Jeweler Uses Natural Objects for Wearable Art

NEW PALTZ — Maria Phillips, a metalworker who makes wearable sculpture out of silver, plant and animal artifacts, will give a lecture at SUNY New Paltz on Wednesday, March 5, at 7:30 p.m. in Lecture Center 102. Phillips’ talk is sponsored by the Student Art Alliance.

Image Often cited for her originality, Phillips can spin wasps’ nests and seedpods into brooches, or make neckpieces from non-precious metals and cast sheep casings. Underlying all her work is the artist’s interest in exploring the processes of aging and the tension between natural and man-made worlds.

“I am interested in capturing both the beauty and inelegance of objects as they proceed through decay and regeneration,” Phillips has said. The resulting collection looks as if it might have been gathered from a forest floor, but is, in fact, created out of a combination of enamel, string, steel, silver and electroformed copper.

Art critic Bruce Metcalf called the work “wonderfully weird” when citing Phillips’ neckpiece called “Moment,” which took second place in the 2001 Elizabeth R. Raphael Founder’s Prize. He described its tangle of pods, metal and cast sheep guts as “mutant nature: plants and flowers filtered through surrealism for poetic effect.”

Phillips’ work has been shown at the Smithsonian Museum, the Society for Contemporary Craft, and various galleries around the country. She holds an MFA from the University of Washington, Seattle, and in 2001 was recognized as an emerging artist of note in the field of contemporary American craft.

Her lecture is free and open to the public. The Student Art Alliance is a funded member of the Student Association. For more information, call 845-257-3872.

The web address for the image is

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The State University of New York at New Paltz is an institution of nearly 8,000 students located in the Mid-Hudson Valley halfway between New York City and Albany. It offers undergraduate and graduate programs in the liberal arts and sciences, which serve as a core for professional programs in the fine and performing arts, education, healthcare, business and engineering.

More information about SUNY New Paltz is available online at