Welcome to the first installment of our Humans of Sandy Springs series, where we profile the interesting and talented folks who make Sandy Springs such a vibrant community.
Huelani Mei Fogleman (friends call her Mei) is a talented artist who works primarily with metal. I met her because of her playful fox sculptures you can see around the Thompson Buckhead hotel, but her large scale public art is where her passion is taking her. Here is Mei’s story in her own words.
I’ve always been creative and in the art world. When I graduated high school, I went to Georgia State, and I focused in metal casting. I worked with a really cool artist named George Beasley he has some sculptures around Atlanta. He was great person to learn from. And then I also did a piece and I got it into the High Museum, which was really exciting.
I have a sculpture degree, a BFA from Georgia State. After I graduated, I worked with a bunch of different sculptors in Atlanta. I helped build some really big sculptures that went up to Norfolk, Virginia. And then I got a job doing set design for museums and hotels.
From Corporate Art to Freelance
I was the lead scenic artist for the company that did the renovations for the Cyclorama at the Atlanta History Center. I managed it and redid all the set design for about a year and a half. And then after that, I realized I don’t want to build museums anymore.
I got an opportunity to build my tree of life sculpture with Fur Kids Atlanta, and I needed a metal shop. I found a shop in Roswell and I started renting space there. I’ve been kind of a self taught welder for the last three years, and gaining skills every day.
I normally get most of my clients through Instagram and through working festivals and markets. For the past few years I’ve been hosting and organizing art festivals in Dunwoody, and that’s how I’ve met a lot of people.
Tree of Life
The sculpture with Fur Kids Atlanta was really fun. I would walk around their new headquarters, and it was just based off all the Japanese maple trees they had on the property and about life itself. With that sculpture, every time someone adopts an animal a leaf is put on the tree. So it’s really fun to watch the sculpture grow. When I first installed it, it was completely bare. And now it’s just filled with leaves, which is really special.
It was very freeform. I did a few sketches, and then I just let the metal make the sculpture. I started with a circle, and then started adding rods and built the tree. And that’s what I love about that sculpture. Is that it was still organic, like how nature is. That’s what I love about building with nature and waves and even the foxes [at the Thompson Buckhead Hotel], just kind of letting the natural design take over.
I’m working on a sculpture right now for Dunwoody and I’m really excited about it. It’s my first huge sculpture, essentially, that should be installed by spring of next year. It’s going into Brook Run Park. It’s going to be called Grounded Growth. It is a sculptural bike rack. There’s going to be three tall flowers, and the center of the flowers are bicycle wheels. They’ll be about 10 to 15 feet in height, and then the bike racks will be falling leaves. And so it looks like all these leaves are coming out of the ground, and it will be able to hold up to 16 bikes. This linear style with nature and organic shapes is really where I’m going with my work.
At Home in Sandy Springs
I really love being able to be close to the city and also close to nature. I’m a huge nature lover, and I go hiking everyday. I go kayaking all the time. It’s really great. And the food seems to be getting better. I’m a huge foodie, and they have great restaurants coming up. I bar tended at Hearth Pizza Tavern for eight years, so I really watched the city grow. Now I drive through it and I don’t even recognize some of the streets anymore.
Island Ford is one of my favorite places, and then I also really love Morgan Falls because they have that nice dog park down there, and then you can get into the river right there too.
I used to live in a condo right behind the Abernathy Greenway Trail. I would always walk my dog over there, and it was so inspirational to see all these functional sculptures that people could interact with. It just brought public art to the city, which was really cool, especially when I was in school. And that’s what my goal is, is to have public arts around Atlanta and nationally. And so it was nice to see that so close to home.