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Good 4-year college jewelry art program?


#1

Hello,

I am two years in towards getting a BFA in studio art, but I’m
afraid that my school no longer seems to offer a decent education and
I am now looking at transferring to a more competent institution. I
attended Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, after hearing
for four years about what a wonderful program they had, but as near
as I can tell that program is starting to die. As it stands, there
has been several interim professors who have stopped by to teach for
a semester or two for the past two or three years, but as of when I
left for Summer break, there was a question of whether or not the
school could even afford to hire another interim professor to cover
for 2007/08.

Since I already have so much time and money invested in earning a
BFA, it seems rather silly for me to just quit, but I really have no
idea where I should turn next. Right now I am looking at Illinois
State University, Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville, and
possibly Oklahoma State University. I looked into the University of
Illinois in Champaign-Urbana, but by the time I found their program I
had missed the application deadline by almost a month.

Would anyone be able to give me any advice in picking a school? I’m
somewhat leery of SIUE, since I am pretty sure it’s ran by the same
people who run SIUC. I would somewhat like to stay in the Midwest,
although I know there are a great number of very good schools along
the East and West coasts. Furthermore, I’d especially like to go to a
school that might teach me something I could actually use as a
professional jeweler. Illinois State’s website had pictures that made
the program seem at least somewhat connected to real jewelry, and
Oklahoma State’s program claims to have a strong focus on design.

I would greatly appreciate it if someone who knows anything about
ISU or OSU’s programs could give me more or even
on some other school I might have missed.

Thank you very much,
Willis Hance


#2

I know it’s not in the location you want to be in, but Arizona State
University has a college degree in metalsmithing for jewelry making.

Miachelle


#3

I met a grad of the U of Kansas program and her training seemed
comprehensive. They even had a class on business practices. That’s
the extent of my experience with the school, but you may want to
look into it.

Too bad you missed the deadline for UIUC. If you want to brave the
wilds of Chicago, Loyola U has jewelry, though I don’t know if they
offer a BFA.

Elaine


#4

You could check out Madison, Wisconsin.

M’lou Brubaker
Minnesota, USA
http://www.craftswomen.com/M’louBrubaker


#5

Willis,

Oregon College of Art & Craft is an amazing school for jewellery. I
did most of my study in Australia but took the remaining 4 classes
for my degree at OCAC (I wish I’d done my whole degree there!) and
learned an amazing amount.

I think there’s some good programs in Ohio, and San Diego State as
well.

Good luck!
Catherine Chandler


#6
..attended Southern Illinois University in Carbondale" 

Beautiful area down in that direction.I have backpacked and camped
thru the Garden of the Gods area at least 20 times during the last 15
yrs.I havent made it back in the last couple years. Anxious. Its
about 5-6 hrs from home, and worth every bit of the drive even just
for weekend trips.

Ed in Kokomo


#7

most 4 year degrees recieved from colleges for jewelry will not get
you the job or training you are probably looking for. my suggestion
would be do the 1 year Graduate Gemologist programd at GIA, then do
the 12 week jewelry program at the New Approach jewelry school in
virginia with Blaine Lewis, then do some hand engraving classes with
GRS. if you what a degree from a four year college i would suggest
Kendall College in Grand Rapids MI. Phil Caprizzi is the director of
the department, he is well rounded in the art and profession of the
jewelry industry. they have an excellent tools setup they use
jewelers benches to work on, unlike most colleges which use tables,
he also teaches rhino CAD for designing which is important for the
changing industry. what is more important is that they have an
excellent Design program. the program will teach you how to think
like a designer.

this would be my dream path. if i was starting over.

i have been a jewelry designer for the past 20 years since the age
of 17 when i opened my first retail studio.

Matthew Gross
www.mhgjewelry.com


#8
Good 4-year college jewelry art program? 

I’m extremely impressed with the program at Alberta College of Art
and Design, in Calgary, Alberta. Charles Lewton-Brain is in charge
of the department. http://www.acad.ab.ca

If I was 18 and looking to go in this field, I’d do the four year
program at ACAD and follow it up with the 12 week long program at
New Approach School for Jewelers. http://www.newapproachschool.com

Then, I’d follow up with a week long workshop, from any area in the
field that interests me, every year, until I wink out (I’ve left
instructions to have my body sent to a refiner, when I wink out.
Hah!).

