Bonnie Stahlecker

  • Visual Art
Stahlecker, Bonnie


“I will be forever grateful to the Arts Council of Indianapolis and the Lilly Endowment Inc. for the opportunity to observe and gather information on these two materials, along with the chance to meet and work with professionals. I know that the new skills, insights, and inspiration that I acquired during my Creative Renewal process will carry me forward for many years to come.”






Bonnie has been a studio artist, creating artistic books and sculptures, for almost thirty years. Her recent work has focused on shields and the way people seek protection against real and perceived evils. For her renewal, she wanted to further her study of leather and metalwork, and selected professionals to help her with this training. She learned from leather expert Jean Turner in Salisbury, England about the historical background and current techniques for the cuir bouilli method of leatherwork. This historical method of boiling leather allows it to be shaped and retains the mold when dried. Among many applications, this method was used to create body armor and shields since the boiling would change the leather’s structure and make it resistant to cuts and blows. She also traveled to Stillwater, Oklahoma where she worked with master metalworker and Oklahoma State University professor Chris Ramsay. “Both of these experts in their fields graciously allowed me to poke around in their studios, answered my many questions, and shared their accumulated wisdom with me. I came back to my own studio eager to experiment and try my newly found knowledge to create new work.”

Bonnie also explored the British Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London for additional historical research on the use of cuir bouilli shields and tribal artifacts. She found many examples of religious materials as well as common household items like combs and pens. She even started noticing cuir bouilli containers in paintings at The National Gallery. Upon return to her studio, she worked with the shaped leather and noticed that the hollow nature of the pieces started to lend their way to half-dome shapes that could be utilized artistically both inside and out. She wrote words on the interior that communicate a secondary message to the pieces, complete with a portal to view. She entitled the series Inner Voices and has plans to show these extensively in the coming year.


Participated in residences at Frans Masereel Centrum, The Banff Centre, and Auvillar Cultural Exchange Program 
1999-2000, 2013-2014 Creative Renewal Arts Fellowship Recipient, Arts Council of Indianapolis 
Master of Fine Arts, University of Wisconsin-Madison

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