Helen Lay Strong

(1915 - 1995) Seneca Falls, NY

Helen Lay Strong first showed an affinity for the arts at the young age of six years old. She developed her skills over the years by creating clay model animals that she sold for ten cents a piece. This talent later prompted her mother to allow Strong to attend art school at Cooper Union College in New York City. After a year Strong dropped out of school to form a marionette group that used wooden puppets she carved. She attempted to return to college at Munson William Proctor Institute in Utica, but eventually dropped out in order to help her sick father run the family farm. For the following fifteen years Strong sold her carvings wholesale to a shop called Fannie Morse in New York City. In the 1960’s, Strong set out on her own, and attempted to sell her work to department stores around the city. When the stores expressed their disinterest in her work, Strong began to sell her work directly to collectors at crafts fairs or wood carving shows. She studied books and stuffed specimens to create realistic hand painted bird carvings that were often displayed on pieces of driftwood or rocks. She recorded her carvings by creating a detailed watercolor painting of each of her works. Strong often intentionally made her carvings disproportioned by making them either smaller or larger than it would be realistically. Throughout her carving career Helen Lay Strong’s works have remained highly sought after by a select group of American and European collectors for her detailed paint work. In addition to her wood carvings Strong also published a book on how to make carved and painted animals out of gourds.