Kate Wolf, In Portland, Maine, hosting wicked good workshops by the bay.
http://www.katewolfdesigns.com


#9

This might sound a little strange and I hope not to offend anyone,
but what good is a four year degree in Jewelry art? Aren’t most
jewelers self taught or taught by family members? With a little
research, a few weeks at a trade school, and some bench time a
person might find themselves in as good of a position as a graduate
without all of the tuition to pay off.

More than likely your name isn’t going to be wrote in lights across
the jewelry world with a degree or without… I would rather spend
my time in the trenches learning from a good jeweler while I did
what monkey work I could to keep a boss happy enough to keep paying
me. Here’s a quick poll… of all the bosses out there what would
you rather a jeweler with 4 years EXP or one just out of a four year
program?

When you instruct you quantify the material into a rules based
learning, so when you learn from said rules it puts you in a box
removing a lot of the creative thinking needed to visualize the
solution. 4 years will teach you a lot of rules and a lot of bad
habits for an employer to break, because out in the work force its
not about what you were taught… right or wrong… it is about how
the boss wants it done.

So what is a good 4 year program? In my opinion school recruitment
sometimes out weighs the reality of there is no substitution for
experience. When you get your degree, go out in the world, and put
your certifications and diplomas on a employers desk, will he hire
you quicker or will he put you aside as to expensive for a beginer?

For those out there who might just think I am a education basher, I
apologize I like to think of myself as a realist my four degrees
never got me anywhere faster than the next guy, it shut as many
doors as it opened.

In closing what diference does four years have from one month of
trade school? You either have the talent or you don’t, and you
should be able to find that out rather quickly. Good luck in all
your decisions and as always happy profits.

Sean


#10
but what good is a four year degree in Jewelry art? Aren't most 

Some folks want a bachelor’s degree in something because they want
it as a fall back, or their parents are insisting that they do, or
so they can get an MFA.

And, it can be a good thing to have some time to just make art,
before joining the world of deadlines, pressure and commercial
motivations.

Elaine
http://www.CreativeTextureTools.com


#11
of all the bosses out there what would you rather a jeweler with 4
years EXP or one just out of a four year program? 

4 years experience every time or a jewelry trade school. 4 year
college programs? Never.

Daniel R. Spirer, G.G.
Daniel R. Spirer Jewelers, LLC
1780 Massachusetts Ave.
Cambridge, MA 02140
www.spirerjewelers.com


#12

I didn’t want to post on the subject because of the reasons you
stated, but I could not agree with you more.

The only person who can teach a person the art of Jewellery Making
it the person herself. The old way of teaching the craft was just let
student to watch the process and figure details out for herself. If
student has an ability to do it, she would slowly progress in the
profession, if not then the other occupation should be considered.

Leonid Surpin


#13

In the same way that all schools are not equal, not all on the job
experience is of equal value either. Bad habits and very
experienced, quality craftsmanship abound. Should good school
training and experience be mutually exclusive ideas? The right school
will not only give you a real chance to hone your skills and explore
many techniques, tools and mediums that most shop experiences wont
expose you to, but you can build a network of contacts that can
benefit you for years to come. I am speaking as one who has had
little formal training, but over 32 years experience. I search for
and value greatly any chance to get into a teaching environment
where I can be exposed to the latest ideas and techniques. Well
rounded means trained AND experienced!


#14

My second two cents of the day (bringing the total to 4…) I
respect that you’ve put two years of effort and money towards a four
year degree and understand the (unfortunatly too often) myth that
this will bring a higher salary upon graduation. I agree
wholeheartedly at taking a look at trade schools. I’m graduating
from North Bennet Street School in Boston in two weeks, and it
turned out to be a great choice for me. The tuition for the entire
18 month program is less than a single year at a private liberal
arts college. You sit at a bench every day, and many students have
internships/apprenticeships one day a week. Although I realize that
I have much more to learn, it’s a great foundation and place to
start. Plus, as far as I can tell by the response to my resumes,
it’s well regarded in the industry. (We were recently written up in
a local rag as “the Harvard of trade schools”!) Granted, two years
is a drop in the bucket and I’m expecting to start back at the bottom
of the ladder and hope to work for a “master jeweler” (or at least,
someone who’s been a jeweler for a LONG time and who’s work and
ethics I respect) and continue to learn and grow. (And maybe someday
I’ll even be earning close to what I was making before I went back
to school - money’s not everything after all.) I’d be happy to talk
to you offline if you’re interested in hearing more about my
experiences at North Bennet.

