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Milan Village Arts School silversmithing classes and studio offer many a chance to create

Marilyn Hanson has taught silversmithing at the Milan Village Arts School since 2012, helping students create high-quality jewelry.

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Instructor Marilyn Hanson, left, provides insight for a piece being crafted by Appleton resident Janette Hanson during a Milan Village Arts School silversmithing class on Saturday, May 6, 2023.
Macy Moore / West Central Tribune

MILAN β€” It might seem like an odd parallel to draw, but transforming silver wire and sheets into beautiful pieces of jewelry is a bit like baking bread. It takes heat and chemical reactions to make both possible. Even the instructions Milan Village Arts School silversmith instructor Marilyn Hanson uses for various projects follow the baking theme.

"I learned to call them recipes," Hanson said as she flipped through her recipe book at the school on April 10. Inside were the step-by-step instructions for various bracelets, pendants, rings and earrings.

Hanson has been learning about and teaching silversmithing at Milan Village Arts School for 20 years. She first started taking classes with her father and sister in the early 2000s before starting to teach herself in 2012.

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Deb Peterson, of Morris, solders a piece during a Milan Village Arts School silversmithing class on Saturday, May 6, 2023.
Macy Moore / West Central Tribune

"I really like teaching and I love silver," along with jewelry itself, Hanson said.

A lot of what Hanson is passing along during her classes has come from her past teachers, including Tom Johnson, plus what she has picked up along the way. She also has a natural knack for the art form.

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"Some people have a gift to see what is beautiful and try to figure it out," Hanson said.

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Completed silver jewelry pieces sit on display to provide inspiration to participants of a Milan Village Arts School silversmithing class on Saturday, May 6, 2023.
Macy Moore / West Central Tribune

Hanson teaches both beginner and advanced silversmithing classes. For the beginner classes, held over three or two days, Hanson teaches students not only how to make different pieces of jewelry but also about the different tools and probably most importantly, how to stay safe when dealing with silver.

The first rule? Don't touch it.

"The silver will burn you," if a red-hot piece falls on someone or even on a wood surface, Hanson said. "I am all about safety."

Artisans use a wide variety of tools to make silver pieces. The Milan Village Arts School, with its silver studio, has a growing collection of tools. This includes things such as pinchers, snips, clips, sanders, hammers, etching tools and soldering equipment. Hanson said it is great having the school because it allows people to have access to specialized tools and a safe place to work.

The studio is available to those who have successfully completed the beginner silversmithing class. More information can be found by contacting the school.

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Jody Johnson, of Bemidji, carefully places silver balls around her piece during a Milan Village Arts School silversmithing class on Saturday, May 6, 2023.
Macy Moore / West Central Tribune

"We have tools here that I didn't have," Hanson said.

All the silver jewelry and collectibles made in Hanson's classes begin as sheets and wire of silver from the wholesaler silver company Rio Grande .

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Beginner silversmithing students purchase a sterling silver kit that provides all the material needed for the class. Those taking the advanced class can purchase the silver they'll need for their projects from Hanson or bring their own, as long as they can prove it is of sterling quality or was purchased at previous classes.

Hanson is so careful with the silver used in her class because low-quality silver, when mixed with other metals, can have unexpected reactions to the chemicals used in the silversmithing process.

Once the silver is in hand, its time to start crafting.

There are many steps in the recipe to create a silver piece, whether it is a pendant with a stone, a bracelet with silver balls, traditional Norwegian spoon earrings or a fishing lure.

In the beginner class, Hanson takes her students through the process of making three pieces β€” a ring, bracelet and/or pendant with the opportunity to make something of the student's choosing. In the advanced classes, students have the freedom to create what they like, with Hanson passing on some more advanced techniques.

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Shayanne Roth smiles while working on her silversmithing piece during a Milan Village Arts School silversmithing class on Saturday, May 6, 2023.
Macy Moore / West Central Tribune

"They're fun classes," Hanson said.

The silversmithing classes fill up quickly. Hanson keeps the class numbers small β€” only six students β€” for safety reasons. There are classes scheduled for September and those interested should register sooner rather than later.

Hanson's sister, Kathy Nardi, also teaches silver classes at Milan Village Arts School on occasion. This past April, she taught a Sami-inspired bracelets class.

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Figuring out silver does take some patience and courage. Since the raw material for the art form can be rather expensive, people might be a bit scared of doing anything wrong. That is a fear Hanson tries to alleviate in her students.

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Silversmithing tools fill a workbench ready for people to use during a Milan Village Arts School silversmithing class on Saturday, May 6, 2023.
Macy Moore / West Central Tribune

"That is all you need, the confidence," Hanson said. "It is a big thing, getting over mistakes."

Hanson works hard to teach her students how to make the best art possible. While she can be a stickler for invisible seams, she also gives her students the freedom to try new things, to be creative and imaginative with their silver.

"Making art here, people always want something a bit different," Hanson said.

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Deb Morris pets Milan Village Arts School resident dog, May, during a silversmithing class on Saturday, May 6, 2023.
Macy Moore / West Central Tribune

Shelby Lindrud is a reporter with the West Central Tribune of Willmar. Her focus areas are arts and entertainment, agriculture, features writing and the Kandiyohi County Board.

She can be reached via email slindrud@wctrib.com or direct 320-214-4373.


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