We had the good fortune of connecting with Skyler Dunfey and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Skyler, why did you decide to pursue a creative path?
I’ve been making jewelry ever since I can remember. At age 10, I started my first jewelry business selling beaded necklaces alongside my lemonade stand on a small island off the coast of Massachusetts. Through high school, I attended “metalsmithing club” every Wednesday afternoon and quickly developed a love for the craft while also working as an assistant bench jeweler in Portland, Maine. Around this time, a mentor planted the seed that learning these skills could change my life. She was right.
I love the process of transforming a simple sheet of metal into something new and beautiful. I find my flow working long days at the bench where my material provides direct feedback as I saw, file, and solder. I strive to make jewelry that is so comfortable you’ll never want to take it off.
Fast forward to today — after earning a BA in studio art, working for years as a teacher, and casually building up my ring inventory on Etsy — I’ve decided to take a leap and turn my lifelong side-gig and passion into my full-time job. I aspire to not only make jewelry for others, but eventually create a space to teach and share in the craft of metalsmithing with a community of fellow artists.
In short, I couldn’t help pursuing this career path. I’ve always been drawn to the arts, and I am eager to share my passion for jewelry making and design with everyone!
Please tell us more about your work. We’d love to hear what sets you apart from others, what you are most proud of or excited about. How did you get to where you are today professionally. Was it easy? If not, how did you overcome the challenges? What are the lessons you’ve learned along the way. What do you want the world to know about you or your brand and story?
I strive to make jewelry that’s comfortable, stylish, and can be worn everywhere. I believe jewelry should be worn and loved. I spend a lot of my free time outside, exploring the mountains and rivers across Arizona and the Southwest, so I value products that are durable and can withstand active lifestyles. I make each piece with recycled metal and use hand fabrication techniques to create one-of-a-kind pieces.
I believe that every piece of jewelry we wear becomes part of our identity. It helps elevate our style and enhances our beautiful personalities. I love to work with customers on custom designs to create meaningful pieces. For me, wearing a piece of jewelry everyday helps ground me and reminds me of the people and places I love. I hope to create pieces that do this for others as well.
As for what I’m proud of, I have to say that taking the leap from a full-time teacher to starting my own business sits at the top of my list. Throughout my life, I’ve always loved creating, but I never thought I could make a living making my own art. Taking the leap was scary, but deep down I knew it was the right move for me. In the last year I’ve learned to more confidently embrace the unknown and lean toward things that I might at first resist. I’m still early on my journey as a business owner, and I know there will be more roadblocks ahead, but the biggest lesson I’m holding right now is to keep taking steps forward despite fear of the unknown.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Okay, this one is easy! I love Arizona for it’s access to the great outdoors! Every season brings slightly different opportunities when it comes to exploring the mountains, rivers, and canyons across the state and region. In the winter, I bring my visitors to the Snowbowl, which always surprises my out-of-state friends who never expect snow and skiing in Arizona! I love to wrap up a long ski day at the Annex to grab great food and drinks and hang around the cozy fireplace. If my friends are into biking, I take them for a ride at Aspen Corner or up Schultz Creek Trail. I’m also a fan of backpacking in the Grand Canyon and have taken a handful of friends on multi-day trips there as well. There’s so much to explore here, and I’m always up for new adventures.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I’m so grateful for the people in my life who’ve helped me get where I am today. I have so many folks to thank, from my mentors, teachers, family, and friends. Here are a few who deserve a special shoutout:
Sarah Collins: Sarah taught a metalsmithing class after school once a week at my high school, and I was hooked! I don’t think I have ever fallen in love with something so quickly as I did with metalsmithing. I would dream up jewelry designs all week and couldn’t wait for Wednesdays when I’d get to work with metal and learn new techniques. I think Sarah sensed my eagerness to learn and asked me to be her apprentice. I am forever grateful for her mentorship and for teaching me metalsmithing.
Folia Jewelry: After learning some metalsmithing basics with Sarah, I started working at Folia Jewelry in Portland, Maine while in high school. There, I was surrounded by supportive women who continued to help me improve my metalsmithing skills. I especially want to thank Edie, the owner, who believed in me and pushed me to make pieces that advanced my skills. Sometimes, she had me work in gold, and I would say, “Are you sure you want me to make this? I’ve never done that before.” With the help of the women at Folia, I learned so much about jewelry making and business as well.
Lastly, I have to thank my parents: Growing up, I can’t remember a time when there wasn’t an art project set up at my house. From beaded jewelry to water color painting and flower pressing, my mom deserves a great deal of credit for keeping me busy with at-home art projects and fueling my artistic endeavors. My dad encouraged me to start investing in metalsmithing tools when I was in high school, and I think this early investment is what’s made my business possible today.