Shelly McMahon: Cranbrook Academy of Art. Selected Graduate 2018

Published: 21.09.2018
Shelly McMahon Shelly McMahon
Cranbrook Academy of Art
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I feel strongly about Shelly as a candidate for the JPLUS award. It is rare that I find a student with a combination of intelligence, the ability to make well, and who possesses a comprehensive research method. She has a talent for unexpected material transformation as her concepts take on form. She is a student at the core, viewing the opportunities afforded to her as an occasion for learning and expanding her understanding. / Iris Eichenberg
Cranbrook Academy of Art, Bloomfield Hills, United States.

Moving to the Cranbrook Academy of Art campus, where I lived and worked, made a great impression on me. It was there that my inquiry shifted to design’s influence on how Americans presently live. I consider design, how it functions, as well as question what are its signifiers. I’m most interested in how the concept of “good” design came into being, has proliferated, and became synonymous with maintaining a household. This view developed, in part, from modernist designers and architects reflecting on the effect that our interiors have on our psyche; that the emotional dependence which develops from using and being situated amongst material belongings is a reflection of the quality of those objects and their ability to promote healthy living through “good” design.
Over the course of my second year next, I explored how my research aligned with that of Deborah Sugg-Ryan who curated Ideal Homes at The Design Museum in 1993. In this exhibition, she aimed to subvert notions that design objects are merely functional. Ryan highlighted their role as markers of social behavior
rather than their aptitude for use. Thus, she was particular in how she presented objects, strategically positioning them within their context.
The 1970’s instruction manual Step-by-Step Macramé by Mary Walker Phillips is a DIY handbook that outlines the different macramé knots and provides blueprints for making decorative accessories for your home. I gravitated towards the ‘Room Divider’ project in the book based 
off the photo accompanying the instructions. I liked how the repetitive pattern floated in space acting as a barrier, but simultaneously see-through and permeable. As I was using the process to make forms, I came across Amanda Ross-Ho’s White Goddesses series. Ho projects images from macramé instructional booklets like mine, onto canvas and paints their silhouettes. She then precision cuts the painted image from the backdrop and hangs it up against a wall. Transplanted from that original context they become monumental and lazy but can’t fully escape their origins.
My personal association with macramé are the plant holders that my grandmother made when my father was a child and are still hanging in her house. After thinking about Ho’s work and my grandmother’s work as a way to produce a personal 
artifact, I came to view macramé and it’s revival in the 1970’s as reflection of women’s desire to be designers of their own interiors. In this way, my interest encompasses feminist design history and women designers of the United States.
My work is about the uncanny that we encounter in our every day and that reconciling this within our interiors is how we construct our sense of self. Thinking about our designed interiors, my interest lies in the emotional dependence that develops from using and being situated amongst material belongings. As a metalsmith, I’m invested in 
labor’s ability to communicate, and consider the use of materials, application of patterns, and particular techniques as physical manifestations of melancholy, failure, monotony, and routine. In the same way that personal associations with objects in the home develop from our daily or occasional interactions with them, I occupy spaces in a way that is reminiscent of the feelings that we experience within our dwellings, surrounded by our things.
/  Shelly McMahon

More work and contacts:
Instagram: @she.lee.lee

Find out more about the courses at Cranbrook Academy of Art.
Shelly McMahon. Object: Ashtray, 2017. Glass beads.. 13 x 13 x 2.5 cm. Shelly McMahon
Object: Ashtray, 2017
Glass beads.
13 x 13 x 2.5 cm
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Shelly McMahon. Necklace: Grid, 2018. Glass beads photographed on a green screen backdrop.. 66 x 15 cm. Shelly McMahon
Necklace: Grid, 2018
Glass beads photographed on a green screen backdrop.
66 x 15 cm
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Shelly McMahon. Necklace: Macramé, 2018. Glass beads.. 61 x 40.7 cm. Shelly McMahon
Necklace: Macramé, 2018
Glass beads.
61 x 40.7 cm
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Shelly McMahon. Brooch: Thumb, 2017. Glass beads, steel.. 10 x 2.5 x 2.5 cm. Shelly McMahon
Brooch: Thumb, 2017
Glass beads, steel.
10 x 2.5 x 2.5 cm
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Shelly McMahon. Necklace: Fantasy, 2018. Waxed cotton string, acrylic paint.. 45.7 x 33 x 3.8 cm. Shelly McMahon
Necklace: Fantasy, 2018
Waxed cotton string, acrylic paint.
45.7 x 33 x 3.8 cm
© By the author. Read Copyright.