Interdisciplinary. Community. Advocacy. Humor.
Erin S. Daily is a metalsmith who lives and works in Brooklyn, NY. Erin holds an BFA from the University of Kansas and a MFA from SUNY New Paltz. She has extensive teaching experience, as well as experience as a bench jeweler, free-lance work, and working for a gemstone dealer. Erin is most recently spending her time as owner and educator at Brooklyn Metal Works- a metal arts studio that offers studio rental space, classes, lectures, and has a gallery to promote artists- that she recently opened with his partner Brian Weissman.
Please give a short bio of the path you have taken to your current state in life through education, employment, residencies, and other artistic ventures.
I received my BFA in Metal from the University of Kansas in 1997. I then took 5 years between degrees to live life, travel, and set up my own studio.
In 2000 I went to Arcosanti in Arizona for the construction workshop where I then lived for 4 months. It was a fantastic experience that taught me a lot about architecture, design integration, and the importance of working on a project that included more far reaching community ideals.
In early 2001 I had my first real bench job, where I learned how to work in gold and perfected basic skills like chain repair, setting stones, resizing rings, and re-tipping prongs. I also learned what I did NOT want to do forever, like making ugly jewelry with no design intention. But I saw this job as me getting paid to learn what I would not have sought out otherwise, and for this reason it was invaluable.
From 2002- 2004 I attended SUNY New Paltz and received my MFA in Metal. I spent the summer between those two years as co-head of the metals program at Snow Farm in western Massachusetts. Teaching high school students is always an interesting ride.
After graduate school I spent the summer assisting Myra Mimlitsch-Gray in her studio, which was immensely enlightening. To see her working process was a great demonstration in productive creativity and problem solving.
That next year I was an adjunct instructor at New Paltz for a beginning metals course, and I also had the good fortune to work for Annette Ferdinandsen. Her jewelry line is exquisitely crafted and utilizes smart fabrication strategies. I learned a lot about the advantages of using castings in production work as well as what it takes to maintain a small business.
After moving to NYC in 2005 I worked out of my studio for a year and did freelance for Annette and others.
In the summer of 2006 I attended Now Tree, taught by Ruudt Peters in the Netherlands. It was a completely worthwhile experience, and I am fortune for the people I met there as well as the creative inspiration I gathered.
In fall of 2006 I began teaching jewelry classes at 92nd St. Y Jewelry Center. I continue to teach classes and workshops there and really enjoy the community of students that come there to learn.
In late 2006 I began working for Robert Bentley, a gemstone dealer specializing in colored stones. I had always loved minerals and this just blew the gemstone world wide open for me. It was a great experience and I met a lot of jewelers and designers, as well as being introduced to how this side of the jewelry industry operates. I also had a great introduction to working trade shows all over the country. And even though I no longer work for Robert, going to Tucson is so fun that I still try to make it back to work with him whenever I can.
In 2008 for two semesters I taught Metal Casting at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. This was a great school to be a part of and I enjoyed my time there thoroughly. Sharon Church and Rod McCormick have created an excellent program, and their students are a pleasure to teach.
In 2007 I began selling my production jewelry at Ten Thousand Things here in NY. I continue to work with them as my line grows.
Beginning in 2009 I began to work full time in my own studio, while still teaching, and developed many freelance relationships with other artists and designers. During this time I also began developing the real business foundations for Brooklyn Metal Works, which we built out in 2011 and finally opened in 2012.
Funnel Grouping, copper, brass, enamel paint, salt, overall dimensions 4” x 18” x 18”, 2004.
How where you financially able to make things work during your journey to where you are now? (teaching, unrelated jobs, selling of your work, financial support from a partner or family, loans…. please be as general or specific as you are comfortable with)
It has always been a combination of things. My family paid for my undergraduate education so taking on the financial burden of graduate school wasn’t as daunting as it might have been otherwise. And since state schools are not as expensive as private institutions, and since I was lucky in the timing of my loan rates being extremely low, my debt is nothing to complain about.