College was a great experience and I learned how to drink a lot of
beer in a short amount of time, but my technical degree will do a
lot more for my career aspirations and get my foot in the door for a
jeweler to take me seriously than my four year, $100K degree in
anthropology! It does look nice in it’s expensive frame hanging
above my bench, though, so I guess there’s that…

Holly.


#15

Sean: A well rounded education would include both trade school drill
and a classic academic program in design.

What do you want out of the educational experience? Answer that
question and you will be halfway to choosing which path. If you want
enough technical training to get a job, then an art oriented program
will most likely not be of any use to you. If you want to develop
your design and artistic sensibility, then design or art school
might be useful, though one does not have to enroll in a degree
program to get the education desired.

One thing I have noticed about education though: I’ve never seen
anyone ruined by it. Some learned more than others but that had more
to do with the student than the school. Oh yes, and how much time do
you have? It is much faster to learn the basics in a structured
environment, be it a trade school or university, than it is to
figure it out for yourself. Best to saw your time for more complex
questions.

Good luck.


#16

I spent many years in schools, parochial, private, public up to and
including the PhD level and including programs for the educationally
disadvantaged (code for something else). Some of the time as a
student, some as a teacher. I enjoyed teaching and I’m interested in
the educational process.

Please bear with me. I do have a point to make.

Colleges and universities are not vocational schools. Parents think
they are; but they are not intended to be so. They are meant to
provide a liberal education, not liberal in the political sense. In
this environment you have time to experiment, to make mistakes, to
hang out with your peers.

If you are fortunate enough to connect with someone already
experienced in the area of jewelry you aspire to, go with that
person, do whatever it takes to make yourself useful and learn real
life stuff.

After you’ve done that for a time (I would think a couple of years,
not months) you could probably use time spent at a college or
university more profitably. If you have the opportunity and the means
to spend fours years in a program at a college or university there’s
nothing like it.

MFAs in this field are for people who want to support themselves
teaching.

You have to sift through all the input and make the choice. I didn’t
do what I’m recommending, but from my life experiences and from what
you say of yourself it might be the way to go.

KPK


#17

I don’t recall who initiated this thread so…

To whom it may concern: I spent many years in schools, parochial,
private, public up to and including the PhD level and including
programs for the educationally disadvantaged (code for something
else). Some of the time as a student, some as a teacher. I enjoyed
teaching and I’m interested in the educational process. I’ve also
spent many years earning a living as a self employed
lapidary/goldsmith.

Please bear with me. I do have a point to make.

Colleges and universities are not vocational schools. Parents think
they are; but they are not intended to be so. They are meant to
provide a liberal education, not liberal in the political sense. In
this environment you have time to experiment, to make mistakes, to
hang out with your peers, to develop as a person. It’s a rare
opportunity.

If you are fortunate enough to connect with someone already
experienced in the area of jewelry you aspire to, go with that
person, do whatever it takes to make yourself useful and learn real
life stuff.

After you’ve done that for a time (I would think a couple of years,
not months) you could probably use time spent at a college or
university more profitably. If you have the opportunity and the means
to spend fours years in a program at a college or university there’s
nothing like it.

MFAs in this field are for people who want to support themselves
teaching.

You have to sift through all the input and make the choice. I didn’t
do what I’m recommending, but from my life experiences and from what
I’ve learned it might be the way to go.

Not gospel, one person’s opinion
KPK


#18

Hi Phil,

You and I were lucky at SIU Carbondale, but at both of the other Art
Schools I attended I witnessed students that were so wrapped up in
the navel gazing that was the fashion at the time and became so vain
about what it was to be an artist that they really didn’t stand much
of a chance in the real world. My hunch is that art education is now
a lot less about being hipper-than-thou than it was in our student
days, but I could name a few talented people who actually were
ruined by their education.

