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Jewelry and art

Jim I could not agree with you more. It does seem that the
teachers in the schools do not want to teach any practical
They only push the design concepts and by doing so
create so called master jewelers who are basically metal
illeterate. They have no idea of how to make something functional
or wearable. I know I was a product of this ivory tower
mentality. I feel that a student should have to work in the
industry as an apprentice for a few symesters and learn the
practical aspects of the trade. It would take that and a lot more
in my opinion to even begin to be considered a formally trained
jeweler. There is no substitute for experience, and you can learn
so much by watching and listnening someone who has done it for a
while. I know I am ranting but I feel as if I wasted several
years of my life in graduate school. I learned more in 2 months
in the industry than 2 years with a so called masters program in
college. Sure I can give you the exact number of free electrons
available in an outer electron shell of a copper atom, but does
that have anything to do with creating a beautiful wearable
functional work of art called jewelry? I do not think so.
Practice practice practice that is the true secrete. Well that
and getting most of the college metals teachers down off of their
high horse. Not all of them mind you but most of them. And they
need to tell these kids about deadlines, how hard it is to find a
job, and what the Christmass season really meanes to a jeweler
(no sleep)!! I was taught that there would be jobs just waiting
for me when I got out. I love my trade do not get me wrong but
there needs to be a reality check with those teaching this
profession in the schools. RED

where did you go to school? This message sent using the
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I also had a (negative) college jewelry class experience during
my early jewelry training. The most valuable part of my learning
came from mentors, just asking questions to find solutions to the
problems that I was trying to solve. I also worked in several
places with talented jewelers- in one situation whitemetal
modelmakers- whose level of craftsmanship set an example for me.

One of the best things that can happen to a student is getting
exposure to several teachers, mentors or instructors with
different approaches to jewelry. This is unusual in the college
situation unless a student transfers- (usually from cost
constraints as much as ego)- but is what frequently happens
within the industry.

A 40 year old friend is back in school for history in Boston,
and since he has been interested in working with me in my studio,
I suggested that he take the introductory jewelry course at Mass
Art. The instructor is very good, open-minded about materials and
approaches- and certainly broadened my friend’s view of jewelry
in a few months. I hope he will still be content finishing rings
and charms.

This forum is wonderful place to learn and teach about jewelry.

Rick Hamilton
Richard D. Hamilton, Jr

Hi, I’m an apprentice in Australia.

I do a trade course at the moment and I feel that it has to be one of the
best teaching facilities in the world. All tools are supplied and the
College has just about any kind of equipment that you could possibly think

The course has tree main areas:
*Drawing and written work
*Workshop skills
*Computer Design

The first 2 years in the workshop concentrate on different techniques that
are used in different areas of Jewellery manufacture ( hand made and mass
produced) and in the third year we have to make 3 malor works done with
certain criteria ie: must be a brooch pendant with 2 different types of
setting and must have open and closed gallery or underrailing and also must
have a working catch and hinge.

With these projects we can make anything we wish as long as it is within
the sepcified criteria.

We have some of the best Jewellers in Australia (and the world) teaching us
any technique we wish to learn, including a jeweller who has won 4
Internation Design awards and numerous Australian design awards.

Thanks to them and my other teachers I have started winning awards myself.
Here they teach design, we always have to make the design functional. They
blend Art with functionality.

Ray :slight_smile:

I couldn’t agree with you more. When I was in school we never even worked
in gold (it was $800/oz- am I dating myself?) or learned to set faceted
stones. I came out with a BFA in jewelry design and couldn’t even repair a
chain or size a ring. I was in for a rude awakening when I got a job at a
fine jewelry store! I was really blessed that the master goldsmith there
had the patience to apprentice this little know-it-all college graduate!
Also I do alot of art shows and the school didn’t have any business
classes. I had to go to night school to take accounting. I went to the
Rosen Group’s “Buisness of Crafts” 3 day workshop in Baltomore last year
which honed my sales and marketing skills. I spoke with one of my former
professors and told him some of the problems I was having in the “real
world” as a result of lack of practical training in college.
The closest jewelry trade school to us, Bowman’s in PA closed down and
there isn’t anywhere around here (Tidewater, VA) for young people to learn
the trade. I take apprentices and mentor students because I want to give
back what was given to me, but I can only handle one at a time.

