Chemistry professor turns jewelry hobby into art class

PLAINVIEW – “I never did too well in art classes,” chuckles Dr. Harold Temple, now in his 29th year as professor of chemistry at Wayland Baptist University.

That makes it quite ironic, then, that Temple is teaching a course for the art department this fall for the second time, with plans to keep the class ongoing.

Taught in the science building as “Metal Jewelry Design,” the class was born out of a longtime hobby that has evolved over the years. Temple said he first became interested in stones while on a trip to Alpine with now-retired professor Dr. Harold Reese, on a quest to find red plume agate. On that trip, Temple found a stone he liked and brought it home, polished it up and made a necklace out of it.

He soon joined the Hi Plains Gem and Mineral Society and began diving a bit deeper into the world of rocks. Then two years ago, Temple purchased a used faceting machine and learned the trade, starting as most novices do with simple marbles. Soon, he had graduated to smoky quartz and other stones.

“Before I knew it, I had about 35 stones faceted and needed something to do with them,” he said. He then pursued a summer course in Georgia to learn wire wrapping, a jewelry-making technique using silver or gold wire. He then began to turn his faceted stones into jewelry pieces, turning out rings and pendants quickly.

While showing his work to Dr. Candace Keller, head of the art department at Wayland, she asked him to consider teaching the trade to others as a course offering through WBU. He agreed.

Now for the second semester, a room in Moody Science Building usually meant for physics has another purpose one night each week. Students purchase pre-faceted stones, gems and beads and turn them in jeweled creations, many bearing a growing collection of pieces just a few weeks into the term. During the course of the semester, Temple will teach the students how to create beaded bracelets, wire bracelets, simple rings, pendants and cabochons, as well as some work with silver.

He’s enjoyed getting to share his love and creativity, but adds that he benefits from the experience as well.

“They learn about 90 percent of the techniques in wire wrapping, and if they perfect it, they could do just about anything they wanted to,” Temple said. “I’ve learned a lot from the students, too. This is an art course, and many are learning how to design their own pieces as well and have come up with some great things.”

Temple said he continues to create on his own time, enjoying the handiwork and creativity he’s been able to put in his own pieces. The time invested – he said it can take up to four hours to facet a large stone or make a cabochon – is relaxing after a day of teaching. And, he’s begun selling some of the pieces at craft shows or gem shows, mostly to fund future projects.

“It’s really a hobby that almost pays for itself,” he laughs. He counts on his wife, Audrey, to drum up sales, noting that her participation in the craft is that, “She wears it.”

Temple said the jewelrymaking is something he plans to continue after retirement in the future and wants to keep teaching the class at Wayland as long as they ask him to.

For more information on Temple’s creations, visit his Web site at