Artist Bio: Sessin Durgham and the Art Nun

by Metalwerx on September 24, 2018

For those who have had the pleasure of meeting Sessin, you are probably familiar with his enthusiasm for forging metal and his knack for storytelling. His stories are boisterous, hilarious, and always have you at the edge of your seat (both in an anticipation, but also because you might fall out of your seat laughing). Sessin has truly lived a story-worthy life.


When we asked Sessin to tell us about his introduction to Jewelry and Metalworking it came as little surprise when he had an amazing story to tell. It is certainly an unconventional introduction to jewelry making, and it conjures up some pretty amusing imagery…


His journey towards becoming a master metalsmith has been filled with many memorable stories, and this one is where the stories start.


It all started with a young Sessin attending St. Francis De Salles High School in Columbus, Ohio.  It was here that Sessin was taught the basics of silversmithing; cut, file, solder, sand, and sand again. Sister Marion McRae (“The Art Nun”) taught a tightly regimented class, strictly focusing on craftsmanship and functionality.  In Sessin’s own words “The word ‘Art’ was not uttered until we were able to complete all projects to her specifications using only hand tools and manual abrasives. This was the light bulb moment for me. The seeds were firmly planted and I knew this would be a lifetime pursuit”.  At Metalwerx we call this “catching the jewelry bug”; it is quite contagious, and once you’ve caught it there’s no going back!


Sessin’s need to keep making jewelry led him to the Watchmakers Supply store to collect everything he would need to start making jewelry at home.  “I got a plumbers torch, ring mandrel, miscellaneous hand tools,  silver wire and sheet at $2.05 spot price all placed in a heavy gauge paper bag. On my way home I could not stop looking into that bag of tools! Inside that brown paper bag another lifetime pursuit was simultaneously born. An unintended consequence. I had instantly become obsessed with tools. My first studio set up was born in my childhood bedroom. From that time on I always had a studio in my home and now always looking for the next best tool. My lifelong passion for making jewelry objects and my passion for tools converged later in life when I switched from a studio jewelry artist, to adviser to other studio jewelry artists.  It was an easy transition passing on my own excitement and knowledge of tools and techniques to fellow Jewelry artists”


As it turns out, this was just the beginning for Sessin and Sister Marion McRae, Sister Marion would later break the news to Sessin’s parents that Sessin was a natural born artist, and there was nothing they could do but encourage him. Sessin and Sister Marion McRae, have kept in touch all these years, until her passing in 2016. It is safe to say Sister Marion McRae has made a life long impact on Sessin.


Sessin Durgham, the now multiple award-winning silversmith, is a 2002 Saul Bell Design Award winner, as well as a Spectrum Award winner, and has even received the Platinum Honor, as part of the AGTA Spectrum Awards!


With approximately 30 years of experience, and many awards of recognition, Sessin has recently teamed up with Otto Frei to bring you the finest tools in the industry. Together they created the “Sessin Peddiman Silversmithing and Forming Hammer Kit”, which combines all of Sessin’s favorite hammers.


To learn more from Sessin, and hear some of his wild stories first hand you can meet Sessin at Metalwerx Marketplace October 20th-21st. You will find him in the Otto Frei booth where he will be helping customers pick out the best tools for their work!

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