Wendy Newman

Wow! I thought I was the only one who thought school instruction courses
needed improvement. I’ve been taking courses at Fashion Institute of
Technology in New York City for two years now, and I must admit, although I
have learned quite a bit in the studio, the best learning I’ve done is on
my own, from my own mistakes. I’ve witnessed several students walking into
a class and slumping down in their seats, with a “here I am, show me the
secrets.” attitude. The timeline we are often given to complete projects,
has been often called “unrealistic” I often counter with the statement “
Show me a customer with a realistic sense of time.” - the answer: there are
none. Most that I’ve dealt with, don’t fully understand what goes into the
individual piece, or why those little azures on the back of a platinum and
diamond piece take so long to cut. 98% of students aren’t forced to turn
their work in on time, either. Oh, sure. There is a deadline, but for some
reason they all think " o.k. the deadline means when I have to start." I am
a fanatic, I’m sure you could ask any one of my fellow classmates and they
would tell you the same. But I feel that a professional business sense
starts in the classroom, as well as teachers showing up on time for their
classes, maybe the students would too. Sorry for the “lecture” TimGoodwin

where did you go to school? This message sent using the
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Detroit, Michigan. It was known as Society of Arts & Crafts.
And there still clueless.

Jim @Zimmerman

Hi Ray,

 Jim Zimmerman here.  It's nice to here that Australia has it's

act together. Think its true of other British Common Wealth
Nations also. I know that George Brown College here in Canada
is more closely related to the jewellery industrie. They have
prodce designers that have won some pretty impressive
competitions on a world wide basis while they were still
students. As has aready been said the schools in Germany,
Finland, Sweden, Italy, etc., etc… work very closely with the
industry supply them with a highly polished student/grad.
Everyone except the the U.S.A. who as far as I can tell follow
the example of the the architects and the Bauhaus (Modern
Archtecture.) This collective madness of the compound artist
leaked into modern art, modern dance, modern jewellery.
Unfortunately they also introduce new theories like starting
from zero, which resulted with a new or different type of
teaching of subjects like jewellery. This displace a older way
of teaching that happened to work a lot better. Being more
structured in form, similar to what your doing in Australia. So
there is a mess that needs straightening in the U.S.A., and not
just in Detroit from the other letters. Have fun learning in a
good school Ray.


I was taught that there would be jobs just waiting
for me when I got out. I love my trade do not get me wrong but
there needs to be a reality check with those teaching this
profession in the schools.


University instructors were either unable to find employment or
were unwilling to work the long hours necessary to make a living
and the uncertain paycheck in the vocation they are teaching.
In addition, instructors have a steady paycheck which allows them
to create the jewelry they want and not the jewelry someone
actually would purchase. Of course, someone needs to teach and
some teachers have become master teachers and are invaluable to
any educational setting, but for the most part, they didn’t want
to work in a “real world” setting.

just a thought

Some thoughts on this discussion about jewellery and art. It
comes around repeatedly and sure gets people all fired up. It’s
the same debate as art versus craft, or ideas versus techniques.
What’s the argument? We need both, a balance.

We’ve all seen examples of jewellery at the extreme ends of the
spectrum: perfectly set diamonds in perfectly polished gold
without a hint of originality or creative thought and it leaves
you thinking, why bother? Or on the other extreme, jewellery so
wildly conceptual and brilliant that there is no respect for or
knowledge of the materials. Ideally the maker has mastered both
the materials and the process of creativity, with both facets
being used appropriately.

Perhaps that’s the keyword here: appropriate. Looking at that
piece with the diamonds and gold, ask yourself if all those
diamonds are appropriate to the concept of the work, is there a
balance between the idea and the material. Looking at that
prickly conceptual bracelet made from barbed wire, ask yourself
if the rusty steel is appropriate to the concept, or if the
concept is strong enough to use such unusual materials.

Goss Design Studio

Heaven forbid there should be people who teach because they love
the act of teaching. Just a thought. Steve Brixner

On 26-Apr-97, Vance McSwain wrote aboutRE: Jewelry and art:

VM> University instructors were either unable to find employment or
VM> were unwilling to work the long hours necessary to make a living
VM> and the uncertain paycheck in the vocation they are teaching.

G’day; I spent 27 years at a University in a technical
capacity, and we used to have a saying:

“Those who CAN; do. Those who CAN’T; teach. Those who CAN’T
TEACH become University lecturers.”

