Chiseling, filing and molding an artistic career

Allison Smith

When you walk into the jewelry and metalworking studio in Van Deusen Hall, past the smaller workstations and into “the cage,” you’ll find Annie Schulz working on her senior project.

Schulz is a jewelry and metals major. She comes almost every day to work on her final project, which is due to be shown on April 30.

“I have to make four pieces for my senior show,” she said. “Everybody’s doing something completely different from each other. I’m finishing up the first of my four pieces right now. It’s very time consuming.”

Because she is a senior, she has been given a wood desk in the corner of “the cage.” The desk is made of yellowish wood and has nicks and scratches from previous occupants. She keeps tools handy in drawers and on top of her desk, so she doesn’t have to search very far when she needs them. Bits and pieces of her first of four projects are strewn about on the desk.

“I have hammers, files — you do lots of filing,” she said. “And I have stuff for doing bezels, like how you set stones and everything. Up here I have saw blades. I go through them like crazy. Then you have pliers, tweezers for soldering, you always use safety glasses. A lot of times you want to get a respirator for when you’re enameling.”

Schulz is very proud of her work, and it’s obvious she enjoys what she does. As she files down a piece of silver for her project, she explains how a jewelry major has to be patient and a bit of a perfectionist.

“If you even get a tiny scratch on the piece you’re working on, and you don’t see it, once you’ve enameled it, it’s there for good,” she said. “So you have to make sure everything’s perfect before you finish it up.”

Schulz wasn’t always a jewelry major. In fact, it took three tries and two years before she finally found the right major.

“I kind of just stumbled upon it,” she said. “I wanted to do fashion design, then I went to fashion merchandising, and I didn’t like either of those. Then I wanted to go to cosmetology school after I graduate, so I went to business. I didn’t like that.”

Schulz said her parents and family are proud of her and very supportive of her major. She said they were afraid she didn’t like college enough and was going to drop out. Schulz said she’s not quite sure what she wants to do with her major, but there are a few roads she can take after she graduates.

“I can go work in an actual jewelry store where I do a lot of repair work and polishing,” she said. “Or I could go into jewelry design, where you could open up your own store and sell your work. I think the thing I would want to do most is sell my own work independently.”

She said because she is so busy with projects for class, she has never made anything specifically for herself. She did, however, find the time to make gifts for her mom and grandmother.

“The first gift I ever made was for my grandma, just a simple silver pendent,” she said. “The second gift I gave was to my mother, and I made an etching to my other grandmother on it, and I enameled over that.”

Schulz said her favorite metal to use is copper because it’s inexpensive and easy to work with. She said the silver sheet she bought for her current project cost her $300 alone, but she wanted this project to be special.

“I’m going to combine fake nails and silver fingernails,” she said. “It’s going to be this big, long necklace.”

Students who are part of the jewelry and metals major have to take a drawing prerequisite before they can begin Introduction to Jewelry. Schulz said she also had to take glass blowing and other crafts classes as part of her major.

Schulz said she’s sort of conflicted when it comes to buying jewelry now. She said sometimes it can look cheap, or other times she knows she can make it herself.

“It’s usually expensive, which is worth the price because it took a long time for the artist to make it, but it’s hard for me to buy it, because I know how to make it,” Schulz said. “Maybe one day I’ll make something similar to it, but I usually never end up doing it.”

Contact features reporter Allison Smith at [email protected].