Each year, we offer hundreds of workshops across a variety of techniques, mediums, and disciplines, and behind each of those workshops is one of our incredible instructors – many of whom are also working artists, with their own dynamic practices outside of teaching. With this in mind, each quarter we’ll be highlighting one of our instructors here on the blog. We want you to get to know them, learn about their work, and hopefully get inspired by their talent and passion for craft.
For our first feature, we’re turning the spotlight on Stacy Rodgers. Stacy is one of our metals/jewelry instructors, who has been teaching at CC since 2021. Amongst other workshops, Stacy is currently teaching our Metals 1 and Metals 2 series, which teach the foundational skills of metalsmithing and jewelry making. Read on for the full interview with Stacy!
Tell me about yourself and your artistic background – how did you become a metals/jewelry artist?
I grew up in Lawrence, KS. My passion for art began with drawing and painting at an early age. I covered the walls of my room with my drawings and images of art cut from magazines. Frida Kahlo was one of my favorite artists in high school. I enjoyed the juiciness of her paintings. I admired her ability to express her emotions with authenticity on the canvas. I went to the University of Kansas as a painting major. In my second year I took a beginning jewelry/metalsmithing class as an elective. I immediately fell in love with the processes involved in the manipulation of metal. I was obsessed and still am to this day. I get consumed in the making of a piece and don’t want to leave the studio until it is done.
From where do you draw your inspiration?
I draw my inspiration from the anatomy of humans, animals, plants, sea life and microscopic organisms. I’m fascinated with every line, every recess, every form because they have evolved with the single purpose of sustaining life within an organism, like the beautiful lines that form the musculature of our heart. I find endless inspiration within the drawings of Ernst Haeckel and the studies of human anatomy within Gray’s Anatomy. The essence of my practice is the highlighting of the explosive undulating lines and corresponding negative shapes within life forms. A statement on the extraordinary connection between all life.
What is your favorite technique?
My favorite technique is one of the first skills you learn in beginning metals, hand piercing with the jewelers saw. It is a meditative experience for me. Watching each negative space open and the corresponding lines develop within a piece is like watching in delight as flowers bloom to life.
If you could sum your work up in three words, what would they be?
My work is thoughtful, refined, and organic.
What are the most rewarding and most challenging aspects of being a working artist?
The most rewarding part of being a working artist is the comradery, friendships and laughter I find with other artists. Travelling for craft shows, workshops, residencies or exhibitions allows me to meet a variety of fabulous makers and learning their stories is an enriching experience. The most challenging aspects of being a working artist are bookkeeping, business management and finding time to make in the studio.
How has your practice evolved over time?
My practice began with elaborate large-scale adornments that referenced human anatomy and involved multiple metalsmithing techniques. I created my own dies for the hydraulic press then manipulated the forms created by those dies with piercing, chasing and repousse. My practice has evolved into small scale limited production or one-of-a-kind sterling silver pieces that use still reference anatomy but in a subtle refined design.
Tell me about the Allegheny Metals Collective. I understand you have an exhibition at the upcoming NYC Jewelry Week.
Allegheny Metals Collective was started by my friend Katie Rearick in 2015 to connect makers working in jewelry and metals in the western Pennsylvania region. It is a beautiful, supportive collaboration of our unique voices and I am blessed to be a part of it. We meet once a month at Contemporary Craft to share demos, artists talk’s, inspiration, drinks and laughter. We just started a book club too! Providing impactful exhibition opportunities to our members is a very important part of Allegheny Metals Collective as well. This will be our second year exhibiting at New York City Jewelry Week which is an annual week-long festival that invites a global audience to experience the world of jewelry. This year our exhibition is an exploration of personal talismans. We asked our members to showcase the objects and symbols that they find strength, solace, or protection in.
Your husband, Todd, has helped out at Contemporary Craft in the past – what is it like being married to another artist? Do you ever collaborate on projects?
My husband, Todd Rodgers and I met at the University of Kansas in the Jewelry/Metalsmithing Department. I was an undergraduate and he was a graduate student. Having a partner that is a maker, that speaks the language of craft and understands the consuming desire to create has allowed me to explore with liberty and flourish in a supportive loving collaborative union. He is an extremely intuitive maker and being able to bounce around ideas with him during the creation process is a wonderful experience. Todd is also a member of Allegheny Metals Collective. We frequently collaborate on the design and creation of exhibition displays for the Collective. For last year’s New York City Jewelry Week exhibition, we built a 6’x 6’ free standing wall of cardboard circles to suspend jewelry within. I cherish our time building and collaborating.
What do you find most rewarding and most challenging about being an instructor?
It is incredibly rewarding to guide a student through the process of designing and creating a piece. I love sharing my enthusiasm for jewelry making. I strive as a teacher to create an environment of joy, support and exploration for students to develop their artistic practice in meaningful ways. The most challenging part of being an instructor is leaving the studio at the end of class! The energy in a studio when it is filled with makers in the act of creating is infectious!
How has being a working artist impacted your teaching and vice versa?
I think teaching has impacted my studio practice by reminding me that time spent exploring through the creation of samples and mock-ups is important. Being playful and allowing for experimentation can lead to beautiful new directions in your practice.
What is one piece of advice/words of wisdom you would give to anyone who is interested in embarking in a practice in metals/jewelry making?
Trust yourself, be authentic and allow your voice to shine through your work. And keep making!