Spotlight On: Patrice Case, Associate Professor of Studio Art

Associate professor of studio art Patrice Case left her first undergraduate experience without a degree or money, but little did she know that she’d develop a career in jewelry and metalsmithing.

Perhaps best known for her work with niello, Case said that she loves the beautiful lustrous qualities of the material.

“It’s a black ternary alloy: three part metal, plus sulfur,” Case said. “It gives a high contrast of white and black. It’s very elegant. I started that work in graduate school and it followed me throughout my career.”

Case is one of the only people in the United States who works with niello. According to Case, people tend to shy away from the material because of its toxic nature.

After attending Indiana University for three years as an undeclared major, Case said she left college to search for what she wanted to do and who she would become.

“I didn’t have any money, but I had good hands,” Case said. “So, I started making earrings and selling them to my friends.”

“Little did I know there was more to making jewelry that just wrapping metal around beads,” Case said. “I soon found out you could put metal together using solder and heat - big flames - and I loved it. I fell in love with fabrication.”

When Case was ready to graduate with her Master of Fine Arts from the University of Arizona, her professor asked her what she would do.

“I said I was going to teach and he laughed,” she said. “He told me there weren’t any teaching jobs. I looked at him and said, ‘I’m going to teach.’”

While visiting her parents, Case received a phone call: New Mexico University offered her a visiting artist position.

“It was sweet, sweet, sweet,” Case said.

Afterwards Case said she applied for the only three places in the United States with jewelry positions, and before she knew it she was in the bitter Geneseo cold.

“When I arrived [at] the art department … [it] was a wonderful, vibrant department,” Case said. “I inherited a wonderfully equipped studio and over the years I’ve been really fortunate to have wonderful students. It’s my reason for being here.”

Three years ago, Case began going to Coba, Mexico with professor emeritus of anthropology Ellen Kintz, who held a Geneseo study abroad program for anthropology there.

“I joined her as an artist and we started a beautification project,” Case said. “It’s now being called the Village with the Painted Houses.”

“We work with a local school teacher to evaluate the needs of the community,” Case said. “I have done workshops in Coba with [Kitz’s] students and I have had an exhibition and another workshop in their community center.”

“It’s a beautiful program,” Case said. “So many lives have been changed. It’s a joy.”

Case said she hopes to hold a book-making workshop there in May, and maybe one day, have a house of her own in Coba.