D-Q Graduate Teaches Silversmithing

Aug 15th, 2000 | By | Category: 12-1: Celebrating Our Students, Tribal College News
By Rick Heredia

Victor Gabriel works with high school students during College Day 2000 at D-Q University. Photo by Suzanne Paisley

From the biology lab came the sounds of students hammering, pounding, and sawing as they worked on projects for their silversmithing class. Instructor Victor Gabriel, a Washoe, has been a silversmith since 1975, the year after he graduated from D-Q University. He has taught the art for many years. His apprenticeship included learning the art from Ben Nighthorse Campbell, now a U.S. senator from Colorado.

In Gabriel’s classes, the first thing students learn to use is the common, ordinary ruler. The design and layout are done on paper, so it is important that students measure their work precisely. “I recommend finding the center of each piece and the length and width,” said Gabriel.

Gabriel also introduces students to a jeweler’s saw, which has a fine blade and is used to saw metal. Beginning students often break the blade. “There’s just an art in handling the saw,” Gabriel said. “You have to let the tool do the cutting. Most people want to use pressure when sawing.”

Students are taught to use hand stamps for imprinting designs on the metal and scribes for drawing straight lines for the designs. Students who take the introductory class invariably enroll in the advanced class. This is the second semester that silversmithing has been offered at D-QU. Students are enthusiastic about making jewelry, said Gabriel, whose own work is displayed at a local art gallery. New students want to create elaborate designs, but Gabriel reminds them to start with simple designs and projects and work their way up to more complex pieces. Most practice using German silver or nickel, which is inexpensive, but some buy silver.

“I really enjoyed working with silver,” said student Becky Tauzer (Apache and Comanche), who has taken both the beginning and advanced classes. She has made earrings, rings, bracelets, and even a special pin for D-QU President Dr. Morgan G. Otis Jr. Tauzer says the class taught her, among other things, how to solder metal and how to use stones, such as turquoise. “Victor is a good teacher,” Tauzer said. “And I liked using the metal to express my creative ideas, my art.”

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