       / /    John Burgess, 
      / /
     / //\    @John_Burgess2
    / / \ \
   / (___) \

Since some feel that there is a difference between Jewelers and
Metalsmiths . . .can I ask where on draws the line?? (Me? I have
made jewelry for years, but consider myself a metal smith (Not a
jeweler) because most jewelers repeat designs . . .be it via
casting or punch. My designs are “one of a kind” as are my
pieces. I work from sheet and/or wire. I try not to use any
"mass manufactured" items, although it’s tough to stay away from
that when dealing with neck pieces. Too many, do not understand
nor appreciate the “hand made” chain . … so I have to lower the

G’day; I spent 27 years at a University in a technical
capacity, and we used to have a saying:
“Those who CAN; do. Those who CAN’T; teach. Those who CAN’T
TEACH become University lecturers.”
/ / John Burgess,

Hi John, luckily thare are those of us who totally disagree with
your statement, i agree there are plenty of assholes out there
pulling down full time jobs with perks and behaving like shits
(ooh I’m irate tonight) but:

there are plenty of good teachers and committed metalsmiths as
well who try to do the best for their students and to make things
better. As a Universtity lecturer (and still as
sessional/adjunct-currently dept head (again) and full time load
with half the pay and no benefits compared with my incompetent
full time colleagues)

It is possible to be an educator with ethics and a good work
ethic and care about your students and make a difference. (not
sure however about getting rewarded by systems and
insitutions-that part seems a distant dream)

and again, there are good people teaching and trying their
best-it is not all waste and stupidity.


Brain Press
Box 1624, Ste M, Calgary, Alberta, T2P 2L7, Canada
Tel: 403-263-3955 Fax: 403-283-9053 Email: @Charles_Lewton-Brain

Metals info download web site:
Product descriptions:
Links list hosted at the Metal Web News:

< Heaven forbid there should be people who teach because they love
< the act of teaching. Just a thought. Steve Brixner

We are not aginst teachers. If you had read the thread recently
you would understand that it is the content of what it being
taught that we have a problem with. It is wonderful if an
educator loves their job, but if they are teaching outdated or
inacurate they are doing their students a disservice.
The industry is also held back from it’s potential progress if
it’s new members have to be retrained as they enter the job
market. I have worked at one large company that refused to hire
anyone with jewelry experience only from a school. They gladly
hired experienced professionals who had actual work time under
their belts. The reason was the school trained person had to
essentially relearn everything and had a skull full of useless
info to start with. Once again I think teachers are great. Some
of them need to work in the field once in a while to get some
perspective though. RED

As a retired teacher, I must comment on the current “Do’er vs
Teacher” controversy. I suffered thru 34 years of degrading
comments about not being able to do well what I teach.

At one time I took a series of courses at a community college.
The instructors were all industry trained people. They were
skillful and knowledgable. The only problem was that they
couldn’t teach, they could only “show and tell”. Once they knew
I was a teacher, they relied on my expertise as to how to get
across a lesson, break it down into digestible bites and motivate
the students to receive the info. It became a productive
situation for all of us. I think any “school” should have a
combination of both types of instructors. There are plenty of
skills required for each!

I agree with the fact that all schools should empasize the
teaching of hands on skills. It is hard to design without being
aware of the problems that are created for the craftsman. There
again, a combination of design concepts and bench skills is

A last thought is that most certification bureaucracies should
be eliminated and the licensing process be totally given to the
practitioners. I had to renew my teaching certifificate every 5
years at a significant cost in time and money. The licensing
commission was almost entirely made up of non teachers! I see a
parallel here to trade associations.

