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Good 4-year college jewelry art program?


The problem with any structural environment to teach Jewellery is
the structural environment itself. One should not attempt advance
technique before basics are understood. In any school they move
students from basics to advance in predetermined time intervals
regardless of whether or not one is ready for the next stage. I
understand that this is an economic reality of commercial education,
but it does not make it right.

The artistic aspect of the Jewellery cannot be separated from the
craft, it is a part of it. Goldsmith is not just a craftsman. Like a
monumental sculptor who knows how to work with bricks and mortar to
express her ideas, so must a goldsmith be proficient in technical
side of the Art to make her creations permanent or at least
long-lasting, but every stroke of the file, every dent left from
hammering, every cut made to secure a gemstone, must contribute to
the artistic quality of the article. In essence techniques are
simply brushstrokes used by artist to express the ideas.

My advice to an aspiring goldsmith would be to get a formal
education in Fine Arts, apprentice with someone who knows the craft,
combine both through individual efforts.

Leonid Surpin

First, let me address the young person who originally posted, Try
University of Illinois, Urbana/Champagne The school is top rate and
so is the department and program head. You should be able to transfer
your class credits in-state and not loose any class standing. If you
missed the deadline for application, stay where you are and be on top
of it for next quarter.

Secondly, I have to agree with Andy Cooperman’s statement. But I
would like to add, A college experience is only as valuable to the
student as the student is willing to take ownership of it.

New technologies like CAD/CAM are being introduced at university
programs and if a student is willing to attack that learning curve
creatively at school they will be more employable in our industry.

Universities cost a lot less than trade schools and a student will
get exposure to so many more techniques than any single crusty old
dude in a smelly basement workroom could ever teach them (aka
apprenticeship). As for on-the-job-training, an employer will
pigeon-hole the employee into a single technique that the employee
perform profitably and not pay for additional training or

I have experienced an apprenticeship, undergrad university program,
on-the-job training, trade schools, GIA, guild workshops, and
thankfully an excellent graduate program with people like Andy as an
advisor. What I have learned from all of this, is that there is no
one way to learn jewelry making that is better than another. Each has
its place for the different ways people learn and for the different
goals each person has.

Nanz Aalund
Associate Editor / Art Jewelry magazine
21027 Crossroads Circle / Waukesha WI 53187-1612
262.796.8776 ext.228

Well said David Huffman, Phil Baldwin and Kevin Kelly. I found your
responses well balanced and considered. I would disagree with one
statement in Kevin Kelly’s post, however:

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

I believe an MFA is also for someone who wants to delve deeper into
what it is they are doing (and making), into the processes involved
and even the motivations behind them. It is most valuable for the
person who has taken it as far as they can by their self and who
needs external and informed input. Pursuing an MFA can offer the
luxuries of focus and the time to experiment. As in many things, it
is the journey towards the degree rather than simply the piece of
paper itself that can hold the most value

I think Sean’s post got more response than the original! Most 4-year
degree programs include courses that “round out your education” such
as Government, history, biology, etc. What on earth do you need to
study those for if you want to become a jeweler? Philip has a point
about the usefulness of design classes. They can be taken at a trade
school as well though, and may even be more focused on jewelry design
than general design, which sometimes has no jewelry application.

Even in trade school situations, there can be inadequate teachers. I
remember at the close of a beginning jewelry class, the teacher
asking the students who had signed up for the intermediate class,
what areas they would like to see covered. I said that I would like
to learn how to set faceted stones. She all but laughed in my face in
front of the entire class and asked me why I thought I had enough
experience to set faceted stones! I later learned that the teacher
had no experience setting them herself, which was her real reason
for cutting me off. I learned on my own how to set faceted stones,
after a few mangled cheap settings, but I certainly never took any
more classes from that teacher!

I also disagree with Philip’s statement that education can’t ruin
anyone. Financial issues aside, struggling with the extraneous class
such as sociology or philosophy can all but stifle your creativity,
and can even be discouraging enough to give up on the idea of school
all together. I have an incredibly intelligent son who was so
tortured and disillusioned by the educational system, he won’t even
attempt trade school. In stead he researches what he wants to know
and then tries it out himself. You’d be amazed at what he is able to
accomplish. I have a 4-year degree myself, but I have made more
money with my hobbies than I ever did with my degree.

