Timothy McMahon, Metalsmith

Timothy McMahonVisiting Instructor, Pratt Institute
Graduated: Class of 2004
Major: Fine Arts
Home Town: Schenectady, NY
Website: www.timothymcmahon.com

What was the main reason you decided to attend PrattMWP?
I wasn't really sure about going down to Pratt Brooklyn right away. Some members of my family had been to the Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute long ago. When we found out that there was a Pratt program there it was something that really seemed to fit well.

The PrattMWP program was new at that time
Yeah, I was in the first year of the PrattMWP program. I really liked it. Everyone was very focused and I felt that the faculty were so involved with the students, partly because they were so much more responsible for the outcome of the program than any other large-scale campus where you have a huge number of faculty teaching a huge number of students. I felt that not only was it a close-knit group of students, but also I felt that the closeness of the faculty members and their personal responsibility was a really good combination.

Do you think going to school at PrattMWP helped to prepare you for what you're doing professionally today?
I learned a lot of social skills being in such a close group of people. I wouldn't say it was confined, more like it was focused, not having distractions.

You went into teaching, when did you decide this was for you?
I think I always wanted to - first and foremost, I consider myself a contemporary jeweler and an artist. But for me, part of that is sharing your ideas and your aesthetic, and the best way to do that I think, is as a teacher - especially in a field like jewelry that isn't as well-known and familiar as others. I enjoyed it. When I see a group of seniors that produce a huge amount of amazing work, there's nothing I can do but feel like 'I gotta get in the studio'.

It inspires you to work?
Yeah. It's kind of competitive in a way.

Metalsmithing is a highly technical field, did you have any of these skills before you came to PrattMWP?
I would say that pretty much every single skill I have I learned at PrattMWP or Pratt Brooklyn.

What are your favorite things to work with?
For me I'd have to say color. I find that no matter what material I'm working with, I'm able to accomplish a color or a texture with that material that I couldn't do another way. I'm really drawn to copper as a material because it's really malleable, but also able to be worked hard. I'm also drawn to enamel, acrylic paint, just about everything. I pick the materials or colors I'm really drawn to and I find a way to bring them together.

Your work is much more artistic than commercial...
It's a mixed bag. I make my work and I don't think about selling it. I'm excited when people are interested in buying and everything but I'm not planning on selling it to someone when I'm making it. My work's represented by a dealer, so it's seen and it can be purchased. I've thought at times of doing work that's more accessible so I could make some more money off of it, but right now with my job, really the balance of teaching and being a technician and an artist - I'm lucky I don't have to worry about that.

How has your work changed since you've been out of school?
I think it's changed a lot. I think I used to be really tied to concepts to the point where maybe it held me back but over time I think I got down to the basics of it. It used to be the ideas that I liked and now it's the design or the aesthetics. I'm less worried about being specific, I'm more interested in just making what I'm drawn to.

If you could, package it - tell me what your work is about.
What I'm really inspired by is growth patterns like cancers or tumors or diseases - cellular patterns dividing and taking over. I'm still inspired by the growth process and the spreading of an idea or aesthetics and design. I really do feel that I look at other people's work and it's inspiring to me. I hope that when people see my work it makes them think 'Wow, I never thought of those two materials together...' or 'Those two colors together are stunning...'. By seeing my work I'd hope that they could then go on and change their own work and maybe it would come back to me and change my work too.

You're a technician at the 92nd Street Y as well?
The 92nd Street Y is an old community resource and the jewelry program there is pretty amazing. 4 different studios, they run classes all day and night and on the weekends, it's a great group of students and faculty members, many of them teach here at Pratt. It's a great coming-together of people where you could take a course, a workshop with a jeweler from Europe who's here just to show a specific technique that they use. It's a great resource for jewelers in this area who can go and take a class and continue learning. Because I work there I can sit in on these jewelers and pick up a skill.


PrattMWP is part of a tradition that dates back to 1936, when the first class of artists passed through the doors of Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute.

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