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Anxious to Learn - but how do I begin?

I am so anxious to learn - but so overwhelmed by all the information
I am absorbing! Where do I begin? I subscribe to Lapidary Journal
(now Jewelry Artist); I have Tim McCreight’s The Complete
Metalsmith; books by Sherri Haab and Cece Wire.

I still need hands on training to actually learn to solder and use a
torch. I live in Raleigh, North Carolina. Can anyone recommend any
particular classes or reputable teachers in the area? Also, were do
you buy tools, which tools do you buy? And from what sources?

Any insight would be so appreciated.


I have a list of beginning tools for metalsmiths and beginning tools
for PMC, you can find them under Resources at

To tell you to buy I’d need to know more specifically exactly what
you want to start with, what you want to do.

Try to take a beginning class at a local community college or art

You are in a great location! Once you’ve taken some beginning classes
you’ll be up to classes at the many regional art and craft centers
near you. Here are some names, you can find them easily:

John C. Campbell Folk School
What’s the one in Ashville? I’m blanking on that one
And the Wildacres place

For tools, check the advertisers and the lists on Orchid. To get you

Rio Grande
All Craft in New York

Those come to mind, there are tons more. If you post something
specific you don’t know where to find, Orchid folks can help you. But
just order everybody’s catalog and read, read, read, read, read.

I also like the books by Jinks McGrath.


I would recommend New Approach School for Jewelers in Virginia
Beach, VA. If you want “hands on” training, take his (Blaine Lewis)
Bench Jeweler Comprehensive. It’s a 5-day course for around $1000…
which is a bargain for the amount of training you’ll receive. I’ve
taken his 12 week Graduate Bench Jeweler Program and already I’m
years (if not a decade) ahead of where I “should be” - I’m not
kidding either… Not in speed, mind you, but in quality and
craftsmanship. Efficiency comes with time… I want to do things
"right" the first time and Blaine teaches his students just that.

Just visit the website for more

As for “theory” and getting to know your tools, etc. I would suggest
buying “The Theory and Practice of Goldsmithing” by Brepohl. If you
can’t leave your area for some reason, buy some of Alan Revere’s
videos. They are fabulous… Not hands-on, obviously. But if you
can’t make a trip to San Francisco (Being as you reside in North
Carolina)… they’re a great substitute


Patricia-check for your local Gem & Mineral Club. They usually have
classes in basic silversmithing and lapidary (cabachon cutting) and
usually at very reasonable prices for all. That’s all you need to
get started and hooked without any big investment in tools and

Good Luck-it is fun!

I believe that you would get off to a good start by taking a
beginning silversmithing class at the William Holland School of
Lapidary Arts in Young Harris, Ga. The school has a web site at: where you can find the schedule of classes and
aboutthe very modest cost. It is an excellent school.
Each class is for one week. Classes start on Sunday evening after
dinner and continue throug Friday afternoon.

I have taken classes at William Holland and have also taught there,
as a volunteer, for a number of years. This school is one of the
hidden secrets of the jewelry world!

I hope that you are able to arrange to take a class.

Howard Siegel
Lattique, Ltd.


Re your request for classes to take or instructors. The John C.
Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, NC is IMHO a wonderful place to
learn basic silversmithing skills. They offer classes from beginning
to advanced. Visit their website at for a
schedule of classes. Their new class offerings for 2008 will be
posted sometime in June. I’ve taken 3 classes from them and have
been very impressed by the instructors and the school

Usual disclaimers, I don’t work there, don’t get paid by them, just
a very happy student.

The one in Asheville: Earthspeak Arts. We
just moved to a larger building.

William E. Churlik

Art Jewelry magazine,and metalsmith the publication of SNAG,may be
of interest to you.

The ganoksin archives are an excellent source of having qeustions
answered- most questions you have as a beginner or novice have been
asked and answered,some ad nauseum, some that need filtration, on

As for jewelry schools//they are all so different, and choice
depends on what youwant to learn,or direction you want to head…for
example, William Holland lapidary schoool in Young Harris teasches
basic, and in most cases antiquated techniques -though valuable, the
school is far better a resource for lapidary arts specifically.
Penland is an intensive, expensive proposition, arrowmont topic
oriented an in an immersion context- a week or two at most in a
specific discipline or rather,technique. J.C.Campbell Folkschool, is
more akin to a destination vacation with a bit of topic specific
class thrown in…due to the over-the-top rules on studio time and
access which is far more liited than even william Holland- for
example, in most cses if you want to stay up until midnight working
at Wm. Holland int he silversmithing studio you’ re allowed to and
not treated as though you were six, and could not take the necessary
precautions around gas tanks…at j.c.campbell you are forced to leave
the studio for all mealtimes, whether you want them or not and the
studio generally gets closed at 5:30 pm-6 if you’re lucky…their
rules allow for a person to remain if you can find a clssmate to
remain with you -but no gas usage is supposed to occur (even though
you are charged for gas usage at a premium seperate from the course
fees, and other supplies on top of tuition and room and
board…whether you are taking an advanced level goldsmithing course
or are a complete beginner)so in the week long class and the
"projects that are offered,and the time you are given to complete
them you may only turn the torch on four times in a
week…)…nonsensical if you ask me! Wildacres is the Southern
Federation of Minerological Societies afiliated school, and exists
somewhere in between the offerings at Wm. Holland and
J.C.Campbell…though a bit more progressive than wm.holland…A
Major Note Re:William Holland- the fee schedules are deceptive at

