Michael McRae is a metalsmith who creates one-of-a-kind silver, gold, and precious stone jewelry, and has been in the arts and creative world for nearly four decades.
Up until a few years ago, Michael was a photographer shooting fashion and product for national brands. However, as digital techniques took over the profession, Michael sought out another art form that would allow for more hands-on creativity: jewelry-making. Having been in the fashion industry for so long, it was a natural fit—and one that caters to his innate urge to design and create.
Michael now revels in the opportunity to create unusual and enticing pieces to share with others.
How did you get started in art, and how has it evolved?
I was a first-year student at the University of Utah in a required arts class. I happened to be looking at some work by Irving Penn, Sally Mann, Henri Cartier-Bresson –– these are great photographers –– and I had one of those “wow” moments.
From there, I picked up a camera and started taking images. At that point in time, photography was a little bit more hands-on: you’re shooting with film, you’re in the darkroom, you’re producing an image for a book or printed page or the wall. At the end of the day, there was a tangible piece, and I liked that.
As photography transitioned, so did I. I also was involved with a fashion and apparel company, and they were looking for some accessories. They didn’t want just the normal things off the shelf. I said, “I can do that.” I like working with my hands. I like swinging the hammer and playing with fire to make art.
What is most challenging about your process?
Obviously, I want the visuals to bring you in, but it’s more the tactile sense that is important to me. Meaning, how does it feel when you slide that ring on? How is the balance of the cuff? I want that presence to be tactile. I want you to go, “Wow, this should feel like this. It should have that substance.” To me, the challenge is putting the whole story together.
What are your favorite stones to work with?
Right now, two of my favorite stones are Montana Sapphire and Tanzanite. I look for faceted, wonky, irregular cuts, and set them in what is, hopefully, an unusual and enticing piece.
What makes the Celebration of Fine Art unique?
The big difference in The Celebration of Fine Art is the length, which is great. You start getting your roots in a little bit; you’re not having to pick up and move. The other thing for me is, I’m a maker. I make every day, and that’s important to me. And as an artist, it is really important to show your work and get it out there and get feedback. This show allows you to make one day, finish it up and then get it out on the table in that same week. It’s instant gratification.