Leah Tuscany shares passion for art and alpacas

Leah Tuscany and her alpacas

Leah Tuscany says her alpacas are peaceful creatures. (Photo submitted by Leah Tuscany)

By Kristal Humphrey, university news and communications,

Leah Tuscany is a personnel manager and artist whose teaching background contributes to her compassion for newly hired employees and to her passion for art. She also is the proud owner of six alpacas who teach her about “personal space.”

Tuscany joined Miami in 1995 and has worked as personnel manager for IT services for the last 10 years.  She teaches sprint art classes each semester as well as an occasional CraftSummer or Winter Weekend class.  

Q: What do you do as personnel manager?

A: I handle HR-related duties for IT services. I organize searches, use HireTouch for HR actions and student hiring, monitor Kronos for students and staff, monitor the personnel budget and serve as a resource for HR-related questions from staff.  

Q: What do you like most about your job?

A: I enjoy working with and helping people.  Customer service has always given me a lot of satisfaction. I have a teaching background, so working in an HR role is a natural fit for me.  I particularly like welcoming new employees to Miami and IT services.  

Leah's beads and jewelry

Leah Tuscany creates glass beads by using the lampworking technique. (Photo submitted by Leah Tuscany)

Q: What would people be surprised to know about you?

A: I guess people would be surprised that I have a passion for art and work actively as a part-time artist.   I have Miami’s CraftSummer program to thank for the classes that taught me the skills.
Sixteen years ago I took a CraftSummer course in lampworking, making glass beads.  What started as an interest turned into a hobby and now is a passion.  In the early days of experimenting with glass, the heat to melt the glass was created by using an oil lamp and a bellows.  The term lampworking stuck.  Some people refer to the process as flameworking or torchworking, but I like to maintain the historical term, lampworking.

Q: I’ve heard you also raise alpacas. What’s that like?

A: I’ve owned alpacas for six years.  They are restful, peaceful creatures, and I find that being around them relieves a lot of stress. They’re also earth friendly — they don’t overgraze and, because their feet are soft, they don’t dig up the ground. They eat mostly grass and hay, but I also feed them a supplement so they have the right vitamins and minerals.  The supplement also helps them produce thick fiber.

I shear them once a year — usually in May or June. Last season I harvested 42 pounds of fiber from my herd. The prime cut is processed into yarn and the second cut (shorter length) into batting.  There is some “waste” fiber, but it’s never truly wasted.  I spread it in my yard and watch birds and rabbits get it to make nests.

Q: What type of personality do they have?

A: Alpacas are curious and friendly but not necessarily cuddly. If you see a picture of someone hugging an alpaca, the alpaca is probably not happy. They have definite “personal space,” and it’s exactly the length of your arm.  They are very smart, and trust is broken easily.  Over time, I have earned the respect of my herd, and they will allow me to approach them and pet them but it is usually on their terms.  You have to accept that if you own alpacas.