jewelry design student work during lockdown

For more than 15 years, I’ve been teaching university-level Jewelry Design courses (beginning, intermediate, and advanced) for Studio Arts College International (SACI) in Florence, Italy.

This course is designed to give basic practical experience in the design and fabrication of contemporary and traditional jewelry, and to develop manual and creative skills. The course aims to give a solid foundation in workshop practice and to introduce the students to workshop safety, use of tools and materials. Emphasis is placed on developing both personal expression and excellence in craftsmanship.

Beginning level students learn design transfer, cutting, drilling, piercing, filing, texturing, patinas, forming, soldering skills, sanding, and polishing. They learn techniques and incorporate the use of rivets, ring-making, bezel stone setting, and stone inlay.

This was the plan until the global health crisis forced my students to leave Florence and return to their homes in the US and Costa Rica. After mid-term, distance learning commenced. A true challenge to any studio arts course, jewelry making is even more restricted when most of the students did not have access to most tools, supplies, and machinery. Fortunately, they already learned the basics of soldering, forming, and finishing works in metal and most had already completed the rivet and ring projects. Here are some of the projects completed in the studio during the first half of the term.

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A new plan of action had to be made quickly! I proposed two new projects for the students with limited resources who would be unable to complete the traditional bezel stone setting and the stone inlay projects. SACI ordered and sent supplies to each student for a Wax Carving project to be cast and inlayed with crushed stone. Some students were able to complete the carving and send it to a caster before many of the casting services temporarily closed. The second new project option was one made with Alternative Materials. These are some casting and inlay projects in process and completed:

A library of new digital and written resources was provided to the students, including two demonstrative technique videos that I produced quickly, lessons that they would have received in person during the second half of the term. As a class group, we met weekly over video conferencing to discuss designs and production progress. Individual communication was ongoing as needed. Below, are some examples of work created by the students from their homes, with what they had on hand. Materials include: sterling silver, brass, copper, aluminum, resin, stones, walnut shells, wood, fabric, leather, plants, seaglass, concrete, modeling clay, re-purposed bijoux parts.

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All 12 students gave their best efforts, especially considering the circumstances. I am very proud of their perseverance, dedication, ingenuity, and creativity in completing their jewelry projects and working beyond the normal expectations of the course in a limited and sometimes uninspiring situation with stay-at-home orders during the health crisis. In the end, the works that were created were impressive and clever. I’m convinced that most of these works would not have been imagined in the normal studio course, and the outcomes are inspiring. As the proverb goes, “Necessity is the mother of invention.”

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