Bob B

Well here’s my two cents, First I have a question. Is this
discussion directed at College training, or Trade school? From
the threads I’ve read it seems to be about Art Schools. As a
student in what I think is one of the best Metals and Jewelry
Programs in the country I believe I have an informed
perspective. Most of my fellow students plan on doing one of a
kind gallery work or limited production. I have never met a
college student whose goal it was to do bench work or production
work, nor have I seen an art school that had courses about such
things. It is no surprise to me that students coming from such
a school are not qualified to be goldsmiths. But thats not why
we go to college, if I wanted strictly technique and skill based
training I would take a one or two year trade school course in
europe, or apprentice with a master. I wanted a college
education. I had no background in art when I came to college
and after changing majors a few times settled on art, so I
transferred to a real Metals program. Here I was forced to
think in a new way, this has been the most challenging and
rewarding experience I’ve ever had. By the way, I’m 32 and have
had several careers, but I wanted something more, I wanted to be
challenged mentally, to expose myself to new ideas. I get bored
easily, but I never grow tired of designing and making jewelry
at my bench. I hope to make one of a kind gallery work and
perhaps teach. All of the work I am making now came from an
assignment given a year and a half ago: To make a piece based on
a poem. Now that might sound a little strange, but it made me
think of designing from a totally different perspective. The
poem is about being self centered. My work consists of simple
geometric forms, that are mechanical and are “Self Centering”.
I use tubing, springs, sheet, tube set diamonds, plique a jour
enamel, and some cast elements, all in silver and gold. Being
mechanical these pieces are made with close tolerances(±1/10 of
mm is what I shoot for). The focus at Umass Dartmouth is on
theory and concept, not so much on technical skills(which I
happen to have). This also the focus of most of the schools I
have encountered.

Ed Colbeth
Student, Metalsmith,

Glad to hear that the jewelry program at U Mass Dartmouth is as
interesting as the Mass Art program (a friend is currently
enrolled in the jewelry class at my suggestion and is having a
great time). I’m a goldsmith over on the Vineyard- there are
four of us in the studio including an enamelist. I’d be happy to
look at your work some time and see if I can suggest some
galleries, suppliers, and whatever.

The discussion involved art oriented schools v s technical based
training- and clearly someone with good hand-eye co-ordination
and tool using skills can make jewelry- usually well- often
better than someone whose orientation is artistic, but who lacks
technical training. The artistic person probably has a more
intuitive grasp of design, however. The people who have both to a
high degree are the “masters”.

My experience with an art jewelry class was disappointing to say
the least- my experience with people within the field was much
more educational. I owe several people a debt of gratitude for
helping me- I repay that debt by mentoring.

I’ve had a number of clients who have challenged my creative and
technical skills, but more that don’t present a challenge at all.

BTY- Myron Tobak in NYC probably has the best selection of
tubing in precious metals that I know of. Lg diameters, coiled
tubing, cable tubing.

Rick Hamilton
Richard D. Hamilton, Jr

I am takeing a jewlery class at a community collage, and it is
wonderful. I spent two years teching myself what I could, but
thought it would be a good idea to learn the orthadox methodes.
It sounds like I was very fortunate to get a teacher who also
works part time doing jewlery repair, and has a sence of the
realy world. The school only offers one jewelry class, but you
can take it over and over agine, and explore as many techniques
as you want. My instructor may not know everything but she
shares what she knows and is helpful and encuraging to all types
of students wether they are hobbists, artist, metal smiths or
whatever. Im sure an aprentiship or more schooling would be
nessasry if I decide to make a caree of this, but this class has
realy helped me to develope crafsmanship, and many techniques.
It is also wonderful to have acces to a well equipt studio. So
if anyone out there lives in or around Lake County, Ohio I
highly recomend the the jewelry class at Lakland Comunity


Ed, I am someone who has been where you are. Your professors
are trying to brainwash you into thinking you’ll never have to
"lower yourself" to doing any repair work and make anything
other than what you design.

I came out of school thinking just like you are now, and I was

in for a real shock. Ed, galleries are interested in one thing.
Making money. No matter how much they like your work, they
might even carry it in an exhibit, they won’t buy it wholesale
unless their customers will eat it up. Unfortunatly, most
customers don’t have the good taste that we had learned to be
accustomed to in art school.

When I got out of school, I had to support myself.  I chose to

get a job in a jewelry store as a goldsmith’s apprentice, as
well as develop my own designs. Later in life I had to support
an infant on my own and got a job as an apprentice sheet metal
mechanic (I left a 1st class mechanic). I will never regret the
experience I got in those two areas. Today I do major art and
fine craft shows and some galleries. My first love will always
be my one of a kind pieces, but I also have a production line
which is affordable and pays the bills.

Good luck to you!  I suggest you take as many business classes

as your scedule will allow and talk to people like me who have
been out here in the real world (giggle). By the way, I make a
pretty good living now, have a name for myself and would rather
make jewelry than almost anything else. Wendy Newman