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Jewelry, metalsmithing professor discusses craft
The Student Jewelry and Metal Show is currently running through April 12, 2018, at Porterfield Gallery 205. The various works on display were crafted under the tutelage of Alison Pack, associate professor of metalsmithing and jewelry design at Radford University. Pack took a few minutes out of her busy schedule to discuss her career and the craft of jewelry making and metalsmithing.
Q: How did you get into jewelry and metalworking?
A: I took an elective in jewelry making at Appalachian State University. Metal chose me.
Q: What is your favorite aspect of working in this field?
A: I would have to say the problem solving. Each piece that I make has a new set of challenges. It would be the engineering of actually building a piece from scratch and putting it together. Each of my students has their own artistic vision and I am their mentor helping them navigate the problem solving in each of their works. The interchange of dialogue and brainstorming together is energizing for both parties and produces a productive classroom environment. My mantra is “nothing good is ever easy.”
Q: What is the most challenging aspect of learning this craft?
A: I often say to my students, what seems to be simple may turn out to be the most challenging. I teach artistic jewelry making, so technique and concept go hand in hand. There are so many techniques in this field and some artists devote their lives to mastering just one. With that being said, a student or artist can use some of the most basic techniques to create a sophisticated and well-crafted piece. I stress craftsmanship and the development of hand skills in my classes. Many students have never worked with jewelry making tools or metal, therefore I believe the development of patience and building hand skills to execute excellent craftsmanship is the most challenging aspect of learning this craft.
Q: What do students in jewelry and metalworking learn when they choose it as a major?
A: Students learn a variety of technical skills such a sawing, drilling, filing, soldering, fabrication, forming, casting and basic stone setting techniques. They use copper, sterling silver and brass. Most importantly they learn to express their artistic voice and vision through their own unique pieces.
Q: What do you look for to determine if students are producing quality work?
A: I look for a combination of craftsmanship and concept. The more advanced the student becomes the more their vision comes through their pieces. Jewelry can be very simple or highly expressive. I believe the artistry comes through the craftsmanship.
Q: What success stories can you share from students that have completed the program?
A: I have had several students go on to work in the jewelry industry doing repair work and making custom pieces. Some have also go on to become gemologists and work the craft fair circuits. I am also pleased that many of the B.F.A. students go on to graduate school.