By Fan Liu
Students in ME 298: “Silversmithing and Design” are able to turn their initial sketches into precious objects cast in silver through a quarter-long project.
“Silversmithing and Design” meets every Friday morning at the Product Realization Lab, a makerspace where students get the chance to use an expansive array of expensive equipment. Students are involved in every step of the creation process, while instructors provide guidance and feedback. At the end of the class, participants gain skills that range from casting techniques, such as lost-wax casting, to mastering the artistic elements of good design.
“It’s so rewarding for the students to master a process and then be able to design their own projects,” course instructor Amanda Knox Sather ’98 M.A. ’99 M.F.A. ’03 said. “We love teaching this class, and this is our 16th year we’ve had it.”
Sather teaches this class alongside instructor Sara Shaughnessy M.S. ’04 Ph.D. ’08. Shaughnessy and Sather both met in graduate school at Stanford, where they obtained an MFA in product design and a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering, respectively.
“By end of the quarter, they can design their own jewelry,” Shaughnessy said. “There are not many classes out there where students can walk away with a physical representation of work they can be proud of even 10 years after they’ve taken the class.”
Students create a simple ring for their first project. After that, students get the chance to choose their own projects. Previous projects have included functional home accessories and jewelry.
The class consists of a mix of undergraduate and graduate students. Most are product design or mechanical engineering majors, but instructors stress that no previous experience is necessary.
“The instructors are high-energy, and it’s cool how quickly we got into the material,” said Davis Born, a second-year masters student in mechanical engineering. “On the first class, we were given an assignment to make a ring. On the second week, we cast it into metal, and now we are finishing polishing it.”
Students liked developing skills in both the technical and design sides of silversmithing. Being able to see the finished product was also a source of satisfaction for many students.
Third-year Ph.D. student Capella Kerst said, “I enjoyed physically carving and casting pieces and then seeing the project in silver. The whole process just makes me more appreciative of hand-crafted pieces.”
“Silversmithing and Design” culminates in a class show, which will take place this year on Mar. 23 at the Grove at the d.school. Students will have the opportunity to display their pieces in a gallery setting and to chat with previous class alumni about their finished projects.