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Artist In The Making: Jeweler’s Rigor, Tattoo Flash

At semester's end, BFA metalsmith Katie Hayden displays a seriously playful portfolio and dares to contemplate the path ahead.

  • framed brooches

    Image 1 of 5

    Photo: Yael Ksander

    Since mid-term, Katie has created frames for her cameos, which feature photos of friends. The cameos may be worn as pendants or brooches.

  • pendants on workbench

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    Photo: Yael Ksander

    The enamels Katie has created using the champleve technique are arranged on her workbench in the metals shop before being displayed for her final critique.

  • match necklace

    Image 3 of 5

    Photo: Yael Ksander

    This necklace was crafted from matches and a makeshift chain, in response to an assignment that forces students to work quickly and be resourceful.

  • hip-hop improv

    Image 4 of 5

    Photo: Yael Ksander

    Katie's most recent pieces take their inspiration both from tattoo flash and hip-hop records.

  • katie at her workbench

    Image 5 of 5

    Photo: Yael Ksander

    Katie Hayden pauses at her work bench on the eve of her final semester critique.

WFIU’s Artist in the Making series continues with the third conversation with Katie Hayden, an undergraduate fine arts major in IU’s Metalsmithing and Jewelry Design department.

On the eve of her final critique of the semester, Hayden shared the work she’d be submitting for review and reflected on her journey.

Vintage With A Twist

Over the course of the semester, Hayden has been creating enamel cameos incorporating photographs she’s taken of several heavily-tattooed friends.  The process of baking the photo-decal onto the enamel surface causes the black-and-white image to turn sepia-toned, an effect which–along with the cameo format–gives the pieces a vintage look.

Since mid-term, Hayden has created enamel frames for the cameos using the champleve technique.  The primary-colored, bold frames incorporate classic tattoo designs, providing a link to the tattooed subjects they surround.  Additionally, Hayden has created backing hardware for the cameos, that allows them to be worn alternately as brooches or pendants.

A new project has generated enamels that take their inspiration from hip-hop songs while retaining their iconographic connection to tattoo flash.  A heart, a diamond, and a Rose-of-no-man’s-land–all staples of the tattoo parlor–are draped with banners sporting lyrics by Tupac and Notorious B.I.G.

All Work And Some Play

Hayden also shared some of her side projects, generated out of classroom exercises requiring material resourcefulness and speedy execution.  A choker and a pair of handcuffs showcase the decorative qualities of pink-tipped cardboard matches.

Hayden manages to leaven the technically rigorous and ages-old craft of metalsmithing with playfulness and street smarts.

Everything that I do is so technical and specific,” the jeweler explained.  “You don’t have a lot of room to goof around in making a piece, but if your subject matter or your concept is fun or playful, the process is so much more enjoyable.

Tattoo Pipedreams

As for the future, Hayden’s been giving more and more thought lately to her professional options beyond commercial jewelry making.  She credits her professors and the grad students in her department with opening her eyes to the possibilities of travel grants, scholarships and other professional opportunities.  Additionally, Hayden stresses, the department is arming her for the post-college world with a practical tool-kit–grant- and resume-writing skills, for example–to complement the technical and aesthetic sides of the craft she’s mastering.

For all Hayden’s fascination with the art of tattoo, is it be conceivable that her future include an inky foray ?  “A lot of the grad students here are really encouraging me to think about learning the craft. I don’t know about running off to get a tattoo gun anytime soon…but maybe I’ll consider it as a pipedream or something.”



Yaël Ksander

WFIU's Arts Desk Editor, Yaël seeks out and shepherds the stories of artists, musicians, writers, and other creative people. In addition, Yaël co-hosts A Moment of Science, writes essays for A Moment of Indiana History, produces Speak Your Mind (WFIU's guest editorial segment), hosts music and news hours throughout the week, and lends her voice to everything from accounting courses to nature documentaries. Yaël holds a MFA in painting from Indiana University, an MA in art history from Columbia University, and a BA from the University of Virginia, where she studied languages and literature.

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