BTW, I think it says something very positive about jewelers and
metalsmiths that students in this field tend to have a greater
aptitude for being entrepreneurs and availing themselves to real
life opportunities. The art students I remember who bought into the
most self destructive crap being peddled at art school, to the point
that they never had a career in art, tended to be in other media.

I absolutely agree with all your other points. Good seeing you at
the Orchid dinner in NY.

All the best,
Steve Walker


#19

I am constantly amazed by what I see to be the black and white
thinking expressed in posts whenever the trade/ art school topic is
raised in one of its many guises-- artists’ statements, Lark’s 500
books, SNAG. The educational pathways towards becoming a jeweler (
metalsmith, goldsmith, bench person, Art jeweler) are as varied as
the definitions of the profession and applications of the skills
learned.

Certainly there is truth in the fact that many MFA, BFA and BA
programs fall short on technique. But an argument can be made that
it is not really their job to provide a graduate with a guarantee of
employment. It IS their job to instill in the graduate a mind that
is equipped to pose questions and the means to seek answers; to give
graduates an education as to the possibilities, history and current
status of the field, ranging from the traditional to the
avant-garde; and, yes, of course to have the technical ability to
explore whatever aspect of the field they find compelling. But a
purely technical education is, in my opinion, the job of a trade or
technical school or apprenticeship. To say that 4 years of
metalsmithing/ jewelry education on the BFA or BA level is wasted if
it does not equip someone to get a job is short sighted, to my eyes.
I have seen many graduates who are not working at jewelry specific
jobs but who will readily admit that their 4 year metals education
allowed them to do what they do now. Allow me to quote from David
Huffman’s response to a query that I posted on Orchid: “I never
believed for a minute that my experiences in either discipline
(trade/ academic) didn’t add immensely to what I brought to the table
wherever I went.” (My apologies to David if I took this out of
context, but I don’t believe that I have.)

For the record I completely agree that there are programs which
either marginalize the importance of technical proficiency or simply
fail to teach it. And, for the record, I believe that a technical
education is crucial to a metals degree. It is, for good or ill, at
the heart of what we do. (Any of my former students can attest to my
fervent-- and perhaps evangelical-- belief in the importance of
quality execution and craftsmanship.)

If what you want is to become a bench jeweler or fine goldsmith than
there are, indeed, much more efficient ways to get this knowledge
than a 4 year college degree. But statements such as: “The only
person who can teach a person the art of Jewellery Making is the
person herself” are not entirely true. Sure, practice and
implementation of technique is what makes you good= . And, yes, idea
leads to idea, design produces more design and one piece leads to
another. But exposure to the possibilities the medium has to offer,
how others have explored and applied materials and how metals fits
into the greater world of art is an experience that, when combined
with a solid technical education-- is an education that a good 4 year
degree can offer.

There are many facets to the field. Deciding on which educational
trail to set your feet on is a matter of first deciding what it is
you want to do.

I patiently await the storm of responses that this topic often
engenders.

Andy Cooperman


#20

Hi All;

I’m going to butt in here. I’ve got the college art degrees and the
on-the-job training. Plenty of both. I used to use 2 resumes when I
went looking for a job, precisely because the trade people were
skeptical of the value of the art degrees and the academics were
likewise critical of a tradesman. I have 2 employees, one from the
academic background, one from the trade. They each have their strong
suits and weaknesses, and these relate to their respective
backgrounds.

Personally, I’d prefer someone with the art school background who
had a proclivity to working in a painstaking and determined manner
with materials. I can teach someone like that how I’d like the work
done, and they’ll be likely to do it with flair. The trades people
seem to be only able to go so far. They usually end up with a well
made but generic product, and lack the insight into the stylistic
concerns. Of course, there are exceptions to that rule.

Likewise, the art school types seem to need to be convinced, again
and again, that it’s necessary to be thorough and precise about
quality and consistency. But I’ve found it’s harder to teach a
tradesman who places little value on creativity how to move beyond
just picking other people’s pockets for ideas than it is to get an
artsy type to knuckle down and get fussy about the technique.

David L. Huffman