Elise Preiss

Elise Preiss

Born and raised in France, I grew up surrounded by history and crafts tradition. So, it’s no surprise I ended up choosing a career in crafts. I studied product design, and while taking mandatory 3D modeling and drafting classes, I quickly realized my passion lay in the making of objects. I never came as alive as when I found myself in the metal shop to work on prototypes. This led to an apprenticeship with French master Blacksmith Guy Pendanx. After relocating from France to Los Angeles to follow a handsome Canadian, I enrolled at CSULB, one of the few graduate programs offering blacksmithing courses in the Los Angeles area. I received an MFA with an emphasis in Metals and 3D media, and work with a variety of materials including fiber, wood, paint, and clay.

When it comes to creating work, I find inspiration everywhere, the shadow of
a tree, a smell, a conversation. Those sparks of inspiration often lead me into deep research. I usually start online, but always end up roaming one library or another in search of information. I love nothing more than to pick a book from a shelf, hold it, and flip its pages. I gather, compare, and compile a treasure trove to take back to the studio and get into making. My work takes on many forms, a pure creative endeavor to explore form and materials, a jewelry commission, or a design project for a client. I love it all, and always remain open to possibilities.

In 2015, while attending a workshop at Haystack, ME I discovered Matthieu Chemine’s work with West African jewelers. He founded the Toolbox Initiative with Tim Mc Creight, with the goal to assist jewelers with limited resources through the collective strength of the metalworking community. In 2016, along with 5 other jewelers, I participated in the inaugural Toolbox Travel trip to Dakar Senegal. This trip humbled me. And it confirmed my belief in the importance of preserving tradition while sharing knowledge and resources. When visiting the West African jewelers, I truly felt at home. While the tools and equipment were always few, they were always familiar. We spoke the universal language of metalsmithing. I experienced a true sense of belonging, beyond time and place, a true sharing experience. I returned in 2017 and hope there will be more trips like this in my future. This strengthened my commitment to the sharing of the craft and its tradition.

Teaching is currently a large part of my life. It feeds my desire to respect and honor all the craftsman that have come before us, that have ensured smithing skills have been shared with us and future generations. I teach alongside Susanna Ali and Rachel Shimpock at California State University Long Beach. I am always amazed at the talent that come through the CSULB metal program. There I teach a variety of classes including enameling, beginning to advanced jewelry classes, and blacksmithing. In addition, I teach private classes in my studio in Torrance. When not in the studio or teaching I am usually enjoying California weather on “Coup de Foudre”, a 34 feet French Sailboat with my husband Michael.