SNAG Celebrates: Agnes Ma

July 16, 2019

SNAG Celebrates_feature

SNAG Celebrates

SNAG is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2019 and is honoring its membership by highlighting different artists on the SNAG website.

Agnes Ma
Introduce yourself (background, education, preferred mediums/styles, etc.)
My name is Agnes Ma. I received a B.S. in Molecular and Cellular Biology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. I was lucky enough that the School of Art and Design opened up classes to non-majors and was able to take a beginning metals class my last semester at UIUC, which happened to be my very first studio art class. I figured out how to transition from the sciences into the arts at Northern Illinois University where I ended up receiving an M.F.A. in Metalwork, Jewelry Design, and Digital Fabrication with a graduate certificate in Museum Studies. The generosity of my mentors and peers with their knowledge at NIU allowed me to learn exponentially in a very unfamiliar discipline.

In my work I tend to reference nature in some way to draw associations with human interaction with the environment and work in all different scales. More recently I created a large installation from essentially paper, cardboard, adhesive, and whitewash that viewers could walk through but also recently had some sterling silver earrings on view at Gallery 2052 in Chicago.

Agnes Ma work
A model showing a necklace by Agnes Ma

What are your goals in creating the work that you do? Are there any concepts you are particularly interested in?
I’ve always thought of art as a means of communication and a means for myself to learn. I tend to be drawn towards ideas that consider how humans interact with the natural environment. This allows for an avenue to educate myself as well as to advocate for more consideration in our daily lives.

What does your work mean to you? Why create these objects?
Artwork is meant to be experienced, which is why I’m often drawn to an installation format. Whether at a large scale or small, I want to create a moment that someone can linger and reflect on.

How and when did you arrive at your membership with SNAG?
I started my membership with SNAG as a student, about ten or so years ago. It was a chance to involve myself in a community I was newly a part of. I also saw an opportunity to learn from an entire community of makers, educators, and more. Every year I learn and see new things that I may or may not use in my own practices but gives me awareness of things outside of my immediate self.

How have you witnessed SNAG (and metalsmithing in general) evolve since first beginning your membership?
It may be a reflection of how my role has changed in SNAG over the years, but I’ve felt that the bulk of the community has become more and more welcoming to new participants and new ideas. This year’s conference, I especially felt the excitement and the willingness to engage with others. I hope to see more of this as we continue forward!

What are your plans for the future? Is there anything specific that you hope to accomplish or achieve in 2019?
My plans are simply to make. I plan on continuing with working with paper but on a smaller scale including works for the body.

Agnes Ma 1Agnes Ma 2

Agnes Ma 3

Examples of Ma’s environmentally-driven work

To learn more about Agnes and her work, visit


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