A note on education, jewelry and online manners

Thinking about a few recent threads, I would like to offer these

Earning degrees does not make any of us either an artist or the last
word on jewelry. I have gone to university. I have degrees. Waving
those degrees in the air does not make me a better jeweler or a
better person. Nor does any degree guarantee that I will end up any
more sensible than someone who has never made it past the first
grade. A degree will not gain any more insight into what the human
heart finds beautiful than being given a set of instructions on how
to get to the moon will actually get you there.

The beauty we create comes from our passion, from our intellect, but
overall from our hearts. Degrees might make us technically
proficient, but all of that training is no assurance that our work
will be either beautiful or sublime. That elusive element that pulls
at our souls when we look on something beautiful is not found in any
classroom. Jewelry has never been technique alone.

One can go to school for the rest of your life, earn degree after
degree and still miss the point. The main point here online being
that everyone on Orchid values input, expertise, polite discourse,
the exchange of ideas, techniques, sources, even differences of
opinion. It is amazing how diverse we are. Proffering those opinions
without rudeness, dismissiveness or bullying is always preferred and
should be a given. I believe it is far too easy to shake a fist
while hiding behind a computer screen. Respect is earned by treating
others respectfully.

PS: I personally feel that a sense of humor is often a welcome

What do you think? Other than teaching you technique and history,
which is obvious, Has your degree or education rendered you
cognizant of what makes beautiful jewelry where you were not before?
Or did you have a refined sensibility to begin with? Do you HAVE TO
have a specific type of jewelry education? Or can life, personal
experience and drive ultimately provide the same skills at the same

I always have to remind myself that what is beautiful to me may not
be all that wonderful to anyone else.

Lisa, (The nights have gone crisp and cool, the leaves are turning,
the sun is drifting farther away. Harvest time is gone. Winter is
peeking around the corner.) Topanga, CA USA

Lisa- When I was trying to get a union job in the jewelry trade I
learned pretty quckly to hide the fact that I had studied Jewelry and
Metals at the University of Oregon. I did not finish my degree. I
figured out after a couple of years that I wouldn’t need a degree to
pursue my passion and that I really needed practical skills. All of
the trade shop guys I worked with had only a high school education
and learned the trade from family or on the job training. A degree in
jewlery from a university does not make you a great craftsman.
Usually the opposite. Lots of great ideas and no idea of how to
execute them.

I have found that curiosity, an ability to work well with others,
and a good sense of humor will get you much further than anything

Have fun and make lots of jewelry.
-Jo Haemer

Thanks for that Lisa, I lurked for a while before I made any
comments, but the thing I remembered (as I read the questions and
answers) was the camaraderie that my wife and I shared with our
friends during the years of shows that we did. Many times you would
only see these people a couple times a year, but it was always like
old home week. This sub-culture has been my life, and much of it has
been absolutely wonderful!!! Thomas III

Hey Thomas,

I stopped doing shows about 3 years ago when the economy seriously
tanked. The comraderie at those shows was the best. Few if any had
degrees, and if they did it would as likely be in physics as in

Great story Jo!

Isn’t it interesting that some of the finest jewelers some of us
know never saw the inside of a classroom?

Lisa, ( Dinner? Chicken breasts stewed in fresh tomatillo salsa with
fresh corn, potatoes and meunster cheese. Mmmmmmmmmm) Topanga, CA

I’m really liking what I just read…I’m 50 in January, manage an
independent health shop by day, and make jewellery by night. My
skills have REALLY ramped up in the last year, and I LOVE making
jewellery (and following Jo’s advice, I make LOTS!)

I’ve experienced a level of success with the gallery I sell through,
on studio tours and teaching beginners’ workshops…and it all
started with a simple 2 hour in-store lesson on making a ‘wrapped

One of the MOST SATISFYING aspects of this 8 year ‘trip’ has been
the WONDERFUL people I’ve met along the way and the new friends I’ve
made (they seem to ‘get’ me…)

I’ve read books, watched videos, taken workshops (asked Orchid
questions!) and learned anywhere I could. The biggest ‘gift’ came in
the way of an invitation from two master jewellers (I was a customer
that morphed into a friend). Approaching retirement, they have the
urge to share what they know. They have invited me to join them in
their studio on my day off from my ‘other’ job and learn. The
recognized a keener when they saw me! I let them know what really
interests me and they gear the day toward that. I bring lunch. We
call it ‘Tuesdays with Audrey’.

