Whether students are looking to work with metals for a future job or just looking for a more creative elective, the metalworking classes are a place to start. Southern is home to Connecticut’s only four-year metals program.
The program focuses on a variety of different techniques and has students work with both cold and hot metals. They usually use non-precious metals (copper and brass) for their pieces, but some students will bring their own silver and gold to create pieces with.
Ellis McGinley is a sophomore studio art and journalism major.
“Metalworking in this sense is a fine art. When people think of metalworking they tend to think of architecture—we do not do things that large scale. Everything is very small.”
A classmate taught McGinley how to make a hot twist. “You take a pair of pliers and just twist. While it’s not quite glowing, and then you get a hot twist.”
When working with hot metals, the temperatures are typically around 700–1,400 degrees. Despite the heat, safety is practiced. In the classroom, students have a fume hood above them and use torches with different sized tips to heat up the metals. The professors are also there to help students.
The work can lead to some challenges. Tiana Ruan, a sophomore art history major, says, “You get a lot of blisters.” However, she says it’s worth it.
Ruan started working with metals before taking any classes. She says she chose to come to the school because of the metalworking classes. She had been interested in metals since she was young and made lots of beaded jewelry throughout her life.
Now, Ruan specifically works with enamel, which adds color to the metal, and she includes it in many of her pieces.
“I was really fascinated with art nouveau jewelry from early 20th Century, but it’s a really old technique and it’s not really used anymore. If you want a piece for yourself, you need to buy it antique or it’s very expensive.”
This led her to create her own pieces and now she has plans to open her own studio, which would allow her to create and show off her pieces.
McGinley was hooked on studio art after taking some classes, and also had some prior experience with creating jewelry and working with metal.
“I got my start in wire wrapping when I was still in high school. So, I did a lot of just cold stuff with wire and stones,” McGinley says. After classes here, many new techniques and skills were learned.
“I took the first class and I fell in love. The professors are amazing. The other students are amazing.”
McGinley is passionate about creating jewelry and is planning to make metalworking a full-time job. McGinley has created an Etsy shop called Magestone, offering a wide variety of handmade jewelry, and likes “to straddle that line between commercial jewelry and making art.”
Both Ruan and McGinley are excited about their craft and highly recommend the classes.
“I think if more people knew about it so many more people would take advantage of this opportunity,” McGinley says.
Ruan tells people who are interested in starting “It’s not as difficult as it seems.” She says she thinks “ It’s more about creativity and the idea behind the piece because form and beauty is really empty without a meaning behind it.”
The program gives artistic freedom and allows students to create art as well as develop new skills and techniques. Not only does it offer students experience in a unique field, but it encourages friendships among students with similar interests.
The metalworking classes have given students a way to share their stories through their pieces while creating handmade pieces of art.
Story by: Brooke Kuryan
Video by: Kaitlyn Gerckens