Writing, metal casting students collaborate on exhibit

Photographed by Benjamin Hunt. Storymakers exhibit in Calder. April 2nd to the 5th.

Photographed by Benjamin Hunt. Storymakers exhibit in Calder. April 2nd to the 5th.

Jacob Creswell

Beginning April 1, the Calder Art Center Padnos Gallery showcased an exhibit that was the result of a collaboration between professor of creative writing Caitlin Horrocks and professor of jewelry and metalsmithing Renee Zettle-Sterling.

“We met years ago, like 2013, and we talked collaboration,” Zettle-Sterling said. However, according to Zettle-Sterling, several scheduling issues prevented the collaboration until this year.

“It all lined up this semester so we could do this… We decided to give the students a prompt about desire. Jewelry is so much about desire, like how people desire wedding rings,” Zettle-Sterling said.

The exhibit, titled “Storytellers/Storymakers,” was a collaboration between three classes: advanced fiction, creative nonfiction and intermediate jewelry and metalsmithing. The writing students were tasked with creating stories themed around the idea of desire. The metalsmithing students were then tasked with creating narrative jewelry based off the stories.

When asked about the process that goes into creating these pieces of jewelry, Zettle-Sterling said that “(the process is) important because casting is the main component. Not everything is cast. It’s a process, done through the lost wax process.”  

“(Casting is) a way of making multiples, texture, likeness. It’s one of my favorite classes to teach,” she said.

As explained by Zettle-Sterling, the lost wax process involves creating a wax mold and pouring a liquid into the mold to cast a shape. Zettle-Sterling wrote a book on the process, “Cast: Art and Objects Made Using Humanity’s Most Transformational Process.”

Zettle-Sterling found that her metalworking and jewelry students would often uncover various visual elements to the stories that she hadn’t considered.

“There were a couple stories where I just got no visuals when I read them. I was impressed when the students found visuals out of them!” Zettle-Sterling said.

Zettle-Sterling talked about why the theme of desire was chosen.

“People want for things all the time. Desire lives in all of us; it’s not specific to jewelry. We confuse needs and wants and desires. Even on a daily basis I desire for a cup of coffee, a piece of candy and not wanting to do things. We desire things every day,” Zettle-Sterling said. “Everything we do, we’re motivated by (desire).”

The exhibit was on display from Monday, April 1 to Friday, April 5. There was also a reception on April 4.

“Oh my gosh, it was so well attended. It was so moving,” Zettle-Sterling said of the reception. “Jewelry is hard, extremely time-consuming and frustrating. (My students) just kind of rose to the occasion, and I was very proud of them.”

At the exhibit, the stories written by Horrocks’ writing classes were on display along with the works. The exhibit also included notable quotes from the works on the wall. Zettle-Sterling explained that the quotes in gold lettering were chosen by the design students that had inspired the creation of the pieces. The others were the quotes chosen by the writing students.

One regret that Zettle-Sterling had was the venue size and the time that the exhibit was displayed.

“I want the students’ work to be seen. I want them to have recognition, for both the development of their ideas and their execution. I want people to have the ability to spend more time, and a week-long exhibition is not enough,” she said.

Zettle-Sterling said that this type of collaborative exhibit may be organized again in the future under the right circumstances.

“I would do it again if it was for something like ArtPrize, or if more people could see the students’ work, if it was up longer with more people coming through,” she said.

“There was a lot of things that came out of (the exhibit) that (were) totally unexpected, especially how proud the students were of their work. For there to be a place to really honor their piece is really important. I hope that this show opens people’s minds to jewelry and fiction. I hope that they see these things as one of a kind.”