New Skills to Share: Jewelry Professor Returns from Toolbox Initiative

With a drum, jewelry, and a new outlook in hand, Jewelry Department chair and professor James Lynn returns from West Africa with knowledge to share with his students.

Lynn spent more than a week in Dakar, Senegal, as part of the Toolbox Initiative, a volunteer effort created by jewelers to provide tools and resources to West African villages.

“It changes your perspective. We can be so concerned with our fancy equipment, and they just don’t need it.”

As Lynn unpacked his suitcase, the souvenirs inside were much different than the more than 50 pounds of supplies he hand-delivered.

“They were really joyous,” says Lynn. “One of the things the village jewelers have a hard time getting are files because they wear out. So, we brought a lot of new ones. One of the jewelers picked it up and gave it a kiss.”

Over the week, Lynn visited dozens of shops, most were the size of a typical walk-in-closet.

He worked side-by-side with each jeweler, sharing his tricks of the trade.

“One of the tools I shared was something called an ingot mold. I showed one man how to use it, because he had never seen one like it before. He caught on quickly, you could see how thrilled he was thinking about what he could do and how much time it would save him.”

The entire experience for Lynn was a give-and-take. Even through his level of expertise, Lynn was able to learn a new skill set to improve his own techniques.

“Their wire twisting method is easier, faster, and it works better than the way we do it. Instead of using an electric motor, a man sits on the floor with two pieces of wood and spins it. You need space, but it’s fast and very effective.”

Lynn’s students will also benefit from his newfound knowledge.

“I teach my students filigree. In every account I have read, they never specify how the solder is composed, which can make a big difference in your product. I asked one of the jewelers about his formula and he gave it to me. It’s going to change the way I teach and how I work.”

Lynn hopes to have the opportunity to return in the years ahead to continue sharing his knowledge and learn new trades. .

Click through pictures of his trip below.

Toolbox Initiative

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