I CAN’T STAND IT ANY LONGER!!
With all the talk about training and careers I have to make some
comments. Being the Jewelry Dept Chair and being involved with
jewelry career counseling for the past 14 years, I have some
thoughts I wold like to share.
First, jewelry has a close parallel to music. There are many
kinds of people who appreciate music. These people could either
just like to listen to it or they could write a symphony. Some
people would love to be a rock star or jazz sax player. Music
has a full spectrum of participants. Some folks are tone deaf
and yet could dance up a storm. There are child prot�g�es and
people who take up playing an instrument later on in life. Bur
let’s say you wanted to play music. What would you do?
I think listening and looking at the kind of music you like is
where I would start. Then picking out an instrument and finding
a place to play, take lessons and practice would be next. Some
folks can be totally self taught, others might find someone who
could give lessons. But all in all there is a commitment and
love that can truly bring a lot of joy and satisfaction.
Jewelry has all the same areas of study and interest. Some
people might just like shinny things. Others have a natural
ability to sit in a little area looking at little things and be
simply fascinated by them. Others still may see a monetary value
worth being involved with. Lots and lot of areas of interest and
Lets say you have decided you want to make jewelry. You also
want to make money at it. Part of the challenge you now face is
that there is a certain amount of competence and expertise
others have given this occupation. The people who have done this
have a lot of money. You are also going to spend your own money
on tools, supplies and training. So you really can’t ignore
doing and making what you choose to certain standards. It would
be also really really great to get paid well for what you do.
Now here’s the hard part. You really can’t get this skill
overnight and it might be a very long learning curve to get
where you want to go. What do you do?
Well’ part of the problem is that you will probably fall in love
with jewelry making. So now you have decided to go forward and
make a commitment. There will be sacrifices along the way.
But where do you start. My recommendation is in lessons, but not
in any lessons. I believe in courses that give you the necessary
time to practice the skill. Two day seminars are excellent for
someone with experience but for someone just starting out, time,
practice and repetition are essential to develop the skills and
competencies necessary to survive.
I also believe is a certain sequence of learning. Just think of
that jazz sax player. If a beginner, what kind of thing is he or
she going to do after six months of playing and lessons? A lot
of repetitive confidence building stuff. The first few years are
more skill building than creative. However the creative process
is very much present and alive with everything put together.
Every time a satisfied customer leaves with something you have
done delivers fuel for the next challenge.
Outside of North America this training is structured into
several years. From teenage introduction through apprenticeship
in industry. From Italy, India, Germany and many other countries
this training has a structure for success based on time and
tradition. Some of the most successful Italian jewelry designers
swept the floors for a year before touching a file.
But here in the good old USA we don’t have any strong sense of
tradition. With the Internet fortunes are made with the click of
a mouse. High tec careers are the quick sell. Traditional
occupations are hard pressed to receive the support because they
are expensive and time consuming. With several metal arts and
occupational jewelry training programs being shut down in the
last several years in the USA, where do you go?
If any one would ask me on a one to one recommendation where to
go I would say either Paris Texas Community College, or here at
the Minneapolis Community & Technical College. There are three
reasons. The first is time. Both of these programs offer
programs of approximately one to two years of training to
develop some of the foundation technical skills necessary to
survive. A strong emphasis is place on technical expertise.
Wouldn’t it make sense to work as a bench jeweler as you strive
for self employment? You would be learning and honing the skills
necessary to be successful while traveling your own jewelry
career path. A lot of negative thing have been said about
working at the bench doing repairs. But think of what that is
going to give you, a skill no one can ever take away. A skill
you can go any where with. And a decent wage if you are any
good. Starting wages for my student a
The second is cost. Sure you are going to spend money. If you
have a lot of money to start off with many of the private
schools are excellent. Some things are unavoidable like eating,
lodging and transportation. But a non profit public school I
feel will give you the most for your money. For example our
diamond plate setting course for a resident is 60 hours long and
costs about $175.00. You start out setting a lot of stones with
measured results. And you have the time to practice what you are
taught. I’m sure it is the same in Texas.
The third is the success of the graduates. The big question is
"Are they making a decent living doing the thing they love to
do?" You can find this out you know. Most schools have placement
available. If you don’t ask you won’t find out. If
you spend $60,000.00 to $100,000.00 on a BA will you be able to
make you loan payments? Will you have the different various
skills necessary to survive and become successful?
I truly wish everyone the best. I do have a Lot to say about
this topic and if any one want more info you can email me off
line at trhltd@pclink.
TR the Teacher