I will ‘pay this forward’ one day…

All said, I think ‘success’ is subjective and greatly hinges on the
meaningful relationships we foster…basically who we are ‘being’ as
we learn and strive. Will I be a master goldsmith like my mentor
friends? Likely not, but I’m making jewellery I’m pleased with, I’m
continuing to ‘up’ my skills…and I’m having a helluva lot of


I agree with your thoughts 100%.

I myself did not have the money to go to Collage and get a degree…
I had to teach myself how to do everything I know… I went to the
library and checked out books and read them until I could understand
what I was reading. Then put that knowledge to practice.

Having won numerous awards in the States as well as in Japan I can
say a degree would not have helped me to create my designs… maybe
they would have helped me not make as many mistakes while learning…

Take your passion and let it guide you… and always be kind to
others so they can be kind to you

Vernon Wilson

I have found that curiosity, an ability to work well with others,
and a good sense of humor will get you much further than anything

Real class is the ability to talk to anyone.

I have found that curiosity, an ability to work well with others,
and a good sense of humor will get you much further than anything

In performance evaluations, one of our ratings was about the
employee’s ability to “wear well on others.” It encompasses a lot of
desirable traits.

Isn't it interesting that some of the finest jewelers some of us
know never saw the inside of a classroom? 

I am not sure how this subject got started, but the idea that
structured education is not necessary is remarkably revealing of
never been participant to any programs geared to expand ability to
learn. Good educational program is about teaching how to teach
oneself. Acquisition of knowledge is a task for students themselves.
Teaching how to do it, is the job of the educators. Yes, there are
people who did well without it, but we do not know how much better
they would be given the benefit of well designed educational
program. From my experience, the calls that education is unnecessary
come from individuals not capable of participating and completing any
of such programs. Tendency to dismiss what one does not understand is
a well documented trait of human behavior, and frankly the
unmistakable sign of never seeing the inside of a classroom.

Leonid Surpin

Real class is the ability to talk to anyone. 

Ain’t THAT the truth…l

Personally I love education. I have design degrees from well
respected schools, I have attended several Universities in both the
US and France, taught design. One of the things I did along the way
was to complete full translations from French to English of
elaborate physics grant proposals.

Jewelry? I took a 6 week course at a community college from someone
who made me sand, cut and set everything without the benefit of
power tools and who was locked into a style last seen in the early
70’s. Not the best grounding, but not the worst. Somehow I managed
to work hard, learn better methods and find a niche in spite of that
rocky start. In learning I have found the finest jewelers are often
the most gracious, generous and patient in their teachings and

-Lisa (Spent the evening at a music circle. Everyone should sing,
whether they can or not…lol) Topanga, CA USA

From my experience, the calls that education is unnecessary come
from individuals not capable of participating and completing any of
such programs. Tendency to dismiss what one does not understand is
a well documented trait of human behavior, and frankly the
unmistakable sign of never seeing the inside of a classroom. 

That certainly could have been said with a little more sensitivity,
and a lot less condescendingly, but in the short time I have been
reading these communications, I think no one will be surprised at
Leonid’s confrontational style. I’m not sure what happened to the
guy to make him continually miss the forest for the trees. I
personally was self-taught out of fear, not that I couldn’t complete
the simple task’s that much of the various school systems require,
but rather that I might become the very sort of person that might say
something like that. I was also afraid that I might be herded into a
direction that the system required. I was making a living as a crafts
person (don’t want to further offend Leonid by claiming anything
more), before I realized I could have moved ahead in my own
direction, with the help of honest, caring individuals at a much
faster pace. I have enjoyed my self-realization, and defeating the
obstacles I found in my way, and the self-confidence that, that
brings. I am sure I could have moved faster, and become a better
jeweler (certainly by the previously stated criteria), but at what
cost to the end product of my life’s value? If this is your only
measuring stick, how can one tell how much soul is in the products we
hand to our customers? To play good jazz you certainly need to be as
familiar with what music is capable of doing to the heart, as does
the classic violinist, but both practitioners should be aware that
the other can evoke the same emotions, and respect each others
methods. We should be calling each other brother and sister, and not
be afraid to blend our different outlooks together, after all, isn’t
what this forum is for? Thomas III

