Seth Papac’s trifurcated practice involves teaching and mentoring students, researching and producing conceptual one-of-a-kind jewelry and owning and operating a limited-production jewelry company. Currently, Seth serves as an Associate Professor and Graduate Program Director in Jewelry + Metalsmithing at Rhode Island School of Design, and previously served as Department Head of Metal at The Oregon College of Art and Craft. As a visiting artist and critic, Seth has had the opportunity to engage with an international spectrum of students, notably in Finland and in Colombia as part of En Construcción: Simposio de Joyería Contemporánea.

Seth received their BFA from the University of Washington and an MFA from Cranbrook Academy of Art. Their work is exhibited and published internationally and they are the recipient of several awards and grants including the Louise Comfort Tiffany Foundation Award and the Toby Devan Lewis Fellowship. Their work is part of numerous permanent collections including the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, Museum of Fine Arts Houston, Cranbrook Art Museum and the Rotasa Foundation. Seth currently serves as Co-President and Board Member of The Society of North American Goldsmiths.


I ground my practice in a deep love of jewelry, an appreciation of its 150,000 plus year history, and a sincere belief in its ability to affect our experience of, and existence in, the world. The format of jewelry, and its presentation in display and image, introduces distinctive conceptual, material, and formal challenges that are further complicated by its relationship with the body, the wearer, and the viewer. The multilayered experiential nature of jewelry supports the embodiment of my beliefs, values, and experiences, allowing for potent communication and psychological, emotional, and physical catharsis. I am committed to exploring and challenging these various aspects as a means to investigate the efficacious and revelatory potential of jewelry.

Uncomfortable or surprising discoveries made through conceptual, material, and technical research instigate the development of my work. The initial spark of interest can be a particular material, a process, textual research, or a combination of these elements. The essence of each new series is composed around these required elements. How these attributes reveal themselves within each piece is very elusive, affording the opportunity for surprise that I find critical in producing dynamic work. Additionally, I believe the act and manner of making permeates the work with a precise energy that enhances the conceptual goal of a series. As I work on a series, I shift from piece to piece, resulting in reflective and spontaneous design resolutions. As a result, each piece addresses the content of the series from a singular perspective, creating a conversation around the topic with variegated voices. I am not interested in making slight variations of the same thing.

Jewelry is always engaged in a conversation about exterior and interior, public and private. Within this duality, my research has investigated the strong connection between jewelry and domestic space. Both reflect less obvious aspects of their inhabitant, have the capacity to provide literal and metaphysical security or protection, and provide an intangible connection to history, memory and universal human experience. Additionally, both architecture and jewelry are activated by the body. What happens when you put a piece of jewelry on? If this isn’t fully considered, and this consideration utilized to inform formal and conceptual interests, why is it jewelry? The body, and its role in activating jewelry, is essential.

This relationship between the body and jewelry is the focus of my current research, partially motivated by a concern about the momentum of the contemporary art jewelry field, which I feel has largely abandoned thoughtful discussion of the particular characteristics and capabilities of jewelry. What is jewelry, and what does jewelry do? What are the ‘bones’ that support the efficacious ability of jewelry? These questions led to research on ligaments, which attach bone to bone, allowing bodies to move, contract, and act in relation to the exterior. Jewelry functions similarly, affecting how we move through the world. The words ligament and religion share the latin root word, ligare, which means to bind, tie, fasten, and unite. Historically, jewelry has been utilized as a tangible and intimate device to connect our physical selves to metaphysical concepts like faith, luck, love, protection, and fertility. Throughout human history, jewelry has held this power and purpose, acting as porous containers of meaning and agency. The awareness of this important function has faded as jewelry became a consumable symbol and aesthetic charm. In the series Ligare, concentrations of ligaments, charms, and permeable containers are composed as bodies to emphasize the essential role jewelry plays in our everyday lives.

The pieces in Ligare are made with two different methodologies—some elements are fabricated by hand and some are designed in the digital realm and born through 3D printing. The process of 3D printing creates forms through a process of growth, enhancing the aesthetic impact and conceptual integrity of the work. The complexity of the pieces, in terms of process, form, and material, are meant to reflect the complexity of our bodies.

As my research and work continue to evolve, I will address the following questions: how can I continue to emphasize and capitalize on the agency of jewelry? how can I communicate the essential nature of jewelry as an augmentation of, and not simply an addition to, the body? what techniques, processes, and materials will allow my work to grow into being? and, how can I capture and communicate this growth, as an essential part of the work, in images and/or video?