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The Jeweler’s Bench: Kelly Jean Conroy

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The Jeweler’s Bench: Kelly Jean Conroy

Kelly Jean Conroy was born in 1983, in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. Growing up in New England she was raised by an artist mother who encouraged innovation and creativity. This maternal influence eventually led her to attain her BFA from Syracuse University in Art Education and Painting. She completed her MFA in Jewelry Metals from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth in 2013. She is currently teaches metalsmithing at Lincoln Sudbury Regional High School, courses at Metalwerx and is an Adjunct Faculty member of Jewelry Metals at Massachusetts College of Art and Design.

Kelly’s work focuses on life cycles in nature within a jewelry format. Her specialties are enameling, working with natural materials: carving bone, piercing, etching and casting.

How did you get started as an artist?
My grandmother and mother are both artists and it was only natural to always be creating in our household. I had some great art teachers in school and the path was always clear that art was something I was going to do. I originally went to school for art education and painting- and was smitten with enameling after graduating. While working as an art teacher, I pursued the enamel work independently which became my gateway to jewelry and metalsmithing.

What are your biggest influences?
Nature and the perfect imperfection of it all.

What five words best describe your work?
Small little stories in stone.

Tell us a bit about your technique.
Currently i am creating drawings based on vintage botanical illustrations & nature guide books and scanning them into the computer. From there I create small vector files that I can size up or down & then etch onto mother of pearl and semi-precious gemstones. I then create sterling silver settings to frame the drawings & make them wearable. It starts with the hand and ends with the hand with the magic of the laser etching in the middle.

What is a typical workday like for you?
I work full time as a Metalsmithing teacher at a high school 15 miles west of Boston. So I wake up at 5am and get myself to school for first block!  I spend afternoons reading or drawings and perhaps doing some of the jewelry items that are on my never ending to-do list. I also teach night classes at Mass College of Art and Metalwerx which is a school for jewelry for adults.  Jewelry is my passion and I love passing on my passion to others!

What is your favorite thing about being an artist?
I can create the things in my mind —with my hands. I can make things I’d want to wear and have never seen… and that the objects I create bring other people joy.

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