I am not amazed at the comments in this thread about education.
Education is of the upmost of importance. HOWEVER…

35+ years ago I was making silver jewelry. I wanted to learn Gold.
The lady that taught me silversmithing (Maggie) in her little shop
knew nothing of Goldsmithing. She referred me to a friend of hers and
at that time said… “She is a 4th generation Goldsmith”. I spent
about nine weeks with Marcie. Marcie was Mexican. One of those what
we now sadly call “Illegals”. We became the best of friends and I
later met her father and grandfather in Guadalajara. Not one of these
folks had even a high school diploma. I guess in Mexico all those
years ago, that wasn’t uncommon. The lack of education certainly
didn’t hinder their craftsmanship nor their kindness.

For years I have kept a photo of the three of them in my shop. It is
because of these uneducated kind, world class craftspeople that I
can do what I do. I have three college degrees… but what I
treasure the very most and frankly what has gotten me the furthest
in my life is what I learned from these individuals and my
experiences with them.

Beautiful Jewelry comes from the heart & hands… not a classroom.


Education, Jewelry, and Online Manners 

…hmmm… what an odd phrase that is, when I think about it,so I
won’t think about it too much. I’m sure it all made sense together
at some point, to someone, but I missed that part,and most of the
shenanningans that seem to have led up to it, thankfully, though a
key post or two gave me an idea, and give me an idea or two to go on
about. Meaning that I somewhere got reminded of myself, so I’ll talk
about myself, as usual.

No college, no degree, just a high degree of practical experience. I
was thinking about that last night, and it’s been true of nearly
everything I’ve done, but especially work, since that’s what I’ve
done most over the years. On the job training, mostly. The guy I
worked for as a teenager taught me some basic skills, soldering,
casting, polishing, and I became a precocious, somewhat prodigial,
teenage jewelry maker, but interestingly, when I got a job
silversmithing for a living, it was like being thrown into the deep
end of the pool and playing water polo with the big boys, when I had
only done what might be thought of as something akin to underwater
ballet. It was sink or swim, because I hadn’t developed a real sense
of production techniques. I didn’t have the ability to work fast and
efficiently, and the kind of precisely-detailed, perfectionistic
work I was good at wasn’t necessarily what was wanted for cranking
out 50 rings or 12 watch bracelets, or whatever. I had to be good,
mind you, but I also had to be fast. “You’re not good unless you’re
fast” was the mentality, the reality. So I got fast, and adopted a
mindset of doing things efficiently as well as accurately.

With pancake dies it was similar, though by then I had that
production capability more or less hardwired into my outlook. What I
did not have was much in the way of useful instructions, since the
that came with the original RT Blanking System was not
much more than a vague outline, compared to what needed to be done
to make the process an efficient and effective one in the world of
production reality. Fortunately, I became completely obsessed with
the whole idea, and set about doing whatever it took to get
everything that could be gotten out of the process, partly because I
wanted to, partly because I needed to (and the various components of

aspects intermingled into the grand obsession). It’s also worth
noting that a couple of things I do that are essential are ideas
that came from other people (not just the original die concept, of
which I had nothing to do with originating). I’m fairly good at
figuring things out myself, but extremely good at collecting things,
assimilating them, and constructing wholes greater than the sums of
their parts.

The point is that people can be, and want to be, and need to be very
good at figuring things out by themselves, very adept at learning
things by doing them, and also (generally) good at learning from and
teaching each other, with the obvious emphasis on the fact that
there is no substitute for practical experience.

Now, about online manners ; I think they’re a great thing to have,
and I have them. I just don’t always use them when I should, but I
do try and behave myself on Orchid (^8.

Dar Shelton

Education is never a waste. If someone had not the where withal to
make the DVD’s and write the books, those who learn that way would not
have had the TEACHING materials. We all learn differently. I’m a
visual learner, and do well with live demonstrations where I can ask
questions. I applaud those who can learn by those means alone. Yet no
matter who teaches the classes, I’ve come away with bits I would not
have gotten otherwise. Even students I’ve had have asked qustions
that has brought a different perspective.