I say save your tuition and buy equipment!!!

there is a or was a great guy outside of waynesboro north carolina
archie, ive forgotten the name of the community college if he hasn’t
retired yet arch will bust your chops into shape over quality. I cant
not reply and agree more along the lines of some previous replies it
makes me depressed to see young people graduating from college
carrying debt before they have had a chance to get started. the
biosphere of higher education produces graduates perfectly suited to
continue the fine traditions of higher education. problem is those of
us out in the world with shops are facing a daily barrage of
dissapointed consumers who bought a product DESIGNED to meet a PRICE
POINT (mass produced jewelry) NOT to give the purchaser lasting
satisfaction. A wary shop ower cant even try to help out a
dissapointed consmer by offering them the common sense of considering
the source of thier purchase ( discount retail mega outlet warehouse
?) for fear they will become angy and say bad things about you (the
caring enough craftsman who wont sell junk ) for telling the truth
which is basicly you made an uninformed purchase (yes you are
gullible) and the product was designed to be affordable (you bought
junk)! any how trade school sounds the way to go if you actually want
to get a job afterwards or as phil baldwin replied ( hi phil ) figure
out ahead of time where you should be when done with school before
you pay$$ up. if you want to make art prepare yourself to get very
creative at living skills (yu gwanna be po fo whyle)


I’ll take the 4 yr experienced person over the 4 yr schooled person
any day. The experienced person wants to make money, and probably
has an idea how, versus the 4yr grad generally wants to make art
1st, and money second. This year, I hired a guy(newer Orchid
member) with 2 weeks of trade school- 1 of basic jewelry repair and
1 of basic stone setting. He also has multiple degrees in various
fields. This is the 1st time in 20 years that

I’ve been caught up on my schedule, and I managed to give him a
$1/hour raise last month. Only 7 months experience and already a
workable deal for us both. Last time I went to the grocery store,
they were accepting money for groceries, not beautiful artwork. Art
is nice, but money works better, at

least in my neighborhood. If my customer base would support it, I’d
love to make nothing but art jewelry but I’m in middleclass America,
not Metro World.

Ed in Kokomo

I am sorry to hear that your son had a bad experience with school.
Many times people will study areas that are not conducive to making
a living. I have used my degrees starting with an undergrad, majoring
in business. When there was a need for further knowledge I became a
GG and later a Registered Master Valuer. That is why other than
trade work, I think the new GIA College of Business is right on
target. It gives the industry the advantages of a business degree
specific to their needs. Bench jewelers if they have their own
companies, should know how to run it as well.


Most 4-year degree programs include courses that “round out your
education” such as Government, history, biology, etc. What on earth
do you need to study those for if you want to become a jeweler?

Because that is the point of a university. Why insist that there are
only technical ingredients required in the recipe for “making” a
jeweler. Even purely formal work is often informed by a wide set of
experiences and a broad base.


Hello again to you all,

There are some really good suggestions and ideas on school… I hope
it helps someone with their decisions on future educational ideas.
For all of you thinking about school, trade or other wise just
remember, College and Trade schools are a business first. They devote
many, many dollars into recruiting. So research your location and job
prospects before you in-debt yourself in hope of making it big.
Because its very disappointing to have a councilor tell you… “get
this degree and you can write your own ticket”… only to find that
your education bought you a job at some fast food joint. I hope this
thread helps you make the right choice for yourself no matter what
that may be.

Happy Profits

there is a or was a great guy outside of waynesboro north carolina
archie, ive forgotten the name of the community college if he
hasn't retired yet arch will bust your chops into shape over

Arch Gregory from the Community College in Clyde, NC. Arch is a
superb teacher, doesn’t let the student slide by w/anything! He
demands perfection & you will learn how to deliver it. Arch is also
a really great guy, lots of fun to be in his class.

You can take the Jewelry Production Curriculum Program or just
concentrate on the Jewelry classes. There used to also be a
wonderful Design class that went along w/it, may still be.


