These bracelets are far from perfect.
They are firsts. And like first steps or first words, they arise from persistence, radiate excitement, and mark the beginning of a journey.
When Interns and aspiring artists join T.Skies through our Jewelry Initiative, the copper bracelet is often the first piece they make. It can take 50 to 100 bracelets before they master the precise cutting, stamping, and polishing these pieces require.
Becoming an Artist
Before July of 2021, Victor had never made jewelry. He moved to New Mexico from Arizona and started helping out at T.Skies. When an opening for a stamper came up, Victor decided to give it a try. “My cousin Devin trained me, and the rest is history,” he says.
Victor started out with 20 bracelets and recalls getting a lot of “double stamps”. The process requires one to align the stamp perfectly to form a full stamp. When that doesn’t happen, you get a double stamp.
“It was hard at first. I wasn’t getting it and would get a little frustrated, but I would just tell myself ‘I am new to this. It will take time.’ And I just kept going.”
About a month into his work, Victor felt more confident. He has gone on to design and sell his own jewelry pieces. He recalls that growing up he didn’t get a lot of compliments, “Now, people say they love how my designs come out and they’re willing to buy jewelry from me.”
“Growing up, I didn’t get many compliments. I wasn’t known as an artist. Now, I am.”
Preserving the Legacy
Growing up in the Navajo reservation, Jessica Jonkman knew a lot of people who worked in the arts. Her grandfather was a silversmith and jewelry maker, and her great grandmother started a jewelry business.
Jessica graduated with a history degree and an art studio minor and worked as a middle school teacher. After having children, she wanted a career that offered more flexibility and time to spend with her kids. Jewelry-making found a way back into her life.
Jessica was awarded a scholarship through the T.Skies Co-Op and was later selected for a T.Skies internship.
“I did the copper bracelets as part of my internship. I was trained on how to cut them to size, get the stamps ready, and everything. I feel like I have a connection to stamping because of my grandfather’s work and it is something I want to get better at,” she says.
While there are women silversmiths, Jessica says there are not as many and encourages young people to keep the tradition of jewelry-making alive.
“Younger women can also take on this kind of work. For me, it’s important to carry that heritage in memory of my grandfather and many others.”
A Piece of My Soul
Marco Rivera was hired at T.Skies right out of CNM’s Bench Jewelry Program. It was a busy time with a lot of orders coming in and Marco had to learn the ropes quickly. He estimates making at least 100 copper bracelets.
“It’s a practice-makes-perfect kind of skill,” he says.
“A jeweler’s first-time walking is making a copper bracelet.”
Marco explains someone can teach you the processes, the techniques but there comes a point where it is up to your fingers and how you position the stamp against the copper. It can feel like muscle memory but the intention of making jewelry transcends the hands’ repetitive movements.
“There is so much energy that goes into making jewelry. Especially when you’re just starting out and are excited about learning a new skill. My mom has some of the first bracelets I made. I truly believe there is a piece of my soul in them.”
After months of training and dedication to the craft, our interns become artists and move on from Copper to start stamping in sterling silver to create some of your favorite pieces. Check out our Stamp Dancer Collection, allow yourself be moved by the dance of our hammers. The Stamp Dancer collection brings clean lines, combined with the tradition of hand-stamped designs. Modern and minimalist, this line is handcrafted in premium quality Sterling Silver.
Story by Aurola Wedman Alfaro.
Photos by Ungelbah Dávila-Shivers.