Studio Visit: Caitlin Skelcey


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Caitlin Skelcey, 27, of Urbana is a second-year master's of fine arts degree candidate in the metals program at the University of Illinois.

Do you make all your jewelry using a 3-D printer?

I was trained as a traditional jeweler so that's where I come from but I was interested in learning this technique during my undergraduate years and it's kind of stuck with me through this graduate program.

So is most of your jewelry made from plastic?

The majority. Sometimes it has more traditional elements like silver mixed with the 3-D printed plastic. I've been doing a lot of my recent work with what they call a 3-D printing pen, which is like a 3-D hot-glue gun.

Are these materials and technology hard to work with?

Every material has its challenges. You have to learn to work with it. Part of the reason I became a jeweler is it's problem-solving. You have to learn about the material and make it do what you want it to do.

When and how did you first get into jewelry-making?

Probably when I took my first classes in jewelry-making in 2007 at the Kendall College of Art and Design in Grand Rapids. I thought it would be a new challenge.

Is your work influenced by nature?

It is but it's more about my interest in the machine-made and the handmade and how they can co-exist and how they're defined. As a jewelry-maker, I'm concerned with how an object interacts with a body. I'm really intrigued by the body and the machine.

What kind of jewelry do you make?

Probably a lot of necklaces. My jewelry is usually like small sculptures and less conservative than the typical jewelry you see, say, in a store. I'm interested in doing one-of-a-kind things that nobody else is doing and you're not going to see mass-produced. It's sculpture.

The white work I've been doing is all done with a 3-D pen and plastic. It's my newest work. It's been a very interesting work flow because it crosses the bridge between 3-D printing and gestural hand drawing.

Do you sketch out your ideas first?

Kind of. I start to sketch with a 3-D pen.

It looks like you can add texture with the 3-D pen.

Yes, you can make almost anything but it'll have a crude texture. A lot of my work up until now was jewelry painted with sleek automotive paint and fine-jewelry pieces. But this new work is kind of an abstracted-nature process.

Why did you come here for an MFA?

I was impressed with the program and the alumni. Billie (Theide) always seems to turn out good graduates, who do strong work.

This is a really different program than the one I came from, which was tech-focused. Here's it more fiber and traditional metal-smithing. I could have gone somewhere that was just as tech-focused or more digital but I felt this would challenge me. I came here looking for a challenge. It has been a good challenge.

Skelcey and other UI students will sell their jewelry during the metal program's "Red Dot Sale" in the Link Gallery between Krannert Art Museum and the School of Art + Design Building from noon to 5 p.m. today and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday and Tuesday.