Copper in the Arts

November 2014

The Beauty in Uniformity’s Absence: Millie Lea Jewelry

By Jennifer Hetrick

NecklaceMilli Lea necklace.

Artist Millie Lea’s work combines her love of both precious metal and gemstones with her unique line of Under the Sun jewelry, located in Douglassville, PA. It all began in 2000, after a chance meeting at the nearby Bey’s Rock Shop introduced her to a local wire working class. 

“I had always been into crafts like sewing and knitting but had never done jewelry before,” she says. Around that time, she also began collecting rocks of all sizes and taking in the beauty of gems.

She became a member of the Tuscarora Lapidary Society based in Delaware County, Pennsylvania, and learned in-depth about the cutting and polishing of gemstones through the organization. Drawn to copper and the natural beauty of gemstones, Lea began incorporating both materials into her work.

Mainly working in jewelry, Lea also creates décor pieces like an angel made of copper, with various beads of different makeup, size and shape dangling in a whimsical lack of uniformity from copper wiring below its body.

“I’m not generally into perfecting things,” she reflects about how symmetry sometimes veers from her work but in a way that allows a new comfort of collected things into her jewelry pieces.

Sometimes she gathers all sorts of old found pieces and adds them into a necklace, including in one piece, a miniature seahorse blended with a handful of other tiny trinkets. And once in a while, she adds fallen feathers from her parrot into jewelry.

Copper NecklaceMilli Lea copper necklace.

She has also shaped fish out of copper and keeps one tree of gemstones in her home which she shaped by twisting brass wiring into a trunk and limbs.

Lea has been experimenting with creating iconic art pieces depicting religious symbols as well. She recently created a rectangular cut of pocked-looking copper enclosing an image of the Blessed Mother. The back is made from brass, and a blend of clear, turquoise, and lightly salmon-hued beads suspend from the bottom, while the top is made of more beads which are designed to hang on a hook or branch.

She is especially drawn to the molecular and transformative changes that occur as she is working with copper, and the warm color changes that happen when the materials are heated.

“I like metals because they’re natural,” she says. “It’s my creative outlet, and there is a healing process in creativity.”


Under the Sun, Douglassville, PA, [email protected]

Also in this Issue:


2022   |   2021   |   2020   |   2019   |   2018   |   2017   |   2016   |   2015   |   2014   |   2013   |   2012   |   2011   |   2010   |   2009   |   2008   |   2007

Contact the Editor: