Marshall students learn to craft jewelry items

Marshall University adjunct instructor Dan Cook demonstrates soldering techniques in the class he is teaching on jewelry making.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010
Contact: Jaye Ike, College of Fine Arts, 304-696-3296

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – Marshall University College of Fine Arts students are getting “crafty” this summer in a jewelry-making class that currently is being offered in the Summer II session.

“This is an introduction to the technical skills necessary for the craft of jewelry making,” said Daniel Cook, an adjunct instructor for the College of Fine Arts, “as well as an introduction to the aesthetic concerns of working in a small format and a discussion of the importance of body adornment to our society and individuality.”

The class meets five days a week for two hours in Smith Hall on Marshall’s Huntington campus and will eventually use the sculpture laboratory as the class moves forward, Cook said. There are 12 students enrolled in the class.

It has been a long time since Marshall has offered a jewelry-making class, Cook said.

“I am sure that I’m the first to teach jewelry at Marshall in the 21st century,” he said. “So far the class is only available in the summer, but if students continue to be interested in the subject I will be thrilled to teach it more often.”

Because the class is an introduction to jewelry, it is very technically based, he said. The students in the class are all making the same objects but with individual design concepts.

“The assignments are laid out to teach the student how to do something specific,” he said. “The first assignment is to create a key fob, or key chain, and all the students are given the same amount of material … while all the key fobs are the same size and material, the outcomes are radically different.”

The jewelry being made in the class is in no way limited as to material, however. For this class students will be using traditional materials such as cooper for the key fobs and silver to create two rings and a pendant, Cook said. Students have the option to set whatever they would like in the silver rings and pendant. Some students are using stones, gems, river glass or bark, and one is using the rubber shock absorber from his tennis racket.

To create the jewelry, students have to learn how to use basic small hand tools such as the jeweler’s saw, files, hammers, torches for soldering, polishing lathes and pliers, Cook said

Steven Romano, a senior sculpture major from Bluefield, W.Va., said he signed up for the class because he has never worked in such a small medium and likes to dabble in new areas.

“I am used to working with large scale in sculpture,” Romano said. “Taking it down to a small scale, you have to be a lot more meticulous.”

He said he would recommend this class to other students.

Cook said his favorite part about teaching this class is seeing what the students come up with and watching them as they figure out how to plan and achieve a design.

“Jewelry takes planning; it also requires an understanding of the order of operations,” he said. “You can’t always go back and fix something. You need to plan what is going to happen and in what order. It is thrilling to watch students learn how to organize their process to achieve their goals.”

This is the first time Cook has taught jewelry making at Marshall, but he taught similar classes at the University of Massachusetts and Dartmouth University, as well as in workshops at Snowfarm, a craft school in western Massachusetts, he said.

“Jewelry is a great way to learn to work with your hands,” he said. “As our society advances technologically, sometimes we forget how to make things with our hands and the satisfaction this brings to us. Jewelry is great because we can make something, wear it, and eventually somebody will tell us that our jewelry is great and ask where we bought it. Telling them that you made it is very satisfying.”