Vermont Arts Council

I am a Vermont Artist: Leaf Silver

Like many Vermonters, sculptor and craftsperson Leaf Silver is concerned with the practical. Food, tools, what nourishes and can be shared with friends and neighbors. Leaf is an artist of everyday life, blurring the lines between utensils and memories, between dinner leftovers and ceremonial display.

Leaf grew up in the arts hub of Brattleboro, and in a house of artists to boot—they are the child of Cai Xi, also featured in the I am a Vermont Artist series. They moved to the city to attend the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. In Chicago’s bustling art scene, their work gained recognition at such popular galleries as LVL3 and Woman Made Gallery.

After graduating in the spring of 2020, Leaf returned to Brattleboro in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. Like many artists, they have had to adapt. Leaf has begun offering website and graphic design services through their website, as well as another creative and practical talent of theirs—haircuts.

Leaf shared their thoughts about being a Vermont artist.

Oblong, rounded, wooden tray with handles on either side has indentations of various shapes. There are removable, spoon-like objects of the same material fitting just right into each of their respective places. The shape of each ‘spoon’ corresponds to and holds an ingredient used to make a commonly eaten, popular Chinese dish.
鸡蛋番茄 Recipe Tray. Cherry hardwood, fabric, plastic, tomato, egg, scallion, salt, sugar. 15” x 21”. 2018

How has living as an artist in Vermont affected your creative process?

Living in Vermont has sparked in me a desire to live more slowly in order to better observe and take in the world around me. There is so much pressure as an artist to always be producing more and more artwork, and this time has taught me that it’s okay to go through periods of repose, and it’s okay to take extended breaks between creative projects. Being able to access nature—especially in this time of pandemic—has been absolutely essential to my experience. I have really enjoyed walking in the winter landscapes, looking at trees in the forest and being generally astounded and filled with gratitude at the strength and beauty of the Earth. It has given me a lot of hope.

What is something about your art that has changed over time?

My artwork changes with me and the changes are constant. I grew up in an artistic household and have always been encouraged to be creative. I am very much in love with the process of making objects which function in everyday life and exist close to the body like altering garments and carving wooden spoons. Although I am a sculptor, I am starting to see my art practice as less about the individual artworks and objects that I produce and more as the kind of life I’m trying to cultivate through prioritizing rest, pleasure, mental health, physical well being, nourishing food and friendship. I see my artwork as a record, evidence of my experiences and that I exist.

What is your vision for the next several years?

Placemat/rug, glazed ceramic miniature couch, side table, floor lamp, and lucky bamboo. Flax-seed-filled red cushion, brass locket, carved maple wood hair barrette.
Sitting on the Couch Together. Mixed media. 2020

I started a website design business this year! It has been challenging and creatively stimulating to dip my toes into the design freelance and entrepreneurship worlds. I have always had a good eye for design and so this feels like a natural next step for me. I believe that artists are the visionaries of the future and deserve to be paid livable wages for essential work. All of my plans for the future involve using my privileges to uplift my community while advocating for the things that I want and not settling for less than I deserve. This transitional period in my life has taught me how to be more comfortable with discomfort and to accept and embrace change.

Black Lives Matter

Trans lives Matter

Gender is a social construct

Water is life

Visit Leaf’s website.

Follow Leaf on Instagram.

Follow Leaf on TikTok.

Visit Leaf’s I AM… 2021 online exhibit.

Leaf Silver (they/them) is an artist and designer from Vermont. With a BFA degree from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, their primary focus is in making sculptural objects which blur the line between functional design and unique pieces of art using ceramic, fabric, wood, and food as art. They have exhibited work at LVL3 gallery, ADDS DONNA, SITE galleries, the Sullivan gallery and Woman Made Gallery as well as an online exhibition with the Vermont Arts Council.

The I am a Vermont Artist series explores how artists’ creative expressions reflect their experiences of ethnicity, gender identity, religion, disability, or age. Covering all artistic disciplines, and a range of backgrounds—from New Americans to the state’s first residents—we hope to amplify voices that deepen our understanding of what it means to be a Vermont artist.