For nearly 20 years, Falls Church resident Charles Agel has been fascinated by various artistic mediums, starting with photography, then transitioning to digital imaging and now, for the past seven years, jewelry making has been the focus of his attention.
Through his company, The Captured Muse, Agel has been able to sell and showcase various pieces of jewelry, such as earrings, necklaces and rings throughout the Northern Virginia region. Plus, he’s a longtime art teacher at Justice High School, where he teaches digital design and jewelry making on a daily basis.
Now, as the global pandemic continues, Agel has turned to his work for solace, launching a collection of handmade, sterling silver pieces, while continuing to teach his students from home.
Here, Agel shares details on his most recent jewels, the challenges of online learning and where he finds hope during this trying time. Highlights from our conversation below.
Talk to me about the collection you are working on now.
My newest jewelry collection revolves around impression dies and metal stamping techniques that date back to the turn of the century in the 1900s. Basically, a steel die had a 3D image carved into it, and all subjects were fair game. A blank piece of metal was placed on top of the die in a press and a very heavy, hammer-like object came crashing down, pressing the metal into the die that would make a positive shape. I use a 20-ton press to form sterling silver sheets into 3D forms that I then incorporate into rings, pendants and bracelets. I think they have a very retro yet modern look about them.
Why sterling silver jewelry?
Silver is magical. It allows you to hammer, bend, fold, cut, shape, join and polish it in infinite ways. It is the perfect background for a plethora of precious and semi-precious gemstones, never trying to upstage their brilliance. On its own, it forsakes color, offering a multitude of values from deep black to pure white, always reflecting the world around it. It’s surface texture ranges from matte to mirror-like, and is softer when lovingly filed, sanded and buffed by a consummate artist-craftsman.
What has it been like transitioning to online learning with your students at Justice High School?
We are in the process of creating a distance learning program in order to support our students’ continued learning, which has been a challenge that none of us were prepared for. Technology is great when it works but incredibly frustrating when it doesn’t. Right now, everyone is as dedicated as possible to getting it right for the sake of our students.
Typically, I teach digital imaging and design, which is all about learning how to utilize tools like Photoshop, Illustrator, things like that, as well as three jewelry classes. With this new format, my responsibility is to create and provide content that’s relevant for the kids and still stay in the guidelines of our programs. The students don’t have the materials at home, so we have to go completely rogue and find things we can do together. It would be one thing if they at least had Photoshop on their computers, but they don’t. The problem becomes not so much can I teach, but what I will teach, so I’ve turned to the fundamentals of art, no matter their medium. I’m pretty much going back to principles of design, composition, all the basics, and you can never cover those things enough.
How have you been maintaining connections with your local clientele during the coronavirus pandemic?
Honestly, I’m not good at the whole social media thing, so my fiancée, Tina Peterson, generously took it over and is doing a great job promoting me and my work, leaving me the time to do what I do best: make jewelry.
What gives you hope during this uncertain time?
Even though as a nation our politics have caused a great divide in our country, I believe that a leader or coalition will emerge with a plan to bring us together again. A plan where we put each other and not ourselves first. Also, during the current stay-at-home order, I have found precious time to dedicate to my art and craft on a daily basis. This continuity of purpose is like water and sunshine to a plant. For the plant, it will result in a bouquet of beauty. For me, I hope it will bring joy to my customers for years to come whenever they wear my jewelry, which was born in these grim times.
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