Jewelry artist crafts a different career

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Christina Smith wasn’t looking for a career change when she signed up for an art class in college.

Vanessa Martinez / Daily Titan
Vanessa Martinez / Daily Titan

She was just looking for a few extra units.

Today, she’s living proof that general education courses can alter the course of any student’s life, even if they take a course in something they didn’t think they were good at.

“I was someone who drew outside the lines,” said Smith, who was never encouraged to pursue art as a child. “In elementary school, I was not one of the star art students.”

In fact, Smith’s grandfather was an infamous attorney in the 1930s, and perhaps seeing a bit of her grandfather’s ability in her, she was encouraged to go into law.

Smith started college as a history and political science major but was blown away when she signed up for her first ever art class—a ceramics class at her community college—and thoroughly loved it. When she later transferred to San Diego State, she signed up for every art class she could.

San Diego State was known at the time for its craft art program so Smith said she took a large amount of craft art courses and received her BFA in craft jewelry and metalsmithing.

“Jewelry making is a rare talent that only a few people can do and I find that it is a skillful art,” said Marriam Lofton, 26, a dance major.

As a professor of art at CSUF, Smith is given the opportunity to both practice her art and share her passion for creating art with her students. While she didn’t originally plan to become a teacher (some of her relatives were teachers), it is a job she said became right for her in the end.

“I kind of fell into teaching on accident … I really love teaching, it’s the best job in the world,” said Smith.

Smith’s work has been included in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the National Museum of Australia and the Smithsonian Institution, and has been purchased by many collectors such as David Rockefeller and Viola Frey.

Smith also designed President Mildred García’s inaugural medallion for her presidential inauguration on Friday.

The medallion, made with sterling silver, incorporates the CSUF logo on the front and the CSU motto, as well as Garcia’s name on the back.

“I’m a silversmith and a jeweler … I make teapots and silver vessels, for the jewelry I make anything from rings, neck-pieces, etc. I’ve always shown, I’ve always had a studio,” Smith said.

Smith said she finds a connection and a delicate balance between her time spent teaching and her time spent on her own personal work.

“My art helped me get this position, this position helps me keep making my art,” Smith said. “When I’m not teaching, I’m in the studio.”

Smith encourages students of all backgrounds and majors to attend any of her craft-making classes even if they do not feel that art is their forte.

Students could use her as an example: You don’t know what you’re good at until you try it.

“I hadn’t heard of jewelry even being a class on campus, especially not a major. I didn’t even think it could be a major,” said Juan Lopez, 20, a biology major.

“There are prerequisites, but you don’t have to have them if you want to just explore making jewelry,” said Smith, who has had nursing and bio majors that have found and taken her classes. “You’re getting to design something and make it, and wear it. How often do we get to do that?”

Kristen Enriquez, 21, a liberal arts major at Hope International University with a concentration in physical education, said her grandfather was a jeweler and she would be interested in taking the courses.

“I would be curious to know whether old techniques are taught or new methods within the major,” said Enriquez.

Out of everything she is involved with, Smith said it is teaching that is the most rewarding aspect of her career.

“As a professor it’s so wonderful at the final when you’re seeing everyone’s work, they’ve made these amazing pieces, the BFA students put on their own solo exhibitions, I just have to show up and be amazed at the work they do,” Smith said.

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