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Ideas for classes

Hi, all-

I have been approached by a local grassroots non-profit to teach
jewelry classes to the mentally ill population. There is not much of
a budget, and the folks running the center really don’t want any
torches used.

So I am wondering what I could teach. I have experience in wire
wrap, and this would answer a variety of needs, i.e., low budget, few
tools needed, little workspace needed. But beyond that I am not
coming up with much, except maybe some hammer-textured rings and/or
cuff bracelets, and some experimenting with cold connections.

What would you all suggest for beginning jewelry classes with
nothing dangerous (no torches or acids) and minimal tools?


i remember when i was in 1st grade we did etching on a copper sheet
with penciles .do that.

Hello Lee Einer,

You ask for suggestions for beginning jewelry classes with nothing
dangerous and minimal tools needed.

Your wire wrapping is a good start. Add some linkage (with and
without beads) and make findings using the wire wrapping skills. When
I teach kids, I always use beads to add color. I emphasize
incorporating the beads based on a pattern they design - not only is
this a curriculum requirement by the state board of education, but it
supports orderly thinking. That may be good therapy for these

Limit the tools to pliers, cutters, and files. I’d also limit
hammers to nylon or rawhide - avoid steel. Add texture with rough
sandpaper or use large nails with the points ground off for stamps.
Cold connections with rivets made of copper would be interesting, as
would mixing metals in linkage.

Good for you in making an effort to bring some interest and
variation to the patients’ lives.

Judy in Kansas

If there’s a rolling mill you can dry and run leaves and then cut
them out with jewler’s saw, leave a long “stem” to wrap into a
ring/bail and incorporate into wire bracelets and necklaces, color
with LOS, spray, hang on a thong, etc.

Donna in VA

Hi Lee,

I think that silk knotting would be good skill to teach. It requires
3 tools (at most) and is cheaper than wire-wrapping. Plus, it could
be sustainable endeavor for the students if the non-profit is trying
to teach the students something that could generate income for the
mentally ill population.

Anyhow, just a thought.

How about jump ring bracelets?


Hi Lee,

If you can get more of a budget, I think working with metal clay
would be great for emotionally disturbed people, and it can easily be
combined with wire work. You could do all the firing yourself. The
tools needed for initial forming are minimal, but offer great scope
for creativity, and the learning curve for making something simple is
pretty short.

Once the pieces are sintered, you could teach various finishing
processes. I learned more about sanding, polishing, and patinating in
my metal clay classes than I did in fabrication classes.

Good luck!
Lisa Orlando
Albion, CA, US

Hi Lee…

I was hanging out in the local Library a few weeks ago, and came
across a book on embossing various metal sheet materials…using
implements like popsicle sticks, pens, pencils…more for wall
placques, but showed some items of adornment…

I thought “Aha! For next year’s Ren Faire costumery…”

Suggestions for source material was as varied as purchased copper
sheet…to the heavier aluminum baking pans and things like frozen
pot pies come in…stuff can be cut to size with ordinary scissors…

Maybe not heavy enough to be jewlery…

Also, for the support to do the embossing on, the recommended
substrate was a thick pad of newspaper…

Gary W. Bourbonais
A.J.P. (GIA)


I think you need more Are the mentally ill folks also
mentally handicapped? If they are you have to watch doing something
that uses fine motor skills - you want them to be successful. If
there are also handicapped you want something simple like beading
(which) most people really enjoy. You can also do some metal
embossing, though I’d use precut shapes and avoid the saw. The cold
connections also sounds like a good idea. Once again I’d use precut
shapes (metaliferous has tons).

Also what class size do you expect? Are there going to be any
helpers? What level are these folks functioning?

Hope this helps
Lisa Fowler
LL Fowler Designs

I would also like to recommend you look at the book Metal Embossing
woarkshop by Magdalena S Muldoon. She owns Mercart USA. Website: She sell the book and has various tools. She does
traditional Embossing on Pewter, copper, aluminum, silver and brass.
Sells Pewter and SIlver for working on. Her book is wonderful with
plenty of projects. For jewelry I recommend the silver but it is
thin gauge. It can also be enamelled as can working on copper which
can than be set.

I hope this will be of help

The only experience with teaching the developly disabled people I’ve
had was with similar concernes, attention spam, motor skills,
communication skills eg… I found that things like beads and soft
wires like Bead Alon or Tiger Tail used to make rings, bracelets etc.
was a good place to start. You get to know the specific skill sets
and abilities or you group and that will lead you to projects that
might be more appropriate to their abilities. You might find this to
be a good learning experience for yourself as well. I can also say
that you will get a lot insight into yourself. This can be very
rewarding emotionally and personally. Most of them I’ve delt with
were like confused little children trapped in bigger bodies. An
example was one of my uncles stopped developing mentally when he was
about 6 years old. It didn’t matter that his body was that of a 65
year old man. He was still a 6 year old struggeling with this older
mans body that he didn’t know how to control.I want to thank you you
for seriously looking at this opportunity. OK off my soap box.

John (Jack) Sexton

Hi, Lisa-

what class size do you expect? Are there going to be any helpers?
What level are these folks functioning? 

From what I have been told there is no DD, these people are just
mentally ill. There will be a range as far as manual dexterity goes.
Some may have issues stemming from over-medication.

For insurance and liability purposes, I plan to use no torches and
keep use of sharp implements to a minimum.


Hi Lisa,

What about trying different media? How about making beads from papier
mache and rolled paper? Or Fymo. Or found object jewellery that can
be varnished and hung from leather? That way you can keep all tools
to a minimum. I work with street children and disadvantaged women who
have a variety of problems and papier mache is always effective as
specialist skills and techniques aren’t necessary to produce
something successful. You will keep your group on task if they don’t
find the work out of their skills range.

Let us know how you get on.