Sarah Nelsen Designs’ new exhibition, The SteelSunSage Project, is made up of three portfolios inspired by the history and beauty of three diverse environments that have been key influences in Nelsen’s life and work.

Steel | Western Pennsylvania | Endurance, Faith, History
Sun | Southern California | Fortitude, Diversity, Modernism
Sage | Northwest Wyoming | Love, Cultivation, Adventure

The first portfolio, Steel, is featured 
here in part.  The Sun and Sage portfolios will be revealed throughout the upcoming year.

The mission of The SteelSunSage Project is to inspire people to find beauty in every environment and appreciate the essence of what makes it unique.

“Discovering the essence of the steel industry in Pittsburgh has allowed me to explore a source of strength and fuel for the character of my roots. Both positive and negative emotions surface through its past as the steel industry destroyed the local air and water, while making the rest of the nation great, yet
empowered wealth, labor rules, and philanthropy for years to come. It was the Homestead Steel Works, more than any other, that marked western Pennsylvania as the Steel-Making Capital of the World.” – Sarah Nelsen

All photographs were taken in the heart of steel industry history at the Homestead Works historic site, Homestead, Pennsylvania. I aimed to focus on the simple beauty and captivating past that is engraved amid every dent and weathered texture adorning these authentic industrial remains.

The Homestead Works dominated an industry and defined a community for more than 100 years. Before Pittsburgh was the metropolitan City of Bridges, it was the Smokey City. Immigrant workers took over steel jobs that paid well despite dangerous conditions and resulting in sacrificed skies.

Pittsburgh’s steel built the Brooklyn Bridge, the George Washington Bridge, the Chrysler Building, and the Empire State Building, not to mention miles upon miles of steel rail leading people to the West. This steel made the world-famous “Ferris Wheel” come alive at the 1893 Chicago World Fair as well as form the Panama Canal’s lock gates.

After a century, the steel industry came to a close in the 1980s and many workers were left unemployed or working for a foreign company. The loss for Pittsburgh after the steel industry boom faded was devastating, but allowed the championship character of Pittsburgh to shine as the future grew brighter and new industries emerged with clean, bright skies.  – S.N.


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January 28, 2014


Impressive and memorable. I remember buying Microsoft’s Art Gallery CD about 17 years ago. The experience was not without merit but it was nothing like this thoughtful and inspiring collection. Proving again that the media is not the message but rather the artful vision.

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