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Episode 107: A Rare Gem of a Class at Herriman High School

You could say it is a rare gem at Herriman High School and it’s giving students a brand-new experience in education. On this episode of the Supercast, we take you inside the first ever jewelry making class where creativity is coming alive with the creation of one-of-a-kind accessories.

Join us as we head into the classroom with teacher Sommer Baisch and her students.


Audio Transcription

Anthony Godfrey:
Hello and welcome to the Supercast. I'm your host, Superintendent Anthony Godfrey. You could say it is a rare gem in Herriman High School, and it's giving students a brand new experience in education. On this episode of the Supercast, we take you inside the first ever jewelry-making class at Herriman High, where creativity is coming alive with the creation of one of a kind accessories.

We're here with Sommer Baisch at Herriman High School. She teaches the jewelry making class, the only one in the District. And even as I was walking in, I talked with a couple of people who told me that kids from other schools wish they could take this class. Tell me about this class.

Sommer Baisch:
So it's a Jewelry I class, so it’s kind of an introduction into basic tools. The jeweler's saw, setting stones with cold connections, so without heat, kind of making all the basic wire components. Just an entry into more advanced techniques, which we go over in Jewelry Making II such as soldering, stone setting. So it's kind of just an introduction class.

Anthony Godfrey:
So a big part of the difference between one and two, whether it's hot or cold and the work that you’re doing?

Sommer Baisch:
Yeah. And also just like to have a smaller class size, in Jewelry II, to be able to manage more kids with fire.

Anthony Godfrey:
So if you introduce fire into the classroom, you definitely need smaller class numbers, for sure. So tell me how long have you been teaching this and what got you into jewelry making?

Sommer Baisch:
So I've been teaching it, this is my fourth year at Herriman. I actually applied at Herriman because there was a printmaking position but it came attached to jewelry making. To be honest, I did not know a ton about jewelry making other than like some intro stuff I went over in college. So it took a lot of like taking workshops, professional development to kind of prepare for teaching this class, but I actually love it. It's so different from any art class that most schools traditionally offer.

Anthony Godfrey:
What do you like in particular about teaching this jewelry making class?

Sommer Baisch:
I like that it attracts like the most diverse group of kids ever. Like a lot of kids take Drawing because they're into drawing and they have a style, a lot of kids take Print Making because they want to print on a shirt, but I feel like jewelry is more diverse. I have the football kids next to the kids that also love art. It's a huge range of students that maybe don't necessarily think they're good at art or good at drawing. They think drawing when they think art. Right? So jewelry gives them an opportunity to make something, and be proud of it that maybe they wouldn't feel the same confidence in the drawing or painting class.

Anthony Godfrey:
I find that very interesting because I'm always worried about students who may be interested in something, but are worried they're not good enough to take a class in it, when really the point is to learn how to do something that interests them. So you can come into a jewelry making class with no experience, no skills, and you're able to take them from zero to necklace and in just a few classes.

Sommer Baisch:
Yeah, and that is an interesting thing. We asked that when they start using the jewelry saw, how many of you have used a jewelry saw? No one. So it kind of levels the playing field and it kind of takes the pressure off of students to feel like they have to be like the best. I was in that drawing class where you're always looking over your shoulder, like, ‘oh man, that kid can draw.’ And there's not that vibe in this class. Everybody's willing to just try their best. They're also more willing to take risks because they've never done it before. So who knows if it's gonna work out or not? And I really like that.

Anthony Godfrey:
And what you've just described is the environment where the most genuine learning takes place.

Sommer Baisch:
For sure. It's total problem solving from start to finish, and hands-on, and it really just taps every area of the brain with learning a new skill, I think.

Anthony Godfrey:
Yeah, absolutely. Tell me about some of the projects, both from this Jewelry Making class or Jewelry Making II, that students will be involved in.

Sommer Baisch:
So in Jewelry I, we start with some shrinky dink earrings. They make wire findings, like ear hooks, jump rings, so they learn really basic skills. They just did a project where they had to saw out around the design in a quarter and cut out some negative space. So they learn how to saw sheet metal. They just learned how to find a ring size, how to go from raw materials, such as copper, nickel, brass, and to make it into a specific design that they came up with. We're about to start enameling, which is melting glass on the surface of metal. That's the only thing that requires heat in Jewelry I.

Anthony Godfrey:
So there will be some enameling?

Sommer Baisch:
Yep, and then we finish with a stone set ring. They learn how to rivet, how to cut out tabs to hold a stone in place. In Jewelry II we do lots of stone settings. So soldering metal together to use a bezel setting for like a natural stone, a natural gemstone.

Anthony Godfrey:
And do you find that a number of students maybe try to make this a little bit more than a hobby, maybe go on Etsy, try to sell some things?

