Keeping the craft alive at Weber State

Vaughn Sweeten engraving his ring. Sweeten also made the ring on his right hand.

Students enrolled in Weber State University’s jewelry class met for the final time this semester on Oct. 19 to celebrate the completion of their final jewelry projects. Students shared snacks, put the finishing touches on their projects and discussed the future of the jewelry class at WSU.

The jewelry class was taught by Rene Venegas, adjunct professor, 16th-generation silversmith and owner of The Local Artisan Collective in Ogden, Utah.

Venegas shared that his family created pieces for royalty and the Catholic Church as early as the 13th century. His ancestor Felipe Venegas was the first silversmith to step on American soil.

Alongside teaching the community educational jewelry classes, he also hosts classes at the Collective for beginners and advanced jewelry makers. Venegas celebrates his students’ accomplishments and helps them sell their jewelry from his store and get employment within the jewelry business.

In the class, students worked on polishing rings, crafting bracelets, making necklaces, earrings and adding protective materials to the jewelry they created with the assistance of Venegas.

The class allows students to explore their creative sides and with the help of Venegas bring those plans to life.

“It is kind of whatever we want; it’s art. You know, you kind of have something in your mind and all of a sudden, it is real. That’s the best part,” LuJayne Hyde, a jewelry student, said.

However, the jewelry class at WSU might not continue into the spring.

Venegas said he hopes his courses continue in the future; however, without enough registration in the spring, his jewelry classes at WSU will be canceled.

“The problem is the art department’s budget is always tight,” Venegas said.

Venegas and students have faced challenges this semester due to a lack of funding for the jewelry course: difficulties with their space and outdated tools and equipment.

Brooke Wallwork, WSU alumni, said that some of the tools were not sharp enough for them to cut the edges of the metal pieces of their jewelry. Students had to grind the material down with sandpaper instead, which was more challenging.

“He has requested funding so the class could have better tools, but they just don’t give it to him,” Wallwork said. “He is a great teacher and is very knowledgeable. There are people who are waiting to sign up for his daytime classes. Then the classes get canceled. He loves being up here, and he loves teaching students whether they are old or young. He just wants to be able to do it better.”

Venegas shared his hopes for the future of his jewelry class at WSU. He wants to secure a better space for students to explore their creativity by making jewelry. The jewelry class is currently sharing space within the sculpture studio, which has presented some challenges.

Venegas wants a space specifically for jewelry students.

“I have been interviewed by Fox 13 and Channel Two news a few years ago, and I told them about the university and what I do here because I am proud of my time at Weber State,” Venegas said.

He hopes more students enroll in his jewelry class in the spring. Venegas curates a stress free environment, and he wants to celebrate his student’s accomplishments as they learn more about the art of jewelry making.