For instance, in one course the fee may state on paper that it is
$285.00 for the Sun-Friday week, with wed. afternoon’s off…Then a
"volunteer" instructor may tack on a fee for their time-which is
unilaterally allowed to happen Though not mentioned anywhere in
print.Supplies fees, regardless of whether you bring your own
gold,silver and/or stones is another point for consideration:one is
expected to not only buy from the instructors at VERY inflated
prices, but your course that is estimated on paper to cost you
$325.00 (before double occupancy room and board, if you don’t opt to
camp or use an rv hookup ) may turn into $700.000 if you are not
astute and contact an instructor before the class to have her/him
define the additional fees that the specific instructor will be
charging.Equally, that conversation will indicate your compatibility
with that instructor-I guarantee! Another alert at Wm. Holland is
that there is one PMC instructor duo that elevates the hidden costs
almost to an art form and the course that you read will cost 285.00
plus materials estimated to cost 100.00 actually makes no mentionof
the other 300.00 expected by the instructors for their
fees…unethical- yes…but the group that generally attend Wm.Holand
will not complain in any case on any level so it is allowed to

Arrowmont,Penland,Wm.Holland,J.C.Campbell,Wildacres,Bill Churlick’s
program in Asheville (Earthspeak Arts??), and Va Beach are the
nearest to you in Raleigh ( about 6 hours drive to the furthest point
-Arrowmont in Seveirville TN).

All except Wm.Holland offer financial assistance, work-study or
internships - though it is ridiculous to profess to offer work-study
or internships, or other financial assistance as Penland does, if
you are a beginner as they require a minimum of 5 slides of your work
and a statement of your background in jewelry -or any medium they
offer classes in- to be considered…also it is not handicapped
accessible in some disciplines so again, research and do your
homework.Talk to students of various instructors at the various
schools before sending in a single deposit…Many former students of
the “Southern Highlands jewelry circuit” schools can be found on
Orchid, and in most cases you’ll get an honest answer,if off Orchid
and more private…

Tim McCreight’s books,dvd’s,cd’s and videos are the best tools
available to the person that wants to learn on one’s own before
taking a class in a specific topic area…Charles Lewton-Brain’s
"Cheap Thrills in the Tool Shop" was an indispensible book in my
collection (before it floated away!) with a myriad of shortcuts,
simple ways to save money and usefull adjunct to the
detailed instruction in McCreight’s “Complete Metalsmith”, any

As for suppliers the highest priced is Rio Grande, the lowest overall
is Rosenthal’s in miami…and that is averaging the prices betwen
those two and perhaps five more top suppliers. Metals suppliers are
diffeent too. For customer service one cannot beat Hoover and Strong,
while David H. Fell in general, fails to even answer email…Hoover
and Strong has the overall lowest fabrication charges, and best perks
for account holders, with Handy and Harmon a close second,and
Thunderbird supply price-wise perhaps third however their metals
inventory is limited and different from the others mentioned ( it’s
one of the only suppliers offering “silver filled” sheet). Stuller,
even though a Louisiana company ( i’m a native) has the highest
fabrication prices and the most independant jeweler unfriendly
policies and one of the few firms that charges for a catalog.Reactive
Metals is an excellent provider of both customer services, and
non-tradional metals and I urge you to get a catalog from them to
familiarize yourself with their excellent assortment of
non-traditional stock ( precious metals and reactive metals) and
unique alternative metal products…but there are so many that
trial and error are how you will learn which company’s suit your
needs ( keep in mind that pooling your order with colleagues or
friends garners the highest discounts for quantity price breaks from
precious metals dealers and refiners)…

Don’t be overwhelmed

educate yourself a to your options

don’t rush into feeling as though you must take any class to lear
basics Check out your community colleges as some do have decent
metals offerings right there in Raleigh, and find out who has open
studios/studio times and make appointments ( and keep them!) to
unobtrusively observe…and visit Orchid often… And as though this
were not enough feel free to contact me off Orchid for
more opinions,etc.


Thank you to R.E. Rourke - I too am a beginner and took one cloisonne
workshop, and am learning other techniques for now from many of the
books referenced below because I must work full-time to live (for
now!). This is tremendously helpful and reassuring that I don’t
necessarily “have” to go to a full-time professional jeweler’s
school. May I toss in the California Institute of Jewelry in
Carmichael (near Sacramento), California. You may take workshops or
the full-blown course if you choose - very flexible!

Get thee some tools and some materials. Jump into the pool. Don’t
worry about mistakes, they are the best teacher.

I have an inquiry for R.E. Rourke - was your reply regarding the
Holland School, JC Campbell and others based on your experience from
having attended classes at these schools or from what you have heard
about them?