Art Student Spotlight: Letty Cawley

Category:  The Arts
Wednesday, March 7th, 2018 at 5:10 PM
Art Student Spotlight: Letty Cawley by Dakota Palmer
Contributed Photo

From drawing on scraps of paper as a youngster to crafting wooden tea boxes, senior art education major Letitia “Letty” Cawley has been an artist her entire life. 

Cawley, now doing her student teaching placement at a middle school, said she’s always wanted to be an art teacher — minus a gap from middle school to about 10th grade. 

For a time in junior high, she didn’t want to go to college and began to explore other avenues, such as going to Italy to make violins.

While researching other jobs, she thought about being a mechanic or carpenter — then her mother suggested she make instruments. 

“I said, ‘Yeah, I really want to make harps,’ and my mom said, ‘Well, I can only find you an apprenticeship in Italy making violins.’” 

Ultimately, she stayed in the United States and pursued higher education. After looking at three colleges, she decided to attend Edinboro because of its reputable art education program. 

“I was in a classroom again (a few years ago) and thought ‘I love this.’ My mom is an art teacher and it just felt so right because I love art and it’s active and I understand it,” she said.

With a mom as an art teacher, and specifically her art teacher, it was difficult for Cawley to not get involved in the creative process herself. 

Cawley said she began creating art when she was young with pens and highlighters on scraps of paper she found throughout her house. 

“I think in second grade I got really into drawing household objects, so I drew the toilet (that’s still in our bathroom), I drew my bike and the coffee pot and all of these random things,” she explained. “I was just really into drawing when I was little. I didn’t make too many sculptures unless it was an art class.”

“I had a very concrete sense of what was well-done and what needed improvement,” Cawley said. 

Now, 15 years later, Cawley’s favorite mediums of art are woodworking and printmaking “because they’re very structured.”

“There’s a process, there’s a procedure — woodworking because of its functionality and printmaking because you put ink on the block and something cool happens,” she said. “Both of them are very active; you don’t just sit there. I need to move constantly and both of them allow me to do so.”

Her favorite piece of art she’s made is a wooden tea box she created last semester. 

“I’m really proud of it,” she said, beaming with pride. “It’s hand cut dovetails, and it’s got a botanical painting of tea leaves on it, an antique spoon for the handle and two little rows for tea bags.”

Cawley said she really got into woodworking during her sophomore year of college.

“My pap was a woodworker and so I’ve always wanted to do it, but I never had a chance in high school,” she said. 

Cawley continued, “Being in sculpture and woodworking has really grown my spatial sense, because I’ve always been able to rearrange rooms in my head and stuff, but since I’ve had those I’ve been able to really utilize that and it’s been really cool.”

To her, “[Art is] a mechanism for problem solving and exploring issues I’ve had and how I reach students to help them do the same thing.”

She went on to discuss how she’d had two foot reconstruction surgeries and how art helped her express her feelings about the surgeries.

“I’ve been trying to make art about it for years, but have never been able to figure it out until last semester and I started to really explore it,” she said. “I thought about how I need to make art about how I have ‘Frankenfeet,’ so I did me in a surgical room with different feet because I was thinking about what it’s like and how do I talk about, visually, to other people what it’s like to wake up with different looking feet.” 

She continued: “I try to keep my art pretty light, so it’s something big masked with humor. It was a fun way for me to talk about that, and then the other piece of art I made was about having dead guy bones in my feet, so I made me with two foot-shaped ghosts coming out of my feet. I have a lot more exploring to do, but it was good to do it and talk about it in a way that was...(excited noise).”

Eventually, Cawley would like to have a woodshop in her house or be a part of a woodshop community if she lives in a city. 

“I love making stuff, and I love the empowerment I feel when I fix something myself. It’s great (and much cheaper too),” she said. 

She’d also like to refurbish more furniture because “it’s cool to give furniture a new life.” Additionally, she’d like to have a printmaking studio where she can do more relief printing and screen printing. 

“I’d just like to keep exploring those and keep doing new projects with my kids because I feel like they’ll help me in my private work too,” she said. 

Dakota Palmer can be reached at

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