By Jessica Dortch, Afro Staff, [email protected] 

What were you doing when you were 10 years old? Most of us were probably playing double-dutch, hide and seek, or climbing trees. If you’re Zoe Lashley, then you’re creating beautiful pieces of handcrafted artwork for restaurants and CEOs. 

At just four years old, Zoe’s mother would take her to the Baltimore Museum of Art every Sunday afternoon to play in paint at Family Fun Day. Shortly after that, a neighbor who happens to be a professional artist and advocate for the arts, Phyllis Brent, informed Zoe’s mother about an up and coming art program. She explained that the program is dedicated to helping kids discover their inner artist, called 901 Arts program.

Zoe holding her first repousse piece created in MICA’s after school arts program, that she sold to Fogo de Chao manager. (Photo by Latease Lashley)

901 Arts is a community-based youth arts center that provides a safe space for children of the Better Waverly neighborhood to explore their creative, artistic and leadership abilities. Zoe began to fine tune her craft, and ultimately, was awarded a scholarship to attend a summer program at MICA Institute in Baltimore. “I used to do art, and I wasn’t sure about it until I went to MICA, I was sure that it was my passion,” Zoe tells the AFRO.

Zoe’s art teacher for the summer was none other than renowned artist Mary Mark Munday. “Ms. MMM,” as the kids call her, introduced Zoe to a style that would soon become one of her trademarks. Repousse (/rəˌpo͞oˈsā/) is a metalworking technique of hammering a soft metal into a pattern or design.

Repousse is a metalworking technique of hammering a soft metal into a pattern or design. (Photo by Latease Lashley)

As an artist by nature, Zoe was able to grasp the concept of repousse and excel at it. In fact, Zoe was invited back to MICA’s art program for the fall season where she experimented with glass, carving, and, of course, repousse. 

One of the pieces Zoe created caught the eye of the manager at one of Zoe’s favorite restaurants, Fogo de Chao. Putting on her businesswoman hat, Zoe negotiated a price for the piece, and it can now be seen hanging in his office.

A piece of Zoe’s current repousse work. (Photo by Latease Lashley)

The story doesn’t end there. The CEO of Fogo de Chao personally reached out to Zoe and invited her and her family to their headquarters in Texas for sight-seeing, dinner with the entire Fogo de Chao family, and more of Zoe’s art. Zoe and her mom headed home after gifting a stained glass piece to the company’s CEO and his wife.  

It seems as if the sky’s the limit for this rising star, even in the face of adversity. “We’ve had some life lessons in all these experiences,” Zoe’s mother, Latease Lashley, says with a chuckle. “It’s been some real early life lessons about being a Black girl with natural hair in Baltimore,” she tells the AFRO. Zoe is often either the only Black student or the only female student in her art classes. 

When asked what her message is to other kids who aspire to be artists, Zoe says “…I came up with my ABCs.” It’s simple: the ‘A’ stands for attitude, the ‘B’ stands for believing, and the ‘C’ is for commitment. “If you want to own your own business, just be yourself! Make sure that your attitude is right, you’re believing, and the ‘C’ is for commitment, so you always have to be committed to your work.” 

 Zoe Lashley is a rising artist with a huge heart for the community. She serves as a youth usher board at New Psalmist Baptist Church and is a member of the Waverly 4-H club. Keep with Zoe on Instagram @Zozosawesomelife, and donate to Zoe’s college fund by going to www.therepbyzoe.com.