You’ve got a great attitude. Keep it up.
In my opinion there is no formal training in the US that is up to
the best European standards. This is because there is no cultural
demand, no tradition, no industry mandate, no social importance
placed in our country for domestically produced jewelers.
The strategy in the US is a market oriented one. If there aren’t
enough jewelers industry will have to pay such a dear price for
those that there are that perhaps foriegn jewelers will immigrate
to fill the viod; simple supply and demand.
European schools teach techniques that will create craftspeople who
have the ability to produce culturally appropriate work. America
has no culturally appropriate work. Fortunately for those who go
to Europe to study, the techniques taught are extremely
translatable to the American market. But, there is no demand in
and of itself in the US for Euopean trained goldsmiths. If, after
training in Europe, you have no portfolio to show you have a
marketable skill; if you have never worked in a store and proven
your viability and value in a market context, you’ll have as much
trouble as the next guy getting work.
Go to every jewelry store you can and introduce yourself. Let them
know who you are and what your goals are. Now I say every jewelry
store because you never know where that master jeweler may be or who
might be able to point you in the right direction. Ask if they
have any old jewelry magazines that they’ll donate to you. Read,
study and soak in all you can.
Don’t get discouraged, it will be a good test of your mettle and
prepare you for the type of frustration you’ll find when learning
to saw, solder and engrave. One day, when you are successful,
you’ll meet one of those people who turned you down and get a laugh
out of the way they blew you off! If nothing else you’ll get an
idea of what kind of entry level skills you’ll be required to have
to get work.
Get some basic tools and start practicing now. Even if you can’t
have access to a torch, get tools that will allow you to start
practicing now. Get some sheet, a sawframe, some sawblades, some
files, an apron, paper and a pencil and start sawing out pieces and
glue them together if you have to. See how creative you can be.
Then you can start to research the schools that you get
recommendations for. If you go the trade school route, you’ll find
that they are geared toward filling entry level positions in
industry and that you’ll still have to scrap for every opportunity.
I personally couldn’t get a job when I graduated in '83, and I
grew up in a jewelry store and had much more experiance and ability
than the average grad. The best jeweler in my class, a Vietnamese
immigrant who had years of experience in his home country before
escaping had to take a job shooting up waxes. What a waste!
Be flexible and street smart. When I had to compromise to get my
foot in the door I made sure that I learned all that I could, “paid
my dues” and offered the store I was with every opportunity to help
me advance before quitting and moving on to the next challenge.
It already sounds like you’ve got the proper mindset for excelling.
Here are some pitfalls less experienced jewelers fall into.
working with one craftsperson, taking thier designs or
techniques and starting thier own business without fully exploring
the full range of skills a jeweler needs. I’ve known and
personally had workers who did this only to fail after initial
success because of thier one dimensional ability;
thinking that that a degree, program or certificate was all they
needed to become a successful jeweler. Two, three and four years
will not a jeweler make;
not having short, medium and long term goals. Do what you can
today to be the best. Realistically appraise your problem areas and
determine to work them out over a period of time. Make a goal that
you will learn as much as you can and be proficient at one simple
task in a month, a more difficult task in 6 months and a complex
task in a year. Determine what you will be doing in a year, two
years, five years, ten years and work out what you will need to do
to accomplish those tasks. Talk to your peers to see if you’ve set
realistic goals. Figure out what you want to be when you have
acceived these major goals. Find jewelers who are at the level you
want to be and find out if it’s all it’s cracked up to be.
Here are some of the requirements I look for in anyone who wants to
be a great goldsmith:
manual dexterity / eye hand cooridination
good eyesight, especially near vision
mechanically inclined imagination
ability to translate ideas graphically
creative problem solving and stratigizing
sensitivy to materials but no fear of them
willingness to learn
These are in no particular order and are synergistic.
I have known people who have metals degrees or GIA diplomas who
never made any progress as apprentices. I also can point out total
outsiders who had nothing more than a desire to learn who have
really done well.
My rant is now over.