The Artist

Nancy Lee Solbrig, Is the mastermind and creator of Lee Bots. These bots have grown from her love of getting her hands dirty, turning the old, overlooked, lifeless objects into something new. Giving these once useful, but now out of date and broken objects a new soul, attitude, and outlook on life has become her passion. Always, on the hunt for parts that were once hidden in the dark and dusty; closets, basements, and garages around the country. Combining these parts together to create the bots. Who have, found new homes all over the world, brings fulfillment to Nancy.

What has started from her home in Rock Island, Illinois, with her grandma, Leona’s old mailbox and Nancy’s first out of date computer has blossomed into over one thousand bots finding new homes all over the world. Nancy has not only brought the bots to life in sculpture but has taken the bots into the world of photography and print with her graphic design degree. Studying design and painting at Black Hawk College; painting at Canterbury Christ Church University, in England; more graphic design studies at the Academy of Fine Arts Katowice in Poland and the University of Arts Poznan in Poland. Graduating with her visual commutation degree at Northern Illinois University.


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The Beginings

The bots got their start in 2009, from a college project at Black Hawk College. A “found object” project for 3D foundational. From this simple project the first bot, Rupert, was created and Nancy’s interest in turning the old, unwanted family objects into something new. Rupert was made from an old family mailbox and lamp that were hidden away in the garage, amongst a pile of old junk. Along with these parts, were the torn apart pieces of Nancy’s out of date computer. Rupert went over well with the teachers, students and even won first place in the colleges yearly, Art Fusion magazines, art award. Along with first place in the yearly art student exhibition.

With this encouragement, the bots became more than a one-shot project.
The bots started their evolution and started to find their style. The bots went through many different looks at the beginning. It wasn’t until the 20th bot that they started to get the look that is now the bot overall wire style. To learn more about individual bot types, check out the bots section. Where the bots are described in more detail with part info and year of creation.

Branding & Marketing

For the next four years, the bots kept growing and evolving as sculptures. Their popularity grew and the time to give them an official name and identity became known. Bring the hobby a more official look. The official name Lee Bots came about in 2013. The name is Nancy’s middle name and the nickname for her grandma, Leona. After all, the first bot was made from her mailbox and lamp.

The bots type was designed from electrical blueprints while Nancy was studied design at the University of Arts Poznan, in Poland. This product class help to form the bots logo and tags.

Each tag has the bots name and the bots number. The bots number has the creation of the bot the bots number in the sequence of all the bots. To date, there are more than 1000 bots.

In 2013 with an official bot look, launched their Etsy shop.  The bots went from selling from around the Quad Cities to selling around the world. The bots and now in 49 state, missing Alaska, and12 counties around the world.

On the road

In 2015 the bots decided to make the hobby into a full-time job. Traveling the country, doing: art festivals, comic book conventions, and Makers Faires. These trip gave the bots a whole new customer base and gave people who would never otherwise see the bots the opportunity to adopt a bot for them self. These events, also provide quick and instant feedback from the consumer. Helping to grow the bots brand into more than bot sculptures.

The first bots art festival was in Marshaltown, Iowa. It was a very hot day in July of 2015. The bots had no idea what they were doing. But, they got the job done with a cheap, last minute tent and three very makeshift tables. The bots went over very well at the festival with lots of the bots finding new homes.

Since this festival, the bot setup has evolved… a lot and Nancy’s, what I’m I doing anxiety has become a thing of the past. The bots have grown into many different fields starting with buttons, prints, cards, magnets, and even wire jewelry now. To see all the products for sale, go to the shop section.

The first two years the bots traveled mostly in the Midwest states. In 2017 the bots got more adventures and started to expand their range of travel.  Miami, Florida kicked off the 2017 year and is the farthest trip the bots have taken, to a Makers Faire and comic book convention.


The Workshop

All the bots get their start from Nancy’s workshop in Rock Island, Illinois.  This once three car garage space was once empty… Now, Its full of bits and pieces waiting to become bots. The main workshop area is where the bits get turned into bots. Due to the fact bits were taking over the workspace too, Nancy developed a system to deal with the towering parts.

The grid system was developed to help work along. Nancy lazy out parts on the grid. Each sectioning becomes a bot. This helps, with space and procrastination. The selection of parts all get taking out at once and then put away, so there is room to build the bots and fewer distractions with the options of, what would these other parts over here look like together. once all parts are on the grid, Nancy draws numbers from a hat to pick bots to get worked on. This avoids not wanting to make one and keeps it interesting to wonder what bot get built next. This technique has been used for the last 5 years on big batches of bots. To get more picture of the workshop to follow the bots on Instagram @leebots

The Hunt For Parts

A lot of people ask where the bots get their parts from and the answer is simple. Everywhere. Most of the parts come from Habitat for Humanity Restore. A lot of the old electrical pieces come from Restore along with the wire and