The hum of students busy at work, the heat from the torch, and the satisfaction of completing a hard labored project. To Paige Stephenson ’22, metals intensives is a moment of calm in her day to day life where she can simply create and be herself. She uses metalworking as an outlet for her individuality and the inner workings of her mind.
Stephenson has been an artist her entire life. Whether doodling or finding inspiration day to day, she can’t find a time when she hasn’t been doing art. She first began metalworking through the middle school art program and has continued through her senior year.
Ms. Shayla Vines, the high school’s metalworking teacher, has had Stephenson as a student for all four years of high school. Throughout their time together, Vines has created a strong understanding of Stephenson as both a student and an artist.
“Paige is amazing. She is the ideal student that you’d want to have in terms of: she’s willing to take a risk, she’s very intuitive about how she goes about things, she likes to think outside the box, and she’s up for anything. She’s always enthusiastic to try a new thing,” said Vines.
In particular, Stephenson loves to create jewelry pieces. She expressed the fulfillment she finds in giving her finished pieces to friends and family.
“Most of my projects I don’t have at home because I’ve gifted them to other people. I think jewelry is a bit more accessible. You can make something then give it to someone and then they can wear it and a lot more people are going to appreciate that,” said Stephenson.
Stephenson has grown a defined theme within her work as well, focusing on the human eye. She has been adding to this thematic series to create an artistic portfolio. Stephenson’s eye-themed portfolio later went on to win a “Silver Key” at the Scholastic Arts and Writing Competition.
“Originally I came up with [it] because I just think [eyes are] really neat. The shapes, they’re really simplistic. If you narrow it down, they’re just three circles, but there’s a lot you can do within that I found really interesting. I mostly do eye-based jewelry, which is not going to be everyone’s cup of tea, but I like it,” said Stephenson.
One of Stephenson’s eye-themed jewelry pieces. Image by Paige Stephenson.
However, Stephenson still loves to experiment with different ideas and shapes in her designs. She began with a steampunk based theme in her work, finding interest in the form of cogs and bolts. Stephenson says her main source of inspiration is “anything and everything”, but you can always find her sketching what she sees in the everyday world.
“It just sort of comes to mind. It’s hard to nail down a specific inspiration because I usually just start sketching. All of my pieces start with a sketch. I start drawing and I’ll be like, ‘Oh that’s a cool part of this, I’m going to expand on that more,’” said Stephenson.
Now that Stephenson is a senior in high school, she is deciding how to continue her passion for metalworking. Currently, Stephenson is hoping to double major in Psychology and English at Skidmore College in New York. Although Skidmore College isn’t an arts school, Stephenson is excited by the arts program offered at the school and hopes to keep up her craft.
“I picked it out partially because they had a metals studio. Skidmore actually has this art building that any student can enter anytime to work on their pieces and do their stuff. It’s not an arts college, it’s a liberal arts college, but it’s got a very strong arts program. I definitely wanted to keep going with it,” said Stephenson.
Stephenson hopes to continue working with metals her entire life, whether it becomes a full time career or a side business. Despite being unsure where she wants to take her skills, she knows that metalworking is her passion and will follow her wherever she goes..
“I do believe art is always going to be a part of her life, regardless of whatever career path she takes. I can see her in college taking art classes, I do see her having a studio in her basement kind of a thing and doing it on the weekends, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Paige turns into the next great artist of the contemporary world, who knows,” said Vines.
A skull with a mohawk piece created by Stephson. She began by seeing this design on a band T-shirt, sketching it, and eventually creating a finalized piece. Image by Stephenson.