• Michael Gayk
  • Assistant Professor of Metals
  • Director of Digital Design and Fabrication
  • Department of Art. State University of New York at New Paltz

I am the sum of all of my past experiences. My academic training is in jewelry design and metalsmithing.  The professional path I am traveling is one that challenges my pedigree and affords me great insight into the human condition.  Projects that range from industrial welding, brand character design at General Motors, architectural modeling via parametric math simulation and product design for home goods have influenced the way I observe and act upon my environment.  Most recently I have been involved in collaborations on biological tissue generation, 3D modeling and simulation of kidney circulatory systems. I am also a design collaborator with Plural Studios for production jewelry manufactured by means of digital fabrication.

The objective of design is to create access to solutions for problems of the contemporary human condition. I am interested in digital manufacturing technologies that can alter the physiology of the human body and how access to these technologies become popularized and a part of public discourse. Design can play an important role to synthesize form that embodies the commercialized product with customized individual health care. We witness this today with cosmetic surgery and obsessions with beauty, or extreme prosthetics that can enable war veterans’ integration back into society. Furthermore, design has the opportunity to redefine the structure of the human body not only functionally but also symbolically.

My current work investigates the relationship between body adornment and the digitized human body.  Historically jewelry has always reflected the technologies of its time. A necklace fashioned from seashells dating 80 BCE years old was found at Taforalt in eastern Morocco. This discovery illustrates the sense of symbolic material value of that time and suggests a developed capacity for cultural modernity. Other examples of talismans have been identified in ancient Egyptian burials for their supernatural extension of life while other regional dialects use numbers stamped on amulets to preserve themselves from evil. Jewelry acts as a mechanism not only for personal beauty, but also embodies symbolic structures relating to material value, identity, memory and language.  In this way, body adornment has defined nations and cultures through the objects we choose to wear or carry on ourselves.   

The example of the seashell necklace comes from a genus of marine snail called Nassarius, which no longer inhabits the shores of Morocco today. With the use of advanced manufacturing methods such at bio-printing and DNA duplication it may be possible to cultivate the lost Nassarius, or any biological structure. CAD (Computer Aided Design) has allowed access into a new symbolic body, one in which form is always in flux and limitless.  If reproduction through digital means is possible, how do we define this new material culture and its relationship to our current value systems? What if we could reconfigure the comfort zone and reassemble the surface and structure that supports it. At present the surface of our bodies constitute a symbolic consciousness; but are we comfortable in our own skin.   




MFA; University of Washington;

Seattle, Washington

Metals Design




BFACenter for Creative Studies;

Detroit, Michigan

Metalsmithing and Jewelry Design

other portfolios