You’ve probably seen Lisa Regan’s whimsical garden characters all over Oklahoma. You can’t help but smile when you see them. They are child-like, whimsical and sweet- tempered with an air of mischief.
Regan calls them her “Garden Devas.” Don’t confuse them with entertainment divas. These sturdy metal characters draw their name from an East Indian word meaning happy.
“They are a positive symbol,” she says.
Positive perfectly describes Regan’s journey as an artist and her outlook on her life. She has a joyful personality, overshadowing her busy life as a single parent to four children, while running a busy art business.
A Tulsa native, she grew up in an entrepreneurial family. Her grandfather founded Sandco, designing printing equipment now obsolete. Her mother, once a Las Vegas showgirl, ran her father’s business until her death.
Regan’s independent spirit was evident in her youth. She attended private schools, graduating from Project 12’s Alternative High School.
“I hated working in my mom’s business,” she says. “I had to wear panty hose and clothes I didn’t like. I didn’t have enough money for art school so I escaped into my art – ceramics, basket-weaving and silk-screening.”
A visit with a California friend 24 years ago was pivotal.
“He told me about some welding equipment for metal art,” she says. “I took his advice and took my art to a Brookside show 22 years ago. Twenty years ago, I incorporated the Garden Deva. Mom helped me sell my work in the early years.”
The exterior of Garden Deva at 317 S. Trenton Ave. is as delightful as the characters Lisa creates. Inside, the colorful setting is magical – a tribute to Regan’s creativity. Now celebrating her 20th anniversary, Regan sells her art all over the country.
“The first item I sold was a cat with a bird on its back,” she recalls. “Some whispered it was ugly. I didn’t care. I loved what I was doing. I’m glad I had the drive and persistence to stay with it.”
Two decades ago, gardens were purely functional. Regan’s art helped change how people view gardens, making space for outdoor art.
Touring the industrial area of the 10,000-square-foot building, it’s easy to see the muscle needed to create metal art. Lisa loves her plasma laser torch, which looks like a Fourth of July sparkler slicing quickly through metal.
As her business grew, she became a savvy juggler.
“People bring me all kinds of art/welding projects,” she says. “I’m always bidding on new projects.”
She shows metal garden leaves made for a home’s windows – a beautiful safety feature. Art deco lights are in progress for a garden walkway. Snaking through the workshop are large pieces of curving metal that will mark the Children’s Garden entry at Tulsa’s Botanical Center.
Her Spring Creek Spirits are new, inspired by Spring Creek rocks featuring fossils; now the unusual heads of metal characters. Also new: brightly painted Matisse-inspired serving trays.
For Regan, the best part of her business is playing with and creating metal.
“Who gets to play and create and get paid for it?” she asks. “The hardest part is being the boss. I live by a Chinese saying that promises ‘things will work out.’”
She also shows a caring attitude for her employees.
“I let my employees bring their children to work if necessary,” she says. “I had to do that. I’d like to think being around art expands their sense of wonder.”
She also generously shows other artists’ work, noting, “This is a cooperative gallery.”
“I’m proud I’ve lived my life my way,” she says. “I do believe art will save the world.”