After passing on her expertise at 12 different art schools throughout the Northeast, nationally recognized artist and silversmith Raychel Wengenroth has taken her love of teaching a step further by procuring her own space at The Shirt Factory on Cornell Street in Midtown Kingston, and hosting classes at her own school, Hudson Valley Silverworks, which officially opened in May.
Wengenroth’s interest in her craft began over 40 years ago when she received a silver bracelet from Peter’s Valley School of Craft as a gift from her parents on her fourteenth birthday. Forged from square sterling stock, then soldered with thin round wire, the bracelet’s weight and craftsmanship intrigued Wengenroth, who said she wondered how the piece was made. For her subsequent birthday, her parents brought her to a two-week Basic Jewelry class at the school. Enthralled by her experience, Wengenroth returned to Peter’s Valley during summers before she enrolled in college, working in the kitchen by day and honing her craft in the studio by night. She went on to earn a bachelor of fine arts in gold and silversmithing at SUNY New Paltz and was taught by eminent artists Kurt Matzdorf and Bob Ebendorf.
After graduation, Wengenroth joined forces with fellow metalsmith Doug Samore to start S/W Metalsmiths, and began teaching to train potential employees.
“I started teaching so I could train people to pull from and found that I loved teaching even more [than metalworking myself],” said Wengenroth.
Since then, the artist has forged commissioned works for prominent figures like Oprah, LJ Dupont and the Bob Hope “Humana Award,” among others.
Her Hudson Valley Silverworks school, which is the only program of its kind in the area, boasts affordable classes and plenty of “hands-on bench time.” Most one-day workshops only cost $100, a two-day workshop naturally costs $200 and six week courses will only cost $290 for a total of 18 hours of class time. Classes include: “Wire Wrapping 101”; “Basics for the Home Studio,” which focuses on techniques useful to hobbyists that don’t necessarily have the equipment to make more traditional designs; “Chain Making,” which will teach students how to make various types of chain link; “Wax Working and Casting,” where students will make wax casts that will be sent to a casting house; “Forging and Forming,” which hones in on forging heavy wire and dapping sheet metal; and “Basic Jewelry Making” which has sections both for those with minimal experience and the “absolute beginner.”
The school will also be offering classes for children over 11 and teens, in which youths will explore heatless forms of jewelry-making with brass and copper.
Wengenroth has also brought together a group of instructors so that her school can feature a wider range of classes. Sherry Masters, a full-time studio artist and jeweler, will teach a course on creating jewelry using precious metal clay, a medium that opens a whole new realm of creative possibilities. Missy Graff Ballone, the founder of Wellness for Makers LLC, will teach an exercise class in the studio specifically geared towards artists. Jewelers Cathryn Jasterzbski and John Carnes will also be shedding light for students on jewelry making.
“I didn’t even have a seed of this idea a year ago,” admitted Wengenroth. “I was at the Fall for Art show and trying to figure out where I could teach and all of my students said they would come [if I opened my own school].”
On Sept. 8, Wengenroth will be featured again at the Fall for Art show, only this time her idea will have become a reality.
The studio will also host events in the coming months. During the Kingston Art Walk on Oct. 2, visitors and local residents are encouraged to stop by the school in room 211 of the Shirt Factory to watch demonstrations and try their hands at metalworking. In an event open to the public, Dikra Gem, a stone dealer, will be hosted on Oct. 20, selling hundreds of colorful gemstones from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. On Nov. 29, her and her father, Richard, will have a joint show — her jewelry and his paintings — in Ridgefield, Conn.
Registration for classes begins on Sept. 12 at www.hvsilverworks.com.