Mapping Metal with Blythe Miller

Senior completes BFA Jewelry Thesis referencing Hudson Valley
Senior completes BFA Jewelry Thesis referencing Hudson Valley

Every undertaking in life can be considered a journey, and for her Bachelor of Fine Arts thesis show, fourth-year metal major Blythe Miller had a map to follow.

Miller’s work, recently on display in The Dorsky, was a collection of jewelry that was modeled off topographic maps of the Hudson Valley.

“I focused on Ulster County, the Catskill Region [and] really interesting places like the Shawangunk Mountains,” she said.

Miller said she checked several times online to make sure this idea wasn’t already taken, citing it as one of her biggest concerns. Miller described the process as intricate and time consuming. She said crafting and sanding the metal to get the desired shape was one of the biggest challenges.

“It involved a lot of careful forming of the wire, and a lot of careful sanding and filing to get exactly what I was looking for, to get the exact shapes,” she said. “It was a very slow and intricate process.”

Some of the names Miller chose for her jewelry pieces include ‘Elevate’ and ‘Peak.’ She said these are based on the topographical details a map provides, such as the elevation heights, contour lines and shaded relief for peaks and below sea level areas. Every map includes these details for those adventurers’ that wish to scale these mountains and be alerted to both naturally occurring and man-made features.

Miller’s jewelry follows these contour lines building on top of one another, giving it a 3-D appearance. Some pieces look as though they are computer-generated models of the mountain, giving the observer a 360-degree bird’s eye view. This unique perspective provides a new life for the once-flat map.

Miller’s favorite piece out of her collection is the “necklace.” However, she said each piece can be worn.

Still, Miller said she’s done with maps and that she’s looking over the mountains to see what’s on the horizon, and that just may be New York City.

“I want to make jewelry for a company for a while, and then eventually start my own studio and have my own line,” she said. “[I’m] happy that it’s done, happy to move on.”

Inside the metal studio, Miller has worked with a blow torch heating scraps of copper and crafting dome shapes out of the same material, one such project included a teapot.  Some of the challenges to that project, she said, were attaching the spout and lid.

The thesis show is a time for creative, young student talent to showcase their work before they graduate out of their respective program. Some others showcased for this season included the impact of logos, the effects and colors of freezer burn and a focus on sculptures.