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How do you gain technical skill? and fast


I recently graduated from the Art college in Calgary. I have four
years of general training in metal and jewelry design, but am very
slow and basically need more practise, and possibly more guidance in
all areas.

In five to ten years I plan to have my own business with a line of
jewelry to sell. Does anyone have any suggestions of the best and
fastest route for me to take to gain the technical skill that I will
need to produce my ideas at the highest level?.. (more school,
apprenticing, reading, working on my own… etc.)

I’m not afraid of putting in the time or money if it would benefit
me in the long run.

Thank you all, Sarah

Dear Sarah

The only thing ican suggest is that to increase your technical skill
level…you should set yourself a challenge everyday and try to
acheive…if theres something you have been taught to do but never had
the guts to do without supervision…do it…if u have something in
mind and dont know how to make is ask…the saying practices makes
perfect is the mantra i feel all goldsmiths should use as the
mantra…keep your head steady and work work work…especially on
things that you are unsure of…keep practicing till you get it
right…and by right i mean the way YOU want it…not the way
industry depicts…

Feel free to contact me of forum…i am kind of in a similar
situation…trying to build the business and my skill level…

Take care

Bench Time, Young Lady, Bench Time. If your verrrrrrry lucky bench
time with someone who knows what their doing. bench Time. Don’t rush
enjoy the ride.


A nice little factory job for a while would help you increase your

Otherwise, if you don’t want to work for someone else, give yourself
assignments and make a lot of stuff, increase your speed.


Elaine Luther
Metalsmith, Certified PMC Instructor
Hard to Find Tools for Metal Clay

Hello Sarah,

I don’t believe that a fast route exists, anywhere. What may cause
you some grief is the open admission that your objective is to open
your own business. The people that you need to help you gain more
experience and ramp up your technical ability won’t take you very
seriously if your primary goal is to gain independence as quickly as

By teaching you the finer points of jewellery making and holding
your hand while you slowly develop marketable skills, they are
investing a great deal of time and money in you. They need to know
that they will gain some benefit from your presence in their
establishment. This can’t, and will never be, all about you.

If your primary admission is that you want to fly as soon as they
give you wings, you won’t be invited into the nest. You need to share
only your shorter term goals. Make them lofty. Tell a prospective
employer that you want to be the best damned jeweller that you can
be, and let them know what’s in it for them during the long learning

Set the “way back” machine to when I was looking for work in the
trade. I visited a few jewellers, and one of them told me that he no
longer hired apprentices. When I asked why not, he answered, “As
soon as they gain enough confidence to work independently, they
leave to open their own shop, going into competition with me, and
they still don’t have a clue what they’re doing.” I left out the

What he told me was of tremendous help. I kept my dreams of
independence to myself from that point on.

My job hunting strategy was altered to include an honour-bound
assurance to prospective employers that I was in it with them for
the long run. It worked. I spent 25 years working for/with others
prior to opening my own studio, and at that point every debt to
every mentor was dutifully paid in full.

Committing yourself to that long a slog under the employment of
others probably won’t be necessary, but working your ass off will
be. You can’t learn someone else’s lifetime of work experience in 8
hours a day, 5 days a week in a few short years. You need to wake up
with it and go to bed with it, seven days a week, for many years.
Study, read good quality trade magazines, and practice every
difficult discipline until you no longer shed tears at your
failures, but can accept a high five from co-workers at every
success. I wish you the best of luck.

David Keeling

the only way to get a quick jump into the beginning skills to take a
class, I have taken the class at the new approach school for
jewelers in Virginia and it is excellent. Blaine Lewis is an
excellent instructor.


Taking classes in anything is a good thing to do, if one wants to
learn that thing. However, I don’t see that that is the question. The
question is, “How does one gain technical skills?” I, for one, can
sit here and tell you everything you really need to know about
a diamond, for example. That’s the class - the brain-knowlege. The
technical skills are gained by you, and that is only done by doing -
perhaps a little coaching will help. Engraving is a perfect example
this. You get a sharp piece of steel, put a handle on it, get a piece
of metal and hold it - there’s not much else to say. But people get
that sharp stick and engrave (or used to - computers) dollar bills
with it. It is the purest of skills, all in the hands. There is no
"answer". What is best for one will be worst for another. I think you
should ask this question, though. Assuming that you have gained a
amount of “brain-knowlege” already, do you want to pay somebody for
12 or 30 hours of time, make 3 pieces that aren’t important (if it’s
bad, it can be scrapped), or do you want to have someone pay you to
work 40 hours a week to work on customer jobs that MUST be right and
work on 50 pieces a week with no “school’s out, get out”. This is not
a cut at schools, don’t take it as one. That thing called “skill” is
thing that is learned by practice and repetition and experience -
it’s in the hands, not the brain. Also, there’s another post on this
thread that’s most important, about having loyalty and respect for
mentors, and not using them and moving on, that bears reading.

Hi Sarah:

All postings in this thread all have given good advice. Nothing
beats learning about how to do something; actually doing the job
hones your skills.

At the California Institute of Jewelry Training, Sacramento,
California, our curriculum is based on project completion. Students
learn first by demonstrations from the instructor, then complete the
project themselves. Our instructors are graduates of the school and
have many years of trade experience.

I have seen the result of accomplished training followed by the
mentoring of local jewelers (i.e. employers). Many of our students
have become amazing jewelers and have progressed into owning their
own store. The success stories are endless.

You can go to our web site and see our programs
( Please feel free to contact me
directly with any questions. We have been training for the trade for
over 27 years.

Thanks again.
Melvin G. Huth
California Institute of Jewelry Training