Silversmithing class learns from world-renowned engravers


Staff Report

Last week, Mesalands Community College had 14 students successfully complete their first intermediate artistic silversmithing course for advanced-level engravers.

During the week-long workshop, students learned theories and practices of more advanced custom design and engraving techniques, said Kimberly Hanna, Mesalands public relations director.

Hanna said students from California, Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas participated in the workshop.

Baru Spiller from Wingate, Texas, was one of those students. Spiller said she has been involved in silversmithing for the past 10 years and makes it a priority to attend one or two workshops every year. Spiller said the silversmithing workshop at Mesalands has been the most beneficial.

“This was an excellent workshop! I’ve learned a lot and we covered a lot of ground this week. Without hesitation, this is probably one of the best workshops I’ve ever gone to, if not the best!” Spiller said. “I was really impressed by the facilities, the staff, and the instructors. The attitude of everybody here, especially Eddy (Mardis), is to teach the students life skills that will help them make it in this world.”

The course was taught by three highly experienced engravers, including Mardis, a silversmithing faculty member at Mesalands, Russell Yates, and Shawn Didyoung.

Hanna said the program is designed to teach students the fabricating and engraving of bits, spurs, buckles, and jewelry that are used in traditional western culture.

The new intermediate course, listed as ART 293I: Special Topic in Silversmithing, was specifically developed for skill enrichment. Students learned drawing and design, leaf structures, single and multiple wire inlay, and different styles of scrolls.

“The course went exceptionally well. I’ve been impressed by what the students have been able to achieve and master in only one week of work. Many of the students in this class have been making various items for 20 years or more and a number of them are full time makers,” Mardis said. “We had three top instructors each teaching very unique techniques in their expertise of engraving.”

Mardis said he developed this advanced silversmithing course to help students learn three areas of engraving. Mardis taught English scroll engraving and Didyoung taught point shading. Yates instructed students on the inlay of precious metals, such as gold and silver.

Yates, who is a world-renowned fabricator and engraver, has been involved in silversmithing for nearly 25 years. He was the 2009 Academy of Western Artists (AWA) Adolph Bayers Spur Maker of the Year and the 2012 AWA Spur Maker of the Year. He has won multiple best of show awards at various art shows and has sold some if his work to customers in Australia and Japan.

“Silversmithing is functional art,” Yates said. “As an instructor, I have the opportunity to share my years of experience with the students; and I’ve learned a ton myself this week. One of the reasons I continue to come to Mesalands is because of the facilities alone. Shawn and I work with students one-on-one, but we really don’t have the facilities to handle this many students a time.”

Didyoung, who is also a world-renowned engraver, has been involved in silversmithing for about nine years. He was the 2013 AWA Engraver of the Year. He has sold various pieces of his work across the world including, Greenway, Germany, Norway, and Japan. He is also the author of the book entitled “Drawing and Designing Scrolls for Artists and Engravers.” Didyoung says he feels he has a responsibility to pay it forward, and share his techniques and knowledge with students.

“I enjoyed teaching this class. It’s nice to connect with other people that share the same interest as I do,” Didyoung said. “When I was getting started, I was fortunate enough to be introduced to Russell (Yates) and other makers. They were more than willing to help me and so I figured that I should do the same thing and return the favor, and help as many people as I can.”

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