Lee Hagman grew up on a farm near Riley, Kansas and attended a one room school through the sixth grade. He was told to find an occupation away from farming because of his hay fever. After High School he attended the 1953 summer art camp held at the University of Kansas. At the end of the summer camp, his metals instructor, Carlyle Smith, told him he should consider becoming a Jewelry and Silversmithing major at the University of Kansas.
Hagerman returned to the farm and took a transcendental meditation walk with his dog in the pasture to consider his future. Upon returning from his walk, he declared he would become a Jewelry Designer and Metalsmith and never look back from that point in time.
He studied with Carlyle Smith and Robert “Monty” Montgomery during his undergraduate years – 1953 to 1957. Hageman’s early design influence was Georg Jenson’s clean line and smooth surface work. A few of his peers during that period of time were Brent Kington, Condon Kuhl and Wendell Castle.
In 1957, following undergraduate school, Hageman opened the Premier Jewelry Shop, the first custom Jewelry design shop in Lawrence, Kansas. Hageman worked mainly with gold, platinum and precious stones. Curtis LaFollette and Bob Ebendorf were some of the undergraduate students that would stop by his shop to buy stones for their jewelry projects and talk about their future in the jewelry and metalsmithing profession.
By 1964, Hageman found he loved educating the buying public as what good creative jewelry design was more than making the retail sale. In 1964, he closed the Premier Jewelry Shop in Lawrence, Kansas and returned to graduate school at the University of Kansas.
In graduate school, Hageman studied with Earl Krentzin and Carlyle Smith. Krentzin introduced Hageman to a broader experience with his design ideas. Some of Haeman’s graduate school peers were Olli Valanne, Klaus Kallenberger, John Satterfield and Marjorie Schick.
Hageman accepted a teaching position in 1967 at Northwest Missouri State, Maryville, MO. In two years he built a BFA area specializing in jewelry and metalsmithing. When the Hunt brothers forced the price of silver too high for student projects, Hageman started researching Pewter. He received a grant from the University to spend a summer researching the techniques of Pewtersmithing in the New England area. Hageman also collaborated with Fred Fenster about new techniques that could be developed with pewter design.
Hageman exhibited his Pewter designs and conducted many pewter workshops in the Midwest. His work is represented in numerous permanent collections and has received various awards and honors. He served as a representative for the state of Missouri to the American Craft Council.
Hageman served as Chairman of the Northwest Missouri State University Art Department from 1978 to 1998 when he retired from teaching.