Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend: My Favorite Place on Campus

by Nelly Mendoza-Mendoza | 1/30/19 2:15am

Courtesy of Nelly Mendoza-Mendoza


Courtesy of Nelly Mendoza-Mendoza


Courtesy of Nelly Mendoza-Mendoza


Bella Jacoby/The Dartmouth Senior Staff


Bella Jacoby/The Dartmouth Senior Staff

 

The Donald Claflin Jewelry Studio was founded in 1966 and is a very unique workshop among colleges and universities. Jeff Georgantes, director of the studio of 14 years, says that to his knowledge, no other academic institution has a professionally-managed jewelry studio open to all students, regardless of major. Yearly, the studio works with approximately 700 to 900 students, who attend open studio hours, special workshops and programming with academic departments (such as students making instruments for an engineering class). 

This is also the place I have called my second home for the past four years. It is here where I learned how to make jewelry and where I became interested in the arts. I can’t believe that my time at the jewelry studio, a place where I have gone almost every week since I started college, is coming to an end. 

 It was freshman fall, sometime in October of 2015, when I first walked into the jewelry studio, located downstairs in the Hopkins Center for the Arts. I was with a friend, and she suggested we stop by the jewelry studio — I do not remember what I said to her. We made a copper bracelet together. The next thing I remember is that I kept coming back because I was working on a ring with a stone setting, and I somehow always managed to start another project as I was trying to finish the prior. After a few weeks of making jewelry, I started working there as a teaching assistant once a week.  

Four years later, I am still making jewelry. So much at Dartmouth seems to have remained the same, yet everything has changed. All of the older student assistants have graduated, and I have drastically changed my hair color numerous times. Change can be scary for everyone. Although many things have changed since I started college, the studio has remained one of the most relaxing and invigorating places on campus for me. It still is a place where I can be myself and explore other sides of my creativity that I am not always able to use someplace else. 

Now, in my fourth year as a jewelry teaching assistant, I’ve seen many ­— dozens, if not hundreds — other students also gain an appreciation for the jewelry studio. I asked studio director Jeff Georgantes, who has become my mentor, about his favorite part about working at the studio; he said it is seeing students grow and getting to know them over time. 

I feel similarly to Jeff. I have met people at the studio who have become close friends, with whom I share ideas and whom I look up to. I’ve had the chance to get to know them for longer than one term — people who perhaps I would have never met because I was in Silsby for economics classes, and they were in Kemeny for math lectures. 

When I asked Jeff why students come back to the studio, he said it is because of the strong community. The studio is by far one of the closest-knit groups I have been part of at Dartmouth. Students and staff appreciate each other regardless of our differences because we enjoy making things and working with everything ranging from fire to microscopes. 

Students learn and work on what they are interested in, whether that is making a ring for a class project or making a gift for Mother’s Day. This is one of the most appealing aspects of the studio: you can simply walk in and start a project. There is no expectation for you to know anything about jewelry, simply the willingness to try something new and walk in through the door. 

Unlike in the classroom, students receive no grades or credit for any of their work. There is no need to worry about making something perfect or finishing something by a certain time. And, the studio cultivates personal interaction and getting to know others. Even though a lot of the work is done individually, there is always space for students to get to know each other and learn what others are working on. 

Learning how to make jewelry has changed the way I see how many different objects are made. Jewelry has taught me how to pause more often and pay attention to how things go together. 

Details can be so easy to overlook because we are so used to an overload of instant information through our screens. Thus, I cherish each time I get the chance to pay attention to the fine details of a precious gem or metal. There is something magical about imagining an idea and then bringing it to life. Creativity is something very underrated and we limit ourselves to only doing things that we believe have practical ends. It is extremely rewarding to step outside of your comfort zone and discover more about who you are. It does not always have to be school work or activities planned minute-by-minute. 

There are so many ways to get involved in these sorts of experiences. For example, next to the jewelry studio are the Woodshop and the Ceramic Studio. These two spaces are also part of the Student Workshops. So much can be easily missed in Dartmouth’s 10-week term.

Perhaps now you can see a glimpse of why the jewelry studio has been my favorite place on campus and one of the most important parts of my education at Dartmouth. Although I receive no academic credit for my work, it has been instrumental in shaping my interests and sparking pursuits in subjects such as design and business. You can probably guess what the first thing I look at when I go to a museum is or what pictures I have cut out from magazines. I would not have guessed that four years ago. But I am glad that this is who I am now.