Lawrence-based sculptor wins design title in nationwide metalworking competition

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Since moving to Lawrence 14 years ago, Lori Norwood has enjoyed one of the local summer traditions.  

The annual Pooch Plunge opens the Lawrence pool to the dogs of the community before it closes for the year. While they swim, Norwood usually takes lots of pictures and draws what she sees there.  

This source of inspiration ultimately led to her taking home a title in this year’s Metal My Way competition. Hosted by Metal Supermarkets, the annual competition showcases industrial artwork from across the United States, from design projects like Norwood’s to furniture and vehicles. 

Her entry, a steel sculpture named “The Last Day of Summer,” depicts dogs playing together. It won Best Art and Design in the competition.

Aaron Paden/Contributed Photo “The Last Day of Summer,” by Lori Norwood

Throughout the pandemic, Norwood said, working on this project gave her a sense of focus in an otherwise chaotic time. The sculpture took months of very precise work to complete, and when it received a winning title, it came at just the right time. Going forward, Norwood plans to turn “The Last Day of Summer” into a series, making her winning sculpture the first in it. 

“It was a huge boost, coming out of this COVID time when I felt very isolated and felt disconnected from the art world and from the world around me,” she said. “I felt like I was getting lost in pandemic maintenance. This was a nice reminder that it’s going to go back to normal, that it matters and there are venues for what I love to do.”  

This sculpture was Norwood’s first time competing with a metal-specific project, and she found out about the Metal My Way competition after visiting Olathe’s recently opened Metal Supermarkets store. Given that metalworking’s origin comes from the industrial world and not so much the art world, Norwood said the competition’s range of submissions made it a unique and inclusive experience for her.  

“It was nice in the sense that it was a fresh venue and different people,” Norwood said. “And it gave me a chance to see my work from an outside perspective.”  

Norwood’s time as a sculptor goes back to her high school days, and most of her artwork revolves around capturing motion and movement. But this artistic title isn’t the only title she holds.  

Norwood spent many years as an athlete, and she was the first woman in the United States to win a modern pentathlon title in 1989. The Women’s Sports Foundation named her Amateur of the Year in 1990. She called Austin, Texas home before moving to Lawrence in 2007, and she was inducted into the San Antonio Sports Hall of Fame in 2015. 

As time goes by, Norwood said the thing she’s most grateful for from her time as a pentathlete is the range of experiences it opened. That was a different life, she said, but there are parallels in her work as an athlete and as an artist. Just like training and competing as a pentathlete, the artwork she does is physically demanding and requires pushing the limits.   

I think in any endeavor, when you push yourself to find out what’s the limit or to push yourself beyond what you thought was the limit, there’s something to be learned there,” she said. “There is a similarity, either in those two endeavors or in the way that I approached the two.”  

These days serve as a bit of a “renaissance” for her, she said, as her youngest child prepares to graduate high school soon. As both an artist and a parent, she divides her time between the two and works around the school schedule, but she is always looking to learn and improve as much as possible.  

“I am a big believer in filling up the well,” Norwood said. “I like to look at a lot of artwork. I like to talk about art and read about art and engage other creative people and see their spaces. And that all keeps me in my work and my dreams at the forefront.”  

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