Sgt. 1st Class Crystal L. Sanders, a Soldier in the Warrior Transition Battalion at Fort Bragg, attended her second metal clay class Dec. 13, 2013 at the Frame and Design Arts Center on Pope Field.
Wounded Warrior Project sponsors this class and others at the art center such as woodworking.
Making jewelry from metal clay is a slow and careful process. After clay is pressed into a mold and left to dry, it must be filed around the edges before it is heated to over 1,650 degrees in an oven known as a kiln. In the kiln, the clay falls away and all that is left is a nearly pure piece of silver jewelry that shines once it is brushed.
After her first class, Sanders said she was so enthusiastic by the project that she bought her own metal clay jewelry making kit, but was still unsure of how to use it on her own.
“I was going to do some leaf jewelry, but I didn’t get an opportunity to do it,” Sanders said.
Towards the end of her second class, Sanders said she felt ready to begin.
She said she enjoyed learning the craft, because it taught her patience and concentration.
“Sometimes you aren’t able to focus,” Sanders said. “This helps your focus ability because you really want to see it completed.”
Sanders said she lost a lot of her patience due to her limitations from injuries.
In 2004, she fell off of a stacked connex while deployed and injured her knees, back and right hip.
However, she pushed through the pain until 2011 when she was injured again and had to begin the medical board process to be discharged from the Army.
“You don’t want to let the people down that you’re with and you don’t want to let yourself down,” Sanders said.
“It’s what the Army built into us, to drive on,” she continued. “I kept trying to drive on, even when I couldn’t. Mentally, it made me shut down because I couldn’t make my body do what my brain said it needed to do.”
Sanders said that hospitals helped to heal her physically, the class helps her mentally, by giving her opportunities to build friendships with Soldiers who go through the same kind of struggles.
“The camaraderie with the other wounded Soldiers and the organization just does so much for us,” Sanders said. “It’s really great for our recovery.”
Sara A. Matherly, a recreations specialist with the Fort Bragg Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation program, has been teaching the metal clay class since it began in July 2013.
Matherly says that she enjoys being a part of Sanders’ healing process and can see her improvement.
“I’m just proud to give her something to concentrate on and enjoy, which she most definitely does,” Matherly said.” To see her shine, rips at your heart. It’s a good feeling.”
Even though Sanders feels 90 percent better than she did two years ago, she still fears pushing herself too far.
“I used to think I was super woman,” Sanders said with tears welling up in her eyes. “Now I’m trying to readjust my attitude, accept the new me and learn that I have to do things in baby steps.
“I could hurt myself or not be able to do it, so I don’t want to set myself up mentally for failure.”
Sanders is still pushing forward, though. She is currently interning in a human resources position and will continue to participate in Wounded Warrior Project events.
“If they have any more, hopefully I can get in the class,” Sanders said about the metal clay class, which has limited availability.
Matherly said that she will be teaching another metal clay class in January and plans to have a knitting class ready for wounded warriors as well.