My father had to borrow $10 back in the early 1900’s to be allowed
off the boat at Ellis Island. He worked hard and with not even an 8th
grade education made a fortune. It was when he had me cleaning a
chicken house (2000 chickens) that I vowed with every shovel full, I
was going to go to college. II now collect college degrees like others
collect antiques. Did I need physics and Chemistry in college? No but
I can understand the guys here when they go off on tangents about
valances and such. You never know when that education will come in
handy. As a mother my son in his college biology class could answer
questions the teacher asked that were not in the book or other
teaching materials. One day she stopped class and asked him where he
was getting all his his answer, “My mom.” It made all
those worth it.

I can gaurentee you will not get all the nuances of Victoria
Lansford’s Russian filigree without taking her classes Her DVD does
very well, but her live, is much better and a whole lot more


who got a BA communications, to expound upon my BS degree in political
science (first time around)

Having in the retail jewelry business and owning my own custom
jewelry store and having hired at one time 13 jewelers who worked
for me and about 2/3rds of them being collage graduates from various
jewelry design schools across the US… I found that when ever I
hired someone who had graduated from collage that #1 they expected
to get the same salary their instructors received in collage. #2 for
the most part they did not know how to size a ring nor how to do
pave set stones…

Most knew how to make a tea pot… but in all my years I have never
had a special order to make a tea pot…

What I found as a employer was in my option I wish that the first 2
years of collage, would have been better spent teaching skills that
would have given them a better chance of getting a job and keeping
it after they graduated rather then spending it all on design and
making things that are not needed in the market place of today or in
some cases even sellable… Art is Art but making a living is
sometime different. And putting food on the table sometimes very

That being said… I do respect those who teach, I have done my
share, and the people who spend the time to get a degree… I have
learned a lot from them all in my 40 years of being in this

Bottom line is… do what makes you happy and make what makes you
happy… you only live once and for some of us that is way too short
of a time…

Do your work and leave behind happy faces on your clients who have
paid to allow you to spend your life playing doing what you love to
do using their money to pay for your materials and supplies…:slight_smile: Love
this group… A lot of good people…

Vernon Wilson

Tendency to dismiss what one does not understand is a well
documented trait of human behavior. 

I guess this means manners as well. I don’t have a college degree in
anything, I took what one apprentice called " the scenic route" to
where I am today. I’m not saying this was good or bad but I know it
was less efficient for things like business. I did apprentice to my
father for 10 years before I was encouraged to design. Much of the
technique I have been interested in for the last decade or more was
not something that was being taught in any classroom. The Bonny Doon
hydraulic press techniques I discovered were just that, a discovery
of mine. The use of pancake dies for small scale production was just
budding and figuring out what could be done with them in my design
aesthetic was not something any one else knew about so it could not
be taught. Maybe what Leonard says is true, he is a great craftsman,
I can’t take that away from him nor would I try but, in my world
using only what someone else taught me would not constitute an
artist. Taking what they taught me and making new discoveries and
pushing boundaries is what I am all about. Being smuggly satisfied
with my education is a dead end and holding it over someone else’s
head is weenie. One class I did take was how not to be a jerk, it
was hard fought for me to learn that material but as I age and
discover how unattractive being a jerk really is I am glad I took
that class.

Sam Patania, Tucson

manners means more than anything. a degree to some may give them a
feeling of security. experience will give an even more solid feeling
of security. but the moment you feel that either one of those things
gives you the right to place yourself on a cloud above others, that
is the moment you need to be knocked down. through the thread this
one spured on i read some of the most vile egotistical posts. it
embarrasses me to think that there are jewelers out there that think
so much of themselves. remember, there is always someone better and
someone worse than you and you will never be able to tell who. if
humility isn’t in your blood than caution should guide your

From my experience, the calls that education is unnecessary come
from individuals not capable of participating and completing any of
such programs. Tendency to dismiss what one does not understand is
a well documented trait of human behavior, and frankly the
unmistakable sign of never seeing the inside of a classroom. 

So… If I can be forgiven this one time…(or not) I’ll lay my
on-line… and if I was in front of this fine specimen of a want to
be authority… my off line manners aside… and just say what I


Thank you in advance for the liberty and forgiving me.


Very nice and well said…Thanks Vernon from one who was once a
student, has been teaching for over 33 years and a commercial
jeweler for 32. And still learning new info. & tricks everyday!!Up at
Calif. College of the Arts(CCAC) in Oakland, there is great effort
placed on both design & execution as well…

Ciao, Jo-Ann Maggiora Donivan

I like to get my hands dirty first, a lot of personal research, then
I look at further education, because you can’t teach yourself

Regards Charles A.