Teen sculptor makes her mark - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Teen sculptor makes her mark

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FAIRFIELD, Vt. - An unlikely artist is making a name for herself with large metal sculptures she donates to charity auctions.

In the small town of Fairfield, there's home-grown art scattered about, and it's made by an unlikely sculptor up the road.

Meet Louisa Ulrich-Verderber, a 16-year-old artist.  She welds large metal sculptures for her business, Be a Spark. "It's kind of like a hot glue gun, you have copper wire that comes out the tip and you have a ground clip to the sculpture and that causes the wire to heat up and fuse the metal together," Ulrich-Verderber said.

That metal comes from her magical junk yard forest in her backyard. "I love going back here and just walking around," she said. It's where car parts turn into limbs, door knobs into eyes and her imagination runs wild. "Anything that's rusty and you can put a magnet to I can weld it."

Louisa is not your average teenager. She never knows where her dead cellphone is. She has a passion for science, and has never been on Facebook in her life. She doesn't wear makeup and she listens to Harry Potter instead of music while she creates. "I'm not a girly girl and I like that this is the exact opposite of what people would normally do," Ulrich-Verderber said.

She learned her skills from her mom, Lynda, who grew up on a farm welding together broken equipment. She also makes large sculptures. Their first mother-daughter project was when Louisa was 12. It was a life-sized Stegosaurus in front of her parent's dental office in St. Albans. "That  was serendipity, because my brother was 10, too young, and my sister blew out her knee so I was the one left to help and I stuck with it ever since," Ulrich-Verderber said.

She was hooked from the very first spark, even after a harrowing mishap. "I was cutting through the hydraulic piston and a ball of flame went around my head," she said.

Her mom appears unfazed by the story. That's because she likes to let Louisa experience things on her own. "I think we get grit from having to struggle a little bit," Lynda Ulrich said.

The family knows about struggle. Louisa was born four months premature and weighed only 1 pound. "They told us it was one in a million that she would wind up like this with no disabilities, and we're philosophical enough to think she's here for a reason," Ulrich said.  Part of that reason, Louisa says, is to pay it forward with her art.

She donates almost all of her sculptures to charity auctions, and only does minimal commission work.  She also hopes to become a scientist one day and make even more of a difference. "I feel that I have to give back to the world that gave me so much, that let me be who I am," Ulrich-Verderber said.

A courageous young woman whose drive sparks Made in Vermont art that's all her own.
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