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Recent Graduate Earns $15,000 Windgate Fellowship Award, 2nd Straight KCAD Student to Do So

Posted July 10, 2019 in AlumniMetals & Jewelry DesignProduct Design

Sidnee Tyree is radiating the surreal jubilance of a lottery jackpot winner who’s still processing the enormity of her good fortune.

After all, it’s not every day you’re chosen to receive one of the largest and most competitive awards offered to art students in America. Nevertheless, it wasn’t luck, but rather a combination of experience and opportunity that led the recent graduate of Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University’s (KCAD’s) Allesee Metals and Jewelry Design program to be one of just 10 recipients of the Center for Craft’s Windgate Fellowship for 2019.

The Fellowship affords students who display exemplary skill in craft a game-changing $15,000 to advance their creative practice however they see fit. This year, 109 applicants from around the country were considered, and when it comes to what enabled Tyree and the intricately elegant wire-woven jewelry she creates to stand apart from the crowd, she feels her time at KCAD made all the difference in the world.

Woman wearing glasses sitting in front of a treeSidnee Tyree (image courtesy of Sidnee Tyree)

“The Metals and Jewelry Design faculty are always empowering you to push yourself and your work further,” Tyree says. “If you have an idea, they do everything they can to help you make it a reality.”

Tyree’s accomplishment is just the latest evidence of how the program’s dual emphasis on creative experimentation and real-world application begets a fertile environment for artistic and professional growth. She follows 2018 graduate Casey Newberg as the second KCAD Metals and Jewelry Design student in as many years to be awarded a Windgate Fellowship.

“With this program, we wanted to build something that could give students room to navigate and experiment by meeting them wherever their interests lie, whether that’s a kind of entrepreneurship or product design, a more vocational-technical track, self-expression, or a hybrid approach,” says professor and Metals and Jewelry Design program chair Phil Renato. “Having Windgate Fellows emerge from the program two years running, along with other measures of success by our alumni, is proof that the experience we offer has immense value; it’s enabling our students to find and follow meaningful paths even before they head out into the world.”

Necklace woven out of wire(above and below): Wire necklace created by Sidnee Tyree (images courtesy of the artist)

Necklace woven out of wire

KCAD’s strong ties to the Windgate Fellowship are nothing new, however. Tyree and Newberg follow in the footsteps of previous Fellows Dustin Farnsworth (’10, BFA Sculpture and Functional Art), Timmothy Maddox (’07, BFA Sculpture and Functional Art), and Chulyeon Park (’07, BFA Sculpture and Functional Art), as well as previous nominees Amy Bailey (’11, BFA Drawing) and Caitlin Skelcey (’11, BFA Metals and Jewelry Design/’11, BFA Painting).

Following Newberg’s 2018 win, Renato saw an opportunity to keep the momentum going. He devised an initiative at KCAD through which he and Newberg could vet KCAD students interested in applying for a 2019 fellowship and mentor the two strongest candidates throughout the process. 

“This would have never been possible without Phil and Casey supporting me,” says Tyree. “Every time I would create a new piece, we would come together and review the work. With Casey having been through the application process already, she was able to help me make my application as tight as possible.”

Bracelet weaved from wire(above and below): Wire bracelet created by Sidnee Tyree (images courtesy of the artist)

Bracelet woven from wire

A solid Windgate Fellowship application requires a strong, cohesive body of work. For Tyree, that meant venturing far into unexplored territory. She’d done plenty of wire-weaving before, but her experience was limited to pendant necklaces.

“This was the hardest challenge I’ve ever faced, because nearly every piece I created for this collection involved something I’d never done before,” Tyree says. “I had to break through that wall to create earrings, neck pieces, and cuff pieces, and that really forced me outside of my own perspective. I took these big risks and it turned out to be the best decision I ever made.”

The Fellowship’s panel of jurors—composed of four accomplished arts professionals from around America—agreed.

“The feedback I got from the jurors was so encouraging; they said my collection reflected a high degree of technical skill and capacity to plan out my designs and make beautiful, elegant work, and that the work itself was highly collectible and very professionally documented,” Tyree says.

Earrings woven out of wireWire earrings created by Sidnee Tyree (image courtesy of the artist)

Prior to applying for the Fellowship, Tyree was beginning to wonder if she had a future in wire-weaving at all. This high-level validation now has her thinking differently.       

“I had nearly given up any pursuits of wire taking me anywhere,” she recalls. “To create this collection and to not only get that positive feedback but to be awarded the Fellowship as well, it was inspiring. It proved that I can still do this work and people will want it.”

The $15,000 award now sets the stage for Tyree to blossom as a professional artist.

“It means the absolute world to me,” she says. “It’s validation that the work I do is good and has meaning. That’s going to carry over into what I do going forward, knowing that if I put my whole heart into my work and make it with quality that it will resonate with others.”

Ring woven out of wireWire ring created by Sidnee Tyree (image courtesy of the artist)

First on Tyree’s list after graduating from KCAD this past May: a five-day workshop with master goldsmith Kent Raible, where she’ll take a deep dive into alloying metal, solderless fusing, and gold granulation—a technique whereby a surface is covered in granules of the precious metal.

“I would love to be able to alloy my own metal and make my own ingots to give myself more control over the materials I’m working with, and I’d also like to start experimenting with granulation,” Tyree says. “It’s all about increasing the range of creative possibility in my work.”

Tyree is also looking to connect further with renowned wire-weaver Mary Lee Hu. Tyree first encountered Hu at the Society of North American Goldsmiths (SNAG) 2019 Annual Conference in Chicago this May, and plans to participate in a workshop Hu will be conducting in Austin, Texas next January.

“I’ve followed her work for quite a while, and she’s amazing,” Tyree says. “I can learn a lot from her.”

Ultimately, Tyree will direct the bulk of the award funding towards building a robust home studio, complete with casting and polishing equipment. With a firm foundation of education, experiences, and resources underfoot, she feels the sky is the limit.

“I’m not sure If I’m going to pursue grad school or completely immerse myself in my independent practice, but everything I’m planning to accomplish with this award money is about building myself up as an independent artist,” Tyree says. “I’m going to empower myself with more creative control.”


See more of Sidnee Tyree’s work on Instagram @thegoldenrulejewelry.

Learn more about KCAD’s Metals and Jewelry Design program.