spinning wheels, that I had some creative energy. And, as I work, I’m also thinking about the project… about the project I’m working on but also the project that’s coming next or may possibly come next, or the three that may come from what I’m working on. And not feel like every time I try to do something I was hitting a brick wall.

Photo Credit for all images above: “Contributed”

LF: What were your priorities in setting up your studio, your physical space?

LP: In order to build the house with the studio I had to give up [space.] You know [my current studio] is about a quarter of the size of my old studio – maybe a third. But that was really okay because I also had the sliding doors I could open to the rest of the house, and it makes me feel like I’m in a much larger air-space. And often, when I’m working, the pieces go out onto the dining table or they lie on the floor out in the middle of the living room, and it still feels all like one big space to me.

I was thinking about the walls being flexible, so I could pin things up on the walls, and the bars so I could suspend things – I was thinking about that stuff, but that has nothing to do really with the environment.

The environment to me was just a little space all of my own. It would just be mine. And I could move it around as I needed to. You know, now, I’m also illustrating children’s books that my sister is writing? So sometimes the studio becomes a drawing space, and sometimes it becomes a space where sculpture is created. So, it does need to be my own, private, little space that I can maneuver. That’s the bottom line.

LF: Your work is all about adapting to different spaces. So many of your pieces are made different by each location they are placed within. I’m thinking especially, of course, of Integration when it was installed at the Michener. The piece was made to take over a room, but it was created in your studio and it wasn’t until installing the exhibit when you finally put it in place that it was finished.

LP: Yeah. And a lot of my work is doing that. And a lot of my work is interactive [for visitors], like it was at the Michener, but it also becomes interactive with each other. I just installed a piece for Gravers Lane Gallery’s new place in town [GLG@1213 Walnut Street], and that piece was drawn together from other pieces I had started in the studio. They called me in the morning and asked me to come install something in the space. And I just took a lot of different elements that had all been going in their own directions, and said, “Well I can do something with all of these pieces.” And when I deinstall it, the pieces I was originally working on separately, will move forward. So, they can be flexible and have more than one life.

LF: And that makes sense; if your studio is an adaptable space for different types of work, then it’s really a planning, jumping off point where you know that the work is going to leave a neutral space to become something specific in a new, specific space. And you know it may change again once they return to the studio or go on to a new location. That’s beautiful.

Is there anything you would change about your studio or the way you practice your work?

LP: I would change the size if I could. I would make it larger. Because although the space does not prevent me from working in any size that I want, it would be just a little easier if I had more space. I wouldn’t always have to try to figure out how I’m going to rig this.

LF: It wouldn’t take over your dining room as much.

LP: [laughs] Another funny thing is, I keep those two sliding doors open 24/7. They’re always open. Except if we entertain; I always shut those doors. Because I feel like that’s my private space. Even if our grandkids are there, I close it. It’s not that they aren’t allowed to go in; if they ask me to go in, I will open it. But it’s not part of something that I like people to just walk in and out of.

LF: That makes sense. It’s a very intensely personal, deliberate space. You’re working out how to make the internal external in there. That’s not, like, part of the furniture.

LP: Exactly.

LF: Do you find that you’re influenced by where you are when you work?

LP: No, I’m not influenced by where I am in space or environment. I’m influenced by where I am in my head.

You know I’m 73, so for all of those years – maybe not the first five – but for most of those years I’ve wondered why art was so important to me. And I finally figured it out a couple of months ago. And I received a quote by email two days ago that is exactly what I figured out. I wish I had seen the quote a lot sooner in my life. It basically says that being an artist means you’re figuring out who you are and what the world is around you.

And I don’t know about other people’s art, but that’s what my art is. It’s always been about figuring out my internal world, and how that internal world relates to the bigger world. And so, a lot of the environment, a lot of what goes on in my studio is really happening in my head. That’s why it doesn’t matter where I am to work; because I take my studio with me.

Leslie Pontz’s work can be found locally at Gravers Lane Gallery in Historic Chestnut Hill. In 2022, her work has also been included in the 14th International Textile and Fibre Art Biennial “Scythia”, Ivano-Frankivs’k, Ukraine; San Diego Museum of Art Artists Guild Spring Exhibition; DownEast National Indoor Sculpture Exhibition, Emerge Gallery, Greenville, NC; Material lll, The d’Art Center, Norfolk, VA; GoggleWorks 14th Annual Juried Exhibition, GoggleWorks Center for the Arts, Reading, PA; Installation, GLG at 1213 Walnut, Philadelphia, PA; Sin Rey Sin Ley, and Next Steps, Si Gallery, Austin, TX. More details can be found at her website:

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