Kay Yee

Kay Yee

I am a formally trained metalsmith. I began my education decades ago in a community college in San Francisco. I was inspired by Roger Baird, my first metals teacher, to attend art school and I attended California College of Arts for my BFA and later California State University  Long Beach for my MFA. I have always loved the technical aspects of metal working and I find it challenging to create successful pieces. It’s a happy surprise when I make something I like.


I work from my studio/home in Pasadena, and I am a professor emeritus at Pasadena City College where I taught (jewelry, crafts & 3D-design) for 33years. When I retired 5 years ago from academia, my husband built a studio that could accommodate 8 students comfortably. I have taught numerous workshops and classes here, as well as hosted visiting artists.


My focus has pivoted away from teaching to more personal work, partially because of the “CoVid stay- at- home”, but also because I wish to create work that includes techniques I have recently learned. Over the last few years, I have made a focused attempt to broaden my enameling & metalworking knowledge.  It’s fun to learn, and I have enjoyed attending stimulating conferences and workshops and I am seeing some of what I have learned about enameling emerge in my work . 


Over the years, I have collected a number of objects that I have resonated with me: minerals, rocks, pods, branches, leaves, beads, found objects  & semi precious stones. I accumulated these things from all over the world for over a quarter of a century: treasures from medinas, roadside stands, curio shops, and bead makers hidden in small alleyways.

So, when I set  to work on pieces you see in these photographs, it didn’t surprise me that I began making compositions of these things that had beauty, collectability, or a backstory. I stuck them down on construction paper with bits of clay, composing shapes and planning out how I would fabricate them to work together. 

The enamels I make in my jewelry are a reflection of my ideas about texture and surface. I use the traditional techniques of sifting, stenciling, sgraffito with pencil, overglaze, leaded and unleaded enamels. I play with firing temperature to obtain a textured surface or often stone the surface to give a smoother matte appearance.

 These pieces became what I call  the “Compositions of Metal, Glass, & Mineral” series.  I aspire to bring forward what seems familiar to the viewer but  is viewed from a different perspective.

I enjoy making enameled hollowware and jewelry. The wearable pieces pictured are part of a series made for the 40th anniversary jewelry show at Freehand Gallery in Los Angeles planned for this October.  I was asked to make wearable work and they are the steps in a direction that I intend to continue: assembling, firing and fabricating.