Meet Tracey Jenkins Darji JM ’05

February 29, 2024
Meredith Fidrocki

Meet Tracey Jenkins Darji JM ’05: New Department Head in Jewelry Making & Repair

“Coming to teach at ֱ Bennet Street School is like coming home,” says Tracey Jenkins Darji JM ’05, who became the Jewelry Making & Repair (JM) program’s new Department Head in September 2023. 

“When I was a student here, I trained under Rosemary ‘Ro’ Trainor JM ’90,” Tracey recalls. “I adored Ro—she was originally a ship welder, turned jeweler, and was a force to be reckoned with. She told me, ‘Take good notes and save your notebooks, because you may be teaching from them one day.’ And I’m so glad I did.”

Tracey teaching a student

After graduating from NBSS in 2005, Tracey worked for a master stone setter and casting house before she struck out on her own, founding her custom jewelry business, . For nearly 20 years, Tracey has custom-designed and fabricated wedding and occasional jewelry, fostering long-term client relationships and building a strong reputation in craft. During this time, she has taught jewelry fabrication at NBSS and at the Danforth Museum of Art. She earned a BFA in 2001 from Bridgewater State University and has studied design at the Art Institute of Florence and the Massachusetts College of Art and Design.

“I have learned a lot of lessons, sometimes the hard way, from starting my own business, like how to problem-solve, charge for your time, and deal with the legal side of a small business,” Tracey says. “Learning from my experiences, both good and bad, is one way I try to impart these lessons with my students.”

She adds, “As a student, you work off of project sheets. But when you go into custom work, there are no directions or rules. So once students show me that they have the skills and can follow our directions, I start to give them more leeway to finish a project in their vision, which allows them to start thinking independently.”

“Tracey brings so much enthusiasm to this role,” says Claire Fruitman CF ’96, Provost. “She is full of energy and ideas. Tracey is coming in with both knowledge of the program and a fresh eye, which is such a great combination. We have a lot of different kinds of learners at ֱ Bennet, and Tracey understands that. She is very aware of making sure all our students are getting the type of individualized instruction they need.”

Haley and Tracey
Haley and Tracey

Tracey leads a talented new team, including Instructor Haley Filamond JM ’20 and Teaching Assistant Evan Cyr JM ’20. Both are recent graduates with experience as Community Education instructors.

Tracey says, “Haley made jewelry for four years before completing the full-time JM program, and has done production work and advanced stone setting. Evan has large-scale foundry and production experience and specializes in hand engraving. I prefer precious metal fabrication and wax working. We have different specialties, which is excellent. We work as one team. We’ve all done this program at different points. We know how to get to the finish line—we just have different methods.”

“I want everyone in my shop to feel welcome,” Tracey adds. “I want to understand each student’s learning style so we can figure out the best way to approach teaching. NBSS is such a comfortable place to be. I love the questions we ask here. And I adore our students.”

“Haley made jewelry for four years before completing the full-time JM program, and has done production work and advanced stone setting. Evan has large-scale foundry and production experience and specializes in hand engraving. I prefer fabrication and do more wax working. We have different specialties, which is excellent. We work as one team.”

As an educator, Tracey draws her teaching philosophy from the example of her high school art teacher: “He would let us experiment. If we were going to fail when we tried something, he would not cushion that blow. He would let us try—maybe it would work, maybe it wouldn’t. It was a great way to learn from our mistakes in the safe place of a school. He showed me as an educator how to let students grow. It’s all about having patience and asking my students, ‘How are we going to learn from this project?’ And then slowing down to understand how each student works.”

Tracey reflects on her experience leading and teaching in the JM program so far: “Over the past six months, I have been in awe witnessing the growth of every student. Much of this growth emerges from moments of struggle. The initial stages, such as mastering basic skills like sawing and filing, are arduous for most. Yet, it’s through this struggle that they build perseverance. We’ve found that sharing personal stories of failure (while in school and beyond) not only lightens the mood and causes a few laughs, but also serves as a reminder that setbacks are a natural part of the learning process. When students eventually overcome these hurdles, the sense of achievement is palpable, both for them and for us as instructors.

Tracey teaching a student

“It’s the smaller victories that often go unnoticed but are just as significant. Whether it’s achieving a mirror-like polish on a final project, securely setting a poorly cut stone, or getting a clean solder joint on the first try, these small tangible moments not only demonstrate skill mastery but also boost students’ confidence and motivation.

“What I find most rewarding is seeing how my teaching approach resonates with students. By acknowledging their individual learning styles and allowing them space to learn from mistakes, I’ve noticed a shift in their attitudes toward learning. They’ve become more self-assured, willing to take risks, and eager to embrace challenges head-on. This, to me, is the true measure of success as an educator—empowering students to become confident, lifelong learners who are unafraid to tackle the unknown.”

Five Questions with Tracey

Highlight from this year so far? We’ve been holding ‘Tool Talk’ sessions, where we get away from our bench for a bit and chat about a topic. For one session, we took a look at a tricky diamond necklace in need of repair. It was made as a neck wire, but every time it bends, diamonds pop out. I shared my way of repairing it, and Haley had her way. Then the students came up with a third way we hadn’t thought of. Being in a room of like-minded people, all striving for the same goal, makes NBSS such a wonderful place to be.

What inspires you as a maker? I have been lucky enough to make friends throughout the years in the jewelry industry and visit some of the finest workshops in the world. Seeing traditional work—the time and the teams it takes—inspires me to do the best work I can because I know what people are capable of doing.

Best part of your job? Being with a group of creative people. I love to say we’re a little extra nerdy. The people in here are the people who will go down the rabbit hole with you, watching a technical video 20 times to figure out exactly how to do something. All of us work a bit differently, but we all want to understand how we can work together. I like having a shop where we talk about how to work toward the same goal. That’s amazing.

Where is an unexpected place at NBSS we might find you? I have become good friends with the Facilities & Technology Department because we’re doing a lot of work on our shop. Every once in a while, if I need 10 quiet minutes, I go hide in the basement in their office. (Maybe I shouldn’t tell everyone that’s where I am!)

What keeps you busy outside NBSS? I have a nine-year-old son who keeps me very busy. He’s on a ski racing team, so I’m often standing in the cold for hours on a mountain. My husband and I own a house built in the late 1800s that we’ve renovated ourselves. I have an Old English Sheepdog who I walk three to five times a day, I do a lot of yoga, and I’m constantly baking and cooking.