Shelly McMahon

born/raised: Eugene, Oregon

current location: Ashland, Oregon

education/major: Bachelors Fine Art Metalsmithing, Bachelors Mathematics, Masters Secondary Education

How did you come to jewelry? While in my final year of college as a math major, I took an introductory art lecture course called The Artist's Experience.  The class brought in professors from the various art departments to give lectures about their work and process.  The first lecturer was Kate Wagle, who was the University of Oregon's department head in metals/jewelry at that time.  I had never seen anything like her work and was amazed that she fabricated these objects herself.  I took my first metals course the next quarter and went on to receive my BFA. 

Where do you gather inspiration?  I look at artists who are merging their art practice and everyday life in interesting ways.  For example, Andrea Zittel.  She defines craft as a method of production by an individual and points out that the maker is often the one who ends up using the produced object.  At the time that Zittel was receiving her MFA, there was a kind of negative reaction to discussing craft in fine art academia, yet she was interested in how craft could broaden or be incorporated into her ideas.  Like Andrea Zittel, I find working within craft, art, and design to be a more expansive practice.

What do you do for fun?  Traveling is one of my favorite activities.  I regularly take short trips just to get out of the town I'm living in.  I was so happy to be introduced to stand up paddle boarding because I'm pretty horrible at surfing, but I got into it just so I could get into (physically) the pacific ocean off the Oregon Coast.

Jobs before you got into jewelry?  I've always worked in restaurants.  It's a good part time position that allows me to make work on the side.  Having opportunities to be around a lot of other people is a helpful balance to so much isolated studio work.

Do you do other types of art, besides jewelry?  Currently, I'm only making jewelry, but I will make work in whatever medium makes sense for my ideas.

Favorite trip you have taken?  I took a trip to Europe after graduating.  I had just finished my BFA thesis work and headed to Amsterdam and Barcelona where there were some great contemporary jewelry galleries as well as a very powerful sense of support for jewelers.  I didn't even have to try to make something happen in Amsterdam.  As soon as I left Gallerie RA, having tried on work by artists like Karl Fritsch, I just happened to run into Tracy Steepy at Gallerie Rob Koudijs who was completing an artist in residence in Amsterdam at that time.  It was a cool feeling.

Do you have any ideas or concepts for your next body of work?  I want to research celebrity culture, because attention and the act of looking are of similar importance to celebrity as they are to jewelry.  It makes sense to me that some kind of opportunity exists between the two of them.  Thinking about this relationship in a very abstract way rather than what jewelry celebrities own and when they wear it.