Hazen senior hopes for national award with jewelry

José Lins and his production art and jewelry class instructor Nanz Aalund at Hazen High School. Lins is a finalist in a national jewelry competition for a necklace  he made in Aalund
José Lins and his production art and jewelry class instructor Nanz Aalund at Hazen High School. Lins is a finalist in a national jewelry competition for a necklace he made in Aalund's class.
— image credit: Tracey Compton, Renton Reporter

Hazen High School senior José Lins is trying to find success as an emerging jewelry designer in a national industry competition.

The 19-year-old is a finalist in the Saul Bell Emerging Artist Awards. His production art and jewelry class instructor, Nanz Aalund, calls the competition the Golden Globes of the industry. José has already won third place recently in a Washington high school jewelry competition, run by the Seattle Metals Guild.

Aalund gave José an introduction to a style of jewelry making called filigree.

It’s a complex skill she said is usually beyond most high school students.

“But when I saw how talented José was, that he has such an eye for detail and such fine finishing work, I just said, ‘This guy can handle it,’ Aalund said.

José entered the Saul Bell competition with a silver necklace he made using this technique. He learned how to make one of the intricate beads first, then made the entire piece graduating the beads in size. He is amazed by the hard work he’s put into pieces for Aalund’s class and loves the problem-solving skills it’s taught him.

“It makes you proud,” José said. “You don’t even have to show it to anyone. You don’t have to get money for it; you just look at it. It’s amazing to look at.”

He’s not the only one who thinks so. Aalund’s art class erupted when José brought the necklace in for her to review one day. Students remarked at the commercial marketability of the piece and asked if José could make them one.

“José is just one of those amazing students,” said his instructor. “He’s multi-lingual. If he were to choose to go into the jewelry business – he would really be able to just select where he wants to go.”

José speaks Portuguese and about 70 percent of gemstones in the world market are coming out of Brazil right now, said Aalund.

Her student would make a prime candidate for American jewelry manufacturers, who work with dealers in Brazil and Argentina, she said.

Aalund’s been in the jewelry industry for a long time and knows what she’s talking about. She was the fine jewelry designer at Nordstrom for 12 years. She’s taught at the University of Washington and also edited national jewelry magazines. Aalund has been the instructor at Hazen for just two years. She was hired after former instructor Gary Grossman retired. He started the class about a decade ago.

Students work in a converted sheet-steal fabrication shop that was used for construction trades in the 1960s. The classroom is in need of renovation, with sinks with rusted holes and corroded countertops, said Aalund.

But they make do with what they have for now.

“It’s such a breath of fresh air to have a student that is that determined,” she said of José. “He’s willing to work really hard toward his goal and that is just so refreshing and so wonderful to see. I just want to support that in anyway I can.”

Right now his teacher is trying to find him scholarships, while José seriously considers pursuing jewelry design as a career. Because he likes to work with his hands, he used to want to be a chef. He’s moved away from that now and has even more support from his family.

After placing at the state competition, it gave him confidence and solidified his family’s belief in his talent.

José calls Aalund his instructor, mentor and counselor in everything he does.

The Saul Bell winners will be notified in March. The top three winners will get to go on to the Jewelers Circular Keystone or JCK conference in Las Vegas, May 31-June 3.


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