Sophia Dengo’s Streamlined Silversmithing

Making jewelry has been a passion of Sophia Dengo’s for the past 20+ years. She began with wire and beadwork, continuing to hone her technique throughout her college years. Then, in 2008, while living in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, she was introduced to the art of silversmithing by metals artist Jesse Bert, who taught her about the unique properties of silver, as well as the basics of soldering and sawing. Later, after moving to Atlanta, Dengo furthered her skills at a school called Amalgam Arts and has been fine-tuning her aesthetic since. Her current jewelry line celebrates clean lines and the simple elegance of fine silver in conjunction with semi-precious gems.

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As impressive as her silversmithing skills are today, Dengo’s talents don’t stop there. She’s also been a professional front-end web developer and UI/UX designer for the past decade. And since January 2015, Dengo has dipped her toes in the waters of civic tech as a Fellow at Code for America, a powerful program that pairs technologists with local governments to help develop useful digital tools for citizens. Working out of Code for America headquarters in San Francisco, Dengo’s team is paired with Miami-Dade County, helping connect local entrepreneurs to the county government and streamline how area residents start and grow their businesses.

Among the tools available at Code for America headquarters, and one that Dengo has grown particularly fond of, is the Othermill. While she had been introduced to the concept of CNC mills two years ago, this is the first time she’s actually been able to use one herself. Despite her lack of experience, she describes the process of getting started with the mill as “dead simple.” So far, she’s engraved silver to turn into rings, created the base pieces for earrings and pendants, and is experimenting with two-toned metals, where she engraves the top layer to reveal a second color beneath. She also plans on making custom stamps to use on the jewelry packaging and would eventually like to use the Othermill to carve wax for casting silver.

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Dengo shares, “The Othermill has added a secondary workflow, in which I design digitally, produce the raw bases of a piece of jewelry on the mill, and then finish by hand. This is different from my usual flow, which is to work from a rough sketch or a mental image and go start-to-finish by hand on a given piece. It gives me the means to engrave and texture metal and to cut out shapes and patterns more precisely than I can do with a jeweler’s saw by hand.” She adds, “It’s been so useful that I’m anticipating ordering one when my Fellowship ends and I lose regular access to our Othermill!”

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