There is yet another alternative to learning the art and practice of
working metal.

Look at your local community college. At least in Denver, we have a
metals program at Arapahoe Community College. When I took courses
there, the instructor was an MFA. He patiently taught everyone that
wanted to learn -

from little old ladies to folks with tuition paid by rehab to people
like me. As in all education, it is up to the student to learn. You
can’t just pour into someones head. Ask questions,
research the literature, find the professional organizations, find
your niche.

It wasn’t a trade school, nor a four year degree. It was a door
opened. I made one thing of the three or four courses I took there.
Others took away something very different. It was affordable, local,
and the best money I’ve spent. Education is a continuing thing. Take
a class every year. “You can’t learn less” is my favorite quote from
Buckminster Fuller. Believe it.

Judy Hoch

Most 4-year degree programs include courses that "round out your
education" such as Government, history, biology, etc. What on
earth do you need to study those for if you want to become a

I can’t pass this up.

Hmmm… Why would you want to study things like government and
history? Probably not so you could make more money. Maybe so you’d
bring a sense of history with you into the voting booth?

“The most effectual means of preventing [the perversion of power
into tyranny are] to illuminate, as far as practicable, the minds of
the people at large, and more especially to give them knowledge of
those facts which history exhibits, that possessed thereby of the
experience of other ages and countries, they may be enabled to know
ambition under all its shapes, and prompt to exert their natural
powers to defeat its purposes.” --Thomas Jefferson

I think the US could use a little more of what Jefferson prescribed,
so I wouldn’t discourage anyone from getting what he called a liberal
education. As George Santayana (sorry, I went to grad school) said,
“Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”

Lisa Orlando
Albion, CA, US

I didn’t mean to devalue learning. I just feel that most course work
at Liberal Arts Colleges are really about conformity, not about
learning. I am firmly committed to lifelong learning, I just don’t
feel that expanding my knowledge should be set by someone else’s idea
of what is appropriate. Most General Ed. history classes are just
about memorizing dates and not much into the philosophical reasoning
behind why events happened. With this attitude, you probably think
that I was a poor student, when in fact I was an honor student.
Mostly because I have a good memory! Even though I was very
successful in the academic environment, I think you can learn more by
self directed study. I have certainly learned more outside of a
4-year college, than I did inside, especially in creative fields.

Here is an example of how the educational system can stifle
creativity. I have a friend who is in her last year of a 4-year art
degree program. She particularly likes working in glass, and in her
second level art glass course, learned to make lampwork beads. Her
boyfriend, who had a torch at home bought her several supplies so
that they could make beads at home together. She said she wasn’t
comfortable working glass outside of the classroom. How is this girl
ever going to do anything meaningful with her degree, if she is
afraid to experiment on her own outside academia? If people aren’t
willing to explore their medium, how would we ever get new ideas?
Did the people that developed PMC get the idea from a class? Thomas
Jefferson studied mathematics and law, but was also a fabulous
inventor, which was mostly a hobby. Many of our other Founding
Fathers were self taught.

I think the US could use a little more of what Jefferson
prescribed, so I wouldn't discourage anyone from getting what he
called a liberal education. As George Santayana (sorry, I went to
grad school) said, "Those who cannot learn from history are doomed
to repeat it. 

Thank you Lisa, for stating what, I think, that many of us were
thinking when reading something to the effect that, “what do you
need all this other for if, all you what you want, is to
be a jeweler”. It is that type of narrow minded thinking that has
helped to get us here in the US in the situation in which we
currently find ourselves. Even in the best of times one cannot become
complacent and depend on others to defend our rights.

