Creating hands-on experiences for students in MIT’s forge

DMSE instructors teach metalsmithing skills to students in the DesignPlus program.
Categories: Students

DesignPlus is a learning community open to MIT first-year undergraduates. It’s a space for hands-on experimentation and exploration, acquiring technical skills, finding mentors and mutual support, and having fun. Approximately 50 students join each year to discover different facets of design, both in theory and in practice.

Over the 2023-24 academic year, DesignPlus students were split into different design “tracks,” such as materials science, building and construction, product design, international development, and more. This video is about students who engaged with metalsmithing through the Department of Materials Science and Engineering (DMSE) in MIT’s forge and foundry, located in The Merton C. Flemings Materials Processing Laboratory.

Advised by Kirk Kolenbrander, DMSE senior lecturer, and with the supervision of Rhea Vedro, metals artist in residence and technical instructor at DMSE, the small group of students designed and made individual silver rings. Vedro is a metalsmith creating at the intersection of arts and collective healing. Her research explores metalsmithing as a cultural signifier of values, power, and protection across belief systems and time. Trained first as a jeweler, her studio practice is primarily hollow-form steel sculpture.

“As an artist, design is in my everyday way of thinking, and having folks come here is really exciting because they’re off the computer and having these very hands-on experiences where there’s nothing between them and the material,” Vedro says.

DesignPlus students found the program enlightening. “It was always the highlight of my week to be able to go in this forge and learn something new,” says JD Hagood ’27. Another student, Layla Stanton ’27, adds, “Joining DesignPlus was the single best decision I made coming into MIT.”