I have also cobbled together many jobs along the way. Happily they have always pertained to my skill set. Teaching jewelry and metalsmithing classes, working for a gemstone dealer, bench work for designers, creating original work for other artists, and sales of my own work all contribute to my financial health. But my quality of life is substantially better because my partner has a full time job with benefits. We each work equally hard, but he brings home a consistent paycheck. And he is also a metalsmith so we both reinvest in our studio, which is another boon to my situation.
Opening Brooklyn Metal Works is a dream that I honestly could not have realized without the support of many people. Our initial costs have been greatly offset by the help and contributions of friends and family. As well Brian and I have been collecting tools and equipment for years in the hopes of being able to use them in our future, now realized, studio.
Brooch, silver, dyed silk pods, 7 x 6.5 x 2.2cm, 2010.
Please estimate the break down of the percentage of your time (in a week or month) spent in your studio, at related jobs, unrelated jobs, marketing, working with galleries, craft fairs, time with family and friends, or other relevant categories.
Since opening Brooklyn Metal Works the vast majority of my time is spent there, both physically and mentally. I do computer work most every day, where I used to be able to spend most of my day at the bench. Brian and I split quite a few tasks, and we are constantly communicating about what we are working on so that nothing gets overlooked.
Because I am literally at Brooklyn Metal Works every day, and because I don’t need to be constantly working on business, I am able to get studio work done. I make work for myself as well as others, though the amount of time varies depending on projects and deadlines. I would say in the end about one-half to two-thirds of my studio working time is for myself, and the rest is for others.
I also teach metals classes here at Brooklyn Metal Works and at 92nd St. Y. The classes are taught on a weekly basis for varying session lengths and occasionally there are short workshops. Generally speaking I spend about 8-12 days a month teaching most of the year, less in the summer.
Because Brian and I are partners who also work together, and we work all the time, we do at least see a lot of each other. I don’t know how a partner, or family, could stand for the amount of time it takes to start a business otherwise. Our friends know that we don’t have much free time and usually come to see us at BKMW or make plans for late in the evening get-togethers.
Looking back at the opportunities you have had which do you feel have directed or benefited your current path the most? Are there things you would have done differently, opportunities you would not have taken, bigger risks you would have made, etc?
Going to graduate school was the best thing I could have done for my career. I knew this abstractly before, which is why I went, but now I realize just how imperative it was. The relationships that are built are just as important as what you create and learn. And it brought me to NY state and then to NYC.
Living in New York has forced me to say yes to things I might have shied away from in the past. I have taken jobs that have greatly influenced my knowledge base and increased my skills in ways I could not have anticipated. Here in NYC I found that when opportunity comes your way you figure out how to get the project done and take it on. In the beginning when you need the money and you need the connections, you have to really rely on yourself. It made me more fearless, in a good way.
I have had to weigh the income gained by working for others over the unknown results of working for myself. If a project comes along that I find interesting or challenging I take it because I find it satisfying. Sometimes I say no if I don’t want to do it (a newfound luxury) and work on my own pieces. This combination of taking on different jobs can be disjointed, and not necessarily good for production work, but I prefer it in the end. I like the challenge new opportunities bring.
I don’t think I could take a bigger risk than opening Brooklyn Metal Works. I am thrilled that it is finally a reality. Hopefully, this will become the best thing I could have done for myself, as well as the metals community.
Brooch, silver, gold, dyed silk pods, 4 x 6 x 2.2cm, 2010.
Where do you hope your career will be in five years? (Especially in relationship to the breakdown of your time spent in the studio, at related jobs, unrelated jobs, teaching, with family. Are there galleries you hope to be in? Have a solo exhibition? Have studio employees, bookkeeper, etc?)
I am looking forward to Brooklyn Metal Works becoming a sustainable business with all its many facets running smoothly in tandem. This includes being able to hire others to lend their strengths to the overall functions of exhibitions, workshops, artist residences, and more.
I will always teach in some capacity, it is part of who I am. I would like to expand my teaching experiences through travel, especially internationally.
I am always working towards creating more art as well as strengthening my relationships with galleries. I am also working to build relationships with other artists for collaborative efforts across disciplines, and I intend to begin creating work from these connections in the near future.
Feel free to ask questions in the comment section. Also, be sure to view more of Erin's work on her website at http://erinshay.com/ and for more information on Brooklyn Metal Works visit http://bkmetalworks.com/.