We had the good fortune of connecting with Andrea de Leon and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Andrea, what role has risk played in your life or career?
In a certain sense I thrive off of risk. Perhaps unconsciously in constant pursuit of it at this point. To be more specific, there are two kinds of risk I deal with: the risk dependent on rationality – the choices that guide my lifestyle and career – and the risk due to the inherent danger of the processes of what I do. Admittedly, I love the thrill of using dangerous techniques or tools. I realize it’s somewhat of a paradoxical interest but I simply tend to gravitate to certain challenges. Situations that could ultimately be detrimental in one way or another in a blink of an eye – to yourself or to your project – demand your utmost and absolute attention. You have to be fully aware of all your surroundings and be completely present in the moment, not to mention simultaneously being several steps ahead in the process. In other words, you have to know what you’re doing and know where you’re going. It engages my brain in a way nothing else does. Everything else phases out – the success of your project depends on it (as well as your own well-being). It’s a great way to test where your headspace is, or better yet, it’ll force you out of whatever headspace you’re in. There is an indescribable sense of satisfaction when you lock into the fluidity where the risks are mitigated by your own skills (and not much else, except for maybe luck). I think this mentality translates to the choices I make for my lifestyle and why I’ve chosen to do – or not do – certain things.

 There are gambles that come with experimentation as well. This may be a more specific explanation of my thought process of how I approach things. Whenever trying something new I do my research and rely on my intuition and knowledge of the properties of the materials in question. Then, I try it under a controlled setting. I do the same thing when I travel for a new job or decide to make a new line of products. Most of the time I make calculated decisions made with deliberate intent, but I will admit there are times where I just simply just want to see what happens. I don’t necessarily consider the loss of the cost of materials in case it fails. I see it as paying for the knowledge. The same goes for life experiences. Failure has to happen. You absolutely need it. It is something that is so underrated these days – that grueling uncomfortable feeling forms the most crucial parts in your career. To be clear, that doesn’t mean that fear isn’t part of the equation. A healthy dose of fear is imperative to help make informed decisions, but it can be detrimental if you let it hold you back.
It seems obvious. We all wouldn’t gain any experience without taking risks. Personally, I would rather try something that might backfire than deal with the fact that I never tried at all. In the same ideology, I can’t control what goes on in the world, but in a way I can control what happens on my workbench (most of the time). This is why I keep coming back to it.

Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I think what sets me apart is the variety of things I get into. I nerd out on different materials, tools, and processes; it’s not just one medium. I landed here following my curiosity. I started down the track of fine arts as a form of sanctuary. I felt so out of place growing up; it wasn’t until I was immersed in art school where I found a like-minded community. In a sense, it was an easy path to take because I was consumed with excitement about possibilities. Creating things was a way for me to externalize all the philosophical concepts I had brewing in my head. I thought of it as a way of getting closer to an absolute truth – omniscience through collective investigation of forms and processes that provoke people to think about certain subjects. That was what initially got me hooked to conceptual sculpture but then the ball kept rolling after that, mostly in a way I could try to capitalize.

The pursuit is not without its challenges. It’s always an unpredictable path when your success is not only dependent entirely on you and your grit but also your circumstances (in other words, a bit of luck). Exactly how I’ve overcome certain obstacles is not quite clear other than you just get through them; the problem-solving becomes a bit of a blur until you’re on the other side of things.

One thing is for sure, you learn to become comfortable with being uncomfortable. Any career path, not just this one, requires its sacrifices. I think it’s important to clarify how you want to spend your time. And with that time, certain lessons reveal themselves: plan ahead and be patient. Always expect the failure, because it’s coming. Consequentially, you’ll be pleasantly surprised when you pull it off; then it just becomes easier to. Respect (and accept) the ebb and flow of productivity and creativity. It’s not realistic or sustainable to go 110% all of the time. When working for yourself it’s easy to drown in all the details – things that suck up a lot of time. Any time not spent on production is flooded with guilt. But the biggest lesson I’ve had to learn (and still trying to master) is balance. There are plenty of experiences where my gender has been an issue, but I find that regardless of the situation work ethic normally triumphs. It feels better to earn people’s respect than to prove people wrong.

In light of this, the best piece of advice I try to give anyone is to stay genuine and “hungry.” Maintain engagement with sincere intention. Most people can pick up easily whether you’re trying to just cut corners or are honestly trying to contribute to a craft. The right people are always willing to throw you a bone.

So, to bring it back to my seemingly random trajectory and my motivation behind it: it’s mostly about causing that “ripple.” I’d love to leave a lasting imprint and be a catalyst to inspire others, especially for women who are diving into male-dominated fields. The most amazing consequence of this is when people enjoy what I make more than I enjoy making them. It’s what has kept me pursuing this despite its obstacles.

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Since I live in Austin, I would take them around the East Side where my studio is. Things are a bit more complicated in terms of the pandemic, but there are still plenty of places to explore. I would take them to the sculpture park near Dimension Gallery and then pop over to Canopy Studios to see some art. Then I would make my way west to visit Laguna Gloria and their outdoor sculptures there and visit Mount Bonnell before eating at a food trailer for some barbeque. I would get coffee before visiting Barton Springs regardless of the weather and take a walk on the Congress bridge, hopefully enticing some water-related activities on Lady Bird Lake. Then I’d hit up the Yellow Jacket for a late outdoor lunch and beverages. I really enjoy brunch at the Little Darlin, and then perhaps take a hike somewhere on the greenbelt. Then, if the video stores survive, I would take them to I Luv Video to rent something for the evening. I would probably explore Jester King Brewery with them as well as spending plenty of time having fun in my own studio – I love collaborating with people.

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
There are so many incredible people that have helped and inspired along the way, here are just a few: All the guys at Austin Metal Authority, Arturo Ramirez & the American Scientific Glassblower Society, Neptune Glassworks, Creative Side Jewelry School, The entire knifemaking community including Steve Schwarzer, Niel Kamimura, Edward Kim, Nick Anger, Chris Adelhardt, Chrif from Huble blades, Jason Knight, Thomas Rucker, Marc Weinstock, Michael Jarvis, and many more. Special thanks to Erin Cunningham who’s been pushing me forward from the very start. Frank Buchwald in Berlin for allowing me the opportunity to experience working as an artist aborad. Grateful to ICOSA Collective, Mai Gutierrez, Ashley Childs, and all of the incredible artists and friends in Chicago.

Website: www.andreadeleon.com
Instagram: @thedrestroyer

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