Jewelry and Metals: Berkley High School’s Hidden Gem


Ashley Morgan

Sophomore Je’da Kyles displaying the finished necklace she made

Berkley offers many different art classes, some being Drawing and Painting, Ceramics, and Digital Art. There is one art class tucked at the very end of the language hall that not many people may know about, Jewelry and Metals. The class has been offered at Berkley High School for many years, but it had a different teacher previously. This year’s teacher is Kim Depaulis, and it is her 4th year teaching the course. “We had a woman that was a jeweler that taught this class for about ten years, then we didn’t have jewelry for a number of years after,” she says. She prepared herself to bring the class back by taking classes on metalworking techniques the summer before she started teaching it. But what exactly does the class entail?
According to the BHS Curriculum Guide, the content of the Intro to Jewelry and Metals course is described as “[emphasizing] basic design theory… rendering designs, and transposing them into working prototypes for finished metal work”. Essentially, the class encompasses its name: making jewelry! The class is two semesters, Intro to Jewelry and Metals and Advanced Jewelry and Metals. A student must take the intro course before taking the second semester. Different projects are done in each semester. “We make keychains, chainmail, learn to solder, and make rings [first semester]. The second semester, we use resin, enamel, and make raised bowls from metal,” Mrs. Depaulis says.
Art skills are not the only concepts that can be learned from the course. Students also get to learn how to use various tools that are utilized in metalwork. Freshman Heiress Brame noted the most significant skills she’s learned so far were how to use the torches (which she noted were kind of scary to handle at first), how to use buffers to make metal shiny, and how to saw. Mrs. Depaulis says that this kind of learning is one of the major advantages of taking the class. “Using tools is helpful, you use hammers, saws, and files. It’s just kind of a good basic class, I feel like someone could take this class and be able to use tools around their house to fix things,” she explained.
As I walked around the classroom, all the students were working on slightly different individual projects at their own pace, but all were working with a similar technique. Recently, the class has been making jump rings out of chainmail. During class, some students were sanding down their metal, while others were manipulating the chainmail using pliers. “I try to give them a lot of choices but they have to achieve a certain skill with each project,” Mrs. Depaulis notes. She also adds that the class builds on itself, as each project incorporates new skills.
Each student is able to use the materials they make, in this case, chainmail, to produce whatever kind of jewelry they would like. “I’m making [the jump rings] into a ring”, Brame notes, while other students were making earrings and necklaces. Overall, the environment of the classroom was very relaxed, as students were focused on finishing their projects. They were quiet and exercised precision when creating their pieces. After finishing projects, students can keep what they make, meaning that they now have unique pieces that they put hard work into that they can wear or give to others.
The popularity of Jewelry and Metals has grown over time. “[Enrollment] has gone up the last couple of years, I started with teaching one class and now I have four next semester,” Mrs. Depaulis says. Students from all grades are able to take the class, and all are taking it for different reasons. Brame says she was automatically enrolled in the class before the school year but decided not to change her schedule. She noted that she has grown to really enjoy it over the course of the year, recommending taking it to others. Senior Robert Belf also noted the environment of the class when asked why he enjoyed it. “It’s a very fun class, and it kind of helps you embrace your creative attributes and helps to reignite the passion for art that you may have forgotten over the years. It’s a calming and peaceful environment,” he says, something that a lot of students could benefit from.
The Intro class has no prior requirements, so anyone of any grade can enroll. Once a student completes that course, they can move on to the second semester where they can make more complicated and varying projects. Both semesters of the class also fulfill a visual art credit. If a calming environment that encourages creativity sounds interesting to you, or you would like a class that provides a break from the chaos of your day, consider enrolling in Jewelry and Metals when scheduling for next year comes around.