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Beyond Bling: Five Barlow Students Win Gold For Handcrafted Jewelry

From left, Donuel Roman, Taylor Macchia, Emma Boland, Anna Spek, Annie Baldyga. All five students from Joel Barlow High School in Redding were awarded a gold medal and Best Jewelry in Show at the Scholastic Art Awards. Photo Credit: Lee Skalkos
Anna Spek, age 15. Gold Medal. Sterling silver and patina necklace with Malachite. Photo Credit: contributed
Donuel Roman, age 18, made a bracelet using brass, sterling, copper and nickel silver. Photo Credit: contributed
Annie Baldyga, age 18. Gold Medal. Best Jewelry in Show. Photo Credit: contributed
Taylor Macchia, Age 15. Gold medal. Sterling silver, jade and sephoranite bracelet. Photo Credit: contributed
Emma Boland, age 16. Gold medal. carnelian and sterling silver necklace made entirely by hand. Photo Credit: contributed

REDDING, Conn. — Five out of five -- it can't get any better than that. That's the number of students from Joel Barlow High School in Redding who won top honors in the Scholastic Art Awards.

Each student — Donuel Roman, Taylor Macchia, Emma Boland, Anna Spek and Annie Baldyga — won a gold medal and an award for Best Jewelry in Show.

"Only five gold medals were awarded this year in jewelry — and Joel Barlow took them all," said Lee Skalkos, an Easton resident and art educator at Joel Barlow.

For the awards ceremony last month at the University of Hartford, over 1,500 pieces of students artwork were on display, including photography, ceramics, drawings, paintings, fashion and film entries.

Skalkos said her students worked for months on their jewelry pieces. 

Roman went to Skalkos early on in the school year and told her that he wanted to win a gold medal.

"He started working on his married metal cuff back in September. He came in before school, during his lunches and during his free time to make his hollow married metal piece using brass, sterling, copper and nickel silver," she said. 

"It took him four months, but the results were fantastic. He put in long hours and pulled it off," Skalkos said.

Baldyga won for her modernistic style cuff with a black patina, negative space and Mokume Gane.

This was the fourth time that Boland has won this competition. 

But for this competition, Boland, 16, said she tried something completely new. "I really like symmetry. But the piece I made has a big metal plate going down one side and a chain connecting the other side, so the whole piece is completely uneven.

"I think the shape alone is the real artsy part of it. I also think the judges really like funky, out-there things. Also, the design I put onto the piece is really clean and precise," she said.

Boland credited Skalkos for forcing her to get out of her box.

Click here for related story: Redding student strikes gold in in jewelry-making competition.

According to Boland, one of the most difficult parts about making her piece was soldering.

“The back metal plate was so big that I had trouble keeping the intact piece of metal hot to melt the solder. So, my teacher had one torch heating the metal from the top of the piece and I had another heating the metal from the bottom.”

Boland believes the Barlow students won because of the variety of their pieces.

“Everyone had a really creative approach to the piece they entered, and each piece was able to stand apart from one another," she said.

In total, Joel Barlow has won 40 gold medals for metal-smithing and five national titles, according to Skalkos.

All five Barlow students advance to the national competition, the date of which has not yet been determined.

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