Joel Schwalb

I think education is curtailed to the individual, I am not atypical
by any means, but there are lots of creative ways to go about
learning jewelry. I finished my Associated degree after high school,
then worked in the maintenance departments at some cities, in the
parks and then the water department, fixing hydrants, pumps, you
name it. My experience of tools was through work at first. After my
motorcycle accident, I went back to college in art & finance because
I thought about working at a foundation. After, I was taking many art
classes and discovered jewelry. WOW! It was like coming home, so I
already had my undergraduate but wanted to get educated to go back to
graduate school for jewelry and I attended Revere Academy for the
intensive and graduate program over 8 months, it was Awesome and
perfect for me. It gave me the knowledge and techniques I needed to
create a body of fine artistic work. I won a Saul Bell last year
then applied to the Art Institute in Chicago and now am going back to
graduate school. So, there are many creative ways to go about
learning jewelry, it is all good, just do what fits you? If you go
to SNAG you can see all the jewelry schools, they set up a booth for
the day, and you can talk to the their representatives. Just know
there are many paths and they are all perfect!

Ps I am moving to Chicago this Aug. if anyone knows of a studio to
rent or needs a roommatea female and near downtown.

Amy Burkholder

Conformity is what you make of it, and your friend has the problem,
not the college. If she won’t work outside of the studio that is her
issue - not theirs!

Education is also what you make of it. Before I went to college,
many many years ago, my father took me out for a drink (soft as I was
17). He told me that I wasn’t going to college to learn answers, or
to get a job, but to learn how to get answers to the questions I
would have throughout life. This is a philosophy that has served me
well, and that I have taught my daughter who will graduate from high
school next year. It is a radically different philosophy from what
many people believe.

Where I live (rural SC - talk about dealing with conformity!), most
folks believe that you go to college to learn a specific set of
skills and get a specific job. The truth is that many of the jobs
today didn’t exist 10 or 20 years ago. A good liberal arts education
should teach you to think, to reason, how to research answers to
questions, how to be flexible. Then when something new is developed
you aren’t left out in the cold, but are able to take your broad
knowledge and abilities and change them to work with the new

My liberal arts education (BA and MFA art) has done that. I have
held, successfully, both art and non-art related jobs, because I
learned how to think, to organize, to self-start. I have taught my
daughter to think broadly as well as deeply; to relate things and
look at how they are connected, even things you might not on first
thought think are connected; and to accept the consequences of her

In many of her classmates (at a private college-prep high school) I
see students who do the minimum amount of work, who are not
interested in any extra effort, whose enthusiasms are self-centered,
who depend on parents to push and catch them. These students, like
your young friend, will go to college and not be comfortable working
on their own. They do not understand that THEY are in charge of their
education, and that they will reap what they sow. Minimum work will
receive minimum reward. I blame this partly on the students, but
largely on a generation or more of parents who don’t let their
children fail when the deserve to, and thus don’t learn at a young
age that if you don’t follow through there WILL be consequences!
Eventually they will reach a point in their lives where they MUST
stand on their own two feet, and succeed or fail on their own efforts
and merits.

What does this mean in terms of a career in jewelry? My liberal arts
degrees taught me to think, to create, to explore - that the way I
see it done doesn’t always have to be the only way. My jewelry brings
the results of my explorations in a range of art media together. If I
only had technical training, that creativity would not have been
nurtured and stretched. On the flip side, the comments about the lack
of technical training were largely true for me, but not totally. I
didn’t do metals in school (not taught, and no interest then), but
most of the media I did do were long on talk and short on technique.
At the time, of course, I didn’t realize this. I do think it is much
easier to go back and pick up specific workshops to gain those
techniques that it would be to gain the creative stretching.

If you can find a school that would provide you with both the broad
mental/creative education and a good technical background, that
would be ideal!

We have all come to jewelry in many different ways, so there is
obviously no one right way. But please don’t discount the value of a
GOOD liberal arts education taken by a genuine student! Any
education taken by a body more interested in parties than studies
isn’t worth much.

Beth in SC who will now get off her soapbox


…i raise my #6 file to you for your thoughts…commitment,
creativity,and core development in metal arts or any other decorative
art form, is the foundation that will make a work hold up or not…
of course, knowledge of “building skills” are very important. nobody
wants the roof to collapse.there is an overabundance of objects, be
it architecture, cars, jewelry, that are technically sound, but
without life… my observation of a number of educational situations
leads me to believe that there are many technicians being trained.
the skills that are learned have to be combined with passion, chance,
irreverence, to make the work sing its own song.

.beauty can also have a beast along for the ride. that’s another