Meet the Maker - Caitie Sellers
EA talks to American jeweller Caitie Sellers to find out how a woman from the mountains of Virginia now fabricates some of the most inspiring urban landscape jewellery available today. We look at her travels and the elements of city living that influenced her perceptions to afford her to speak so eloquently through her designs, choice of materials and techniques. Caitie's highly collected pieces are a testament to an artist whose observations are relatable to many contemporary jewellery collectors as well as people who simply want to wear something that is completely unique. We also take a glimpse into the life of the sole studio jeweller, who today must wear many hats in order to succeed.…
EA. Of all the arts and crafts disciplines, why did you choose the making of Jewellery to be your profession.
CS. I think I’ve always been drawn to the idea of making work that would be worn on the body. In art school I majored in metals and textiles, two disciplines that lend themselves to wearables. Additionally, jewelry making requires a mastery of technique that takes a lifetime to learn, and I have always been attracted to a challenge.
EA. Why did you decide to become a designer-maker?
CS. It’s always been important to me to make a living with my hands. Before I was a full time jeweler I was also a floral designer, specializing in the large scale mechanics of sculptural floral installations in high end luxury events. I also loved making boutonnieres, corsages, and floral crowns, as these were wearable items and used my jewelry skills. I prefer the permanence of jewelry, and I have a vision I’d like to put into the world that working on custom events does not allow me to execute, so floral design never felt like a career.
EA. Your work is heavily influenced by the urban landscape, what is it that attracted you to use this visual as your inspiration?
CS. I grew up in a rural, mountainous region of Virginia, where there are few signs of human development. Since leaving home at 18 I’ve lived in 7 different cities across the US and Guatemala, observing their differences and similarities, especially regarding infrastructure. While every place I’ve lived has had a unique personality, things like highways, fencing, powerlines, and scaffolding stay the same. Infrastructure is the shared language of cities and I like to comment on its importance in our lives by loading the value-driven language of jewelry onto it.
EA. What techniques do you employ to make your pieces? Is there one technique that is a favourite?
CS. My work revolves around copper mesh, to which I add structure and contrast with sterling silver. Working with mesh is challenging as it’s too soft to be worn on its own, a sharp edge can never be exposed, and it does not like to be soldered. I spent a 9 month artist residency perfecting the techniques I use to fuse the mesh with silver, take care of the edges, and form the dimensional shapes. My favorite part is fusing the silver wire to the mesh and basically any torch work. It feels the most transformative and it’s the most challenging.
EA. You spent some time in Guatemala, how do you think this played a part in helping you develop your work and as an artist?
CS. After college I spent 5 months in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala, where there was an unruly sprawl I’d never experienced before. Not only was the city huge, but all of its inner workings were exposed- streets under constant construction, power lines knotted and tangled between neighbors, and tilework and ironwork whose utilitarian functions were elevated to a level of artistry in their handmade individuality. I developed an awareness of the urban landscape in Guatemala that has influenced all the work I’ve made since.
"Backstreets," 2010, Sterling Silver and Steel. Window grate may be removed and worn as a brooch.
EA. What is a typical day like for you?
CS. I tend to not have typical days. I travel a lot for retail shows, and as a one-woman business I end up spending my time on whatever task has the earliest deadline. I’m not good at switching between tasks and I tend to hyper-focus, so if I need to complete a project I will do that until it’s done and somewhat neglect my other responsibilities. I don’t really thrive off of routine and my business is a manageable size, so this scattered approach works for me for now. On a relaxed week I usually work 10am-4pm at the studio and I will work from home in the evenings if I have a big show or taxes or too many emails, although I make a daily effort to have a life outside my work.
EA. What is the best and worst thing about your job?
CS. The best thing about my job is the ability to manage my own time. I’m the boss, so I get to decide how much time I want to spend answering emails, I get to say no to jobs I don’t want, I get to take a Monday off if I have the time to spare. The worst thing about my job is that I spend much less time actually making work than I expected. I have so many hats — photographer, bookkeeper, accountant, shipper, packager, traveling saleswoman, merchandiser — that designer-maker gets lower and lower on the list when everything else needs to get done.
EA. Are there any new techniques you would like to explore or learn?
CS. I’m excited to learn more stone-setting techniques. I’ve just signed up for a professional stone setting course so I can add those skills to my arsenal.