Sommer Baisch:
Yes. I've been told we have some Tik Tok spoon ring famous kids from Herriman that have made spoon rings and have thousands of followers on Tik Tok.

Anthony Godfrey:
I'm not close with the spoon ring / Tik Tok community, but where those two worlds overlap, it's exciting that there are some Herriman students that are featured there. That's really cool. I noticed that you've made some terrifying skull earrings yourself.

Sommer Baisch:
Yep. So these are enamel earrings. This is their next project. I try to preview their projects with what I wear. I don’t know if they pick up on it.

Anthony Godfrey:
That's a good way to preview, is for them to maybe notice what you're wearing and say, well, guess what you're going to get to make that. Thank you very much for spending the time and for offering this unique opportunity for students. It's obvious that they're all super engaged and really excited about that project. So it's really fun to see. Yeah. Thanks for coming.

Tell me your name and tell me about some of the projects that you've worked on in this class.

Student #1:
This is my ring. I tried to make it as close as I can to bamboo.

Anthony Godfrey:
This is made out of copper? And so did you lay it out and cut it and then shape it?

Student #1:
Yeah,I did. Yeah, I textured it first. I used a striper hammer.

Anthony Godfrey:
So the striper hammer has an edge with grooves in it on one side of the head and the other has kind of pins poking out of it. So why do you use this side of the hammer for that particular job?

Student #1:
I just thought it would look better with my ring because you know, it's bamboo.

Anthony Godfrey:
So does it give it some structure?

Student #1:
Yeah, it just feels better. It just looks better with it. Yeah. That was the first one I did. And then I also did patina, which is the black stuff in between.

Anthony Godfrey:
Yeah. The patina kind of brings out the design of it. Where did you come up with the idea for the design?

Student #1:
The project she gave us was I think, like nature. It was about nature. So that was the first thing that came to mind for some reason. I don't know why, and I just went with it.

Anthony Godfrey:
So what are some of the other projects?

Student #1:
We did make ear wires, and then we made little shrinky dinks to go along with it. Mine are in the case outside. I made a Robin from, you know Teen Titans Go? Yeah. I made Robin from that and I maybe shrunk them down and then we connected them to the ear wire. So they look pretty cool.

Anthony Godfrey:
Let’s go out and take a look in the case right here.

So what would you say to people who were thinking about taking this class?

Student #1:
I enjoy it a lot. It's really fun. I was actually supposed to switch out of it, but I stayed for two weeks because I wanted to make sure. I wanted to search out because I need an art credit, but it was after the ear wires. I was like, yeah, I'm staying.

Anthony Godfrey:
So what is it that you like about the class?

Student #1:
It’s just, it's really fun to make things. She gives us a lot of freedom. These are a lot of them. Mine was, I believe it was, it was somewhere around here. I can’t remember. Oh yeah, it's right there. I wish I colored it in a little bit more though.

Anthony Godfrey:
It looks really good. It looks really good. So you shrink it down?

Student #1:
Yeah. They started off, like, they start off like three times that size. And then when you, when you warm them up in the oven, they shrink down to that size.

Anthony Godfrey:
And were you a bit surprised at what you were able to create?

Student #1:
I didn't think it would look like that. I thought it'd be a little more pale. I didn't color it in as much as I should have.

Anthony Godfrey:
But it turned out better than you thought.

Student #1:
Yeah. A lot better.

Anthony Godfrey:
Which kind of made you want to do more?

Student #1:
Yeah. I was planning on making another, but we, uh, we moved on to rings.

Anthony Godfrey:
Well, you're lucky to be able to be in this class. I hear that there are kids from other schools trying to get in, that don't even go to Herriman. So, I think that's a great project and it sounds like you've got a lot of exciting things ahead in this class. Is there a satisfaction that comes from doing something physical and making something where you get to see the result?

Student #1:
Yeah.  I enjoy the end, you know, it's just that little satisfaction of something you created and like, you just feel proud of yourself.

Anthony Godfrey:
Yeah, absolutely. Well, you should. It looks great. So what plans do you have for those earrings?

Student #1:
I really plan on keeping them since they're my very first project and, you know, I just, I really like them.

Anthony Godfrey:
Yeah. I think it looks great. All right. Well, thanks for talking with us and enjoy the class.

Sommer Baisch:
So Shiloh wanted to make a spinner ring. It doesn't quite spin, we're still trying to work out the mechanics, but she actually layered metal, which wasn't a requirement. But it turned out really amazing.

Anthony Godfrey:
Oh wow. So is this nickel and copper? I'm cheating because other students told me what materials they were working with. So ultimately, what will this do? Describe that for me, ultimately, what will that do?

