Masters: Sharon Church

Masters: Sharon Church

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Sharon Church Portrait

Photo: Jared Castaldi

Sharon Church sees it as a choice: You get home after a long day’s work, sit down, maybe have a snack or a drink, watch some TV. Or you can make something.

“I really believe craft has within it the key to valuing a human life,” she says. “To make something with your hands, to know that you exist, to see that that existence has value – even for someone who just likes doing it, it has enormous value.”

The studio jeweler, 63, isn’t shy about hopping on the soapbox, and with good reason. She felt making’s pull herself, when, after graduating from Skidmore College in 1970, she briefly worked as a secretary.

“I spent all of my time at work anticipating getting out of work and going home to make jewelry,” she recalls. She convinced a reluctant father she should go to graduate school at the Rochester Institute of Technology, and she never looked back.

Known for her exquisite carved jewelry, which incorporates materials such as bone and wood, Church loves to be in her studio. But she’s also a passionate teacher (and recipient of the James Renwick Alliance Distinguished Educator Award, among other honors). Since 1979, she has taught at Philadelphia’s University of the Arts.

“I love the act of teaching, the exchange that happens, the discovery – and I get to spend my days like that,” she marvels. “I don’t worry about making a lot of money; I don’t worry about getting ahead or any of that stuff. I just worry about communicating to a group of students in a way that will enable them to make their own work.”