Recently VisArts’ student Johnny Hugel signed up for a metal working class with goldsmith and teaching artist Daniel Eaves with one very special project in mind — creating a one-of-a-kind engagement ring for his girlfriend Molly Szkotak. Taking inspiration from rings that Molly showed him and using his master tinkering abilities, Johnny was able to fashion a beautiful engagement ring for Molly in six weeks. In November, Johnny found a perfect, romantic setting and asked Molly to marry him. Molly said yes. We checked in with Johnny to hear the details of forging Molly’s engagement ring, and how he popped the question.
How did you hear about the VisArts metalworking class?
My friend Kristy Santelli suggested the class after she and her fiance used it to cast their own engagement ring.
Was this an introductory class? And, was it your first time working with metal?
The class seems to be a hybrid; Daniel gave great instruction and one-on-one assistance, which I sorely needed being my first class. But, most of the others seemed like pros, taking it for the tenth time.
Did you take it with making an engagement ring in mind?
That was all that was on my mind.
What did the class entail? What techniques did you learn? And, the end result — how’d it turn out?!
The class was a shorter summer class — so, five or six sessions that were three or so hours a piece. After an intro demo, I was on my own, making my sad wax model match Daniel’s. Luckily, my second model looked much better so refining it, making the mold, pouring the metal and filing and polishing it down amazingly produced something that resembled a real ring. Of course, Daniel helped with the final setting of the diamond, when the ring became an engagement ring, and not just a shiny element.Why did you decide to make an engagement ring rather than purchasing?
I’m a tinkerer, so beyond the humane reasons of not buying something new, when I realized I could have a role in making the ring, and reuse materials I’ve been saving for quite some time, I knew that was the only way I could do it. Molly loves that side of me, even if it means my projects take over our guest room. So, it naturally complemented our relationship.
How did you propose? Yes, we want to hear the details.
Well, in going to and from the class, I was using an old iPhone box to hold my supplies, figuring they’d have less of a chance to get lost or discovered that way. At some point, I realized presenting the ring in the box was the perfect cover, so I stored it away for the right time. When the iPhone 6 came out in September, and Molly was constantly eying mine, I knew I had to act fast to present her with her new gold ring, under cover of the gold phone.
The phone arrived the day after I ordered it, which had me scrambling to find a good backdrop. Being travelers and explorers, we both had envisioned it happening on one of our trips, but with each one I think it had suddenly became suspect and too obvious. When our friends at Ledbury invited us to their annual Quail Hunt Soiree, I figured it may just offer the perfect setting. I was stressing on our way out to the reserve, searching for a spot and trying to act natural. As soon as we got there, I suggested we get away and explore, knowing it might be our only chance alone.
The setting was perfect, and we were giddy from the fresh air and environment, taking photos of each other and generally being goofs, but I still hadn’t pictured how I’d do it. When she made me pose in front of the pond, I realized I had my chance, and suggested she do the same as I fumbled in my jacket for the iPhone 6 with the extra special accessory.
I had my camera out filming, as I handed it over, suggesting it would add to her enjoyment of the weekend. She was so surprised that I’d given her a gold phone that she didn’t look close enough. When she realized I was being extra weird she took a second look in the box. Luckily it’s caught on video, so we can confirm that I asked her and she answered “Yes.” The next hour is a blur for both of us. We had to sit down before joining the party just to figure out what we’d done.What was her reaction when she found out you forged a ring for her?
She was overwhelmed by the whole thing, but couldn’t believe it. It was modeled in the style of some that she’d shone me by Anna Sheffield, but I didn’t have anymore than a glimpse. I don’t think she believed that I could have made such a thing myself.
Congratulations, Johnny and Molly!
To learn more about our metal working and jewelry classes, click here.