Student #2:
It was supposed to spin. This nickel part was supposed to spin around the copper, but it didn't fit quite right, and so it doesn't spin.

Anthony Godfrey:
Is the purpose for that, that you're able to kind of spin it while you're wearing it and kind of fiddle with it?

Student #2:
Yeah, like a fidget something.

Anthony Godfrey:
I think it's really cool. Tell me about the pattern. Is that just leaves?

Student #2:
So there's a leaf right here and then on the front, there's a tiger's head.

Anthony Godfrey:
Oh, wow. I didn't notice that. Yeah. Leave me alone. I'm a tiger. Well, it looks really good. Are you going to wear it?

Student #2:
I'm not quite sure what went wrong, but it doesn't fit any of my fingers. So I'm probably just going to give it to my mom.

Anthony Godfrey:
Okay. I'm sure she'll love it. Alright. Well, thanks for talking with me.

Stay with us. When we come back more from the Jewelry Making class at Herriman High School.

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Anthony Godfrey:
We're here in the Jewelry Making class at Herriman High School. Students, why don't you go ahead and introduce yourselves?

Student #3:
I'm Alison.

Student #4:
I'm Ricki.

Anthony Godfrey:
What made you want to sign up for this class Ricki?

Student #4:
I just love wearing jewelry, so I wanted to make some.

Anthony Godfrey:
And how about for you?

Student #3:
I needed another fine arts credit.

Anthony Godfrey:
And was it more than just a credit once you started in the class?

Student #3:
Definitely.

Anthony Godfrey:
Tell me about that.

Student #3:
I don't know. I just kind of showed up and I was like, it's really sick, like making stuff.

Anthony Godfrey:
For listeners at home, sick is good. That's a positive thing. Totally rad in the 1900s would have been the equivalent. This is a sick class. Tell me what’s sick about it?

Student #3:
I have a really great group of friends. And like when you do stuff, that's fun with your friends, everything is fun.

Anthony Godfrey:
Speaking of friends, now that you're working on jewelry, do you have a friend in the diamond business?

Student #3:
Only at Shane Company.

Anthony Godfrey:
Okay. Very good. Well done. So how did you make Harry Styles shrinky dink earrings?

Student #3:
You take a picture and you draw it on a piece of paper and then you take a piece of rice paper, put it over the picture, and then you get a piece of the shrink dink film and then you trace it again and then you scratch it up and color it and put it in a toaster oven. And you're done.

Anthony Godfrey:
So after that process then do you wear these earrings?

Student #3:
Not today, but they're in my room right now.

Anthony Godfrey:
Okay. Very nice. What are some of the things that you've made?

Student #4:
We just finished making rings.

Anthony Godfrey:
Tell me about this ring.

Student #4:
It’s made of nickel and we saw it in the shape we wanted, then we filed it and then bent it.

Anthony Godfrey:
What shape did you put it in here?

Student #4
I did a mountain.

Anthony Godfrey:
Oh yeah. I do see that. Okay. Try it on. Let's see how it looks. It looks great. So that's a forefinger ring. Very good. So tell me about the process for shaping it that way.

Student #4:
You just had to draw on a paper what shape you wanted, then you put it on the nickel and use a saw to cut it out.

Anthony Godfrey:
Did you make earrings as well? And what earrings did you make?

Student #4:
Hannah Montana.

Anthony Godfrey:
Hannah Montana. You know, you could trade and you could each be wearing one Harry Styles and one of Hannah Montana, that would be iconic. Once you made these things, did you feel like maybe, this sounds like an Etsy project, like something you could sell online? Have you thought about making something to sell?

Student #3:
She does.

Anthony Godfrey:
Oh, she does.

Student #3:
Ricki has an online boutique on Etsy.

Anthony Godfrey:
Oh, tell me about your boutique?

Student #4:
I just do like earrings and spoon rings

Anthony Godfrey:
Earrings and spoon rings, okay. So where do you get the spoons? I'm going to pull it up right now, by the way, let's take a look.

Student #4
Anywhere, like little vintage shops.

Anthony Godfrey:
Is it a particular kind of spoon that you look for?

Student #4
No, any pretty ones.

Anthony Godfrey:
So what's the name of your store? Oh, there it is. Okay. All right. May I? Let’s take a look? Oh, very nice. So did you have this before you were in this class?

Student #4:
Yeah.

Anthony Godfrey:
So you had an interest in making jewelry before you took this class. And how has this class helped with your jewelry making?

Student #4:
Now I know more techniques on how to do different things.

Anthony Godfrey:
Has your range of product offerings increased since being in this class? I like the flower earrings right there with the different colors. All right. Thank you guys.

Thanks for joining us on another episode of the Supercast. Remember education is the most important thing you will do today. We'll see you out there.

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