Jewelry program or advice on education

Hello, I’m very new to the art of jewelry. But my interest has grown
very fast the past couple months. I went to school in my town -
Metalwerx and took online program on Jewelry Design and Repair in
Penn Foster college. But now i’m looking for a more deep and
professional education in the sphere, something very technical and
at the same time artistic. I just moved to Boston MA area (Waltham
town) from NYC so i don’t really know much here. If anybody can give
me advice on what step to take next or recommend a college or smth I
would greatly appreciate it!

Thank you

If you can find a job in the field you may very well learn much
quicker and on a more professional level. And get paid for the
experience. Very few workshops require formal education. Some even
scoff at it. The best advice I ever heard was to get a job in a
custom or production shop for a year or so and then move on to
another shop for another year or so and see what you can learn there.

Not all jobs are the same. Some retail situations you might never
get any real creative design experience. Some are just drudgery and
toil. But others can be wonderful. Good luck finding the right one.

But the remarkable thing to me is how few people seem to be looking
for on-the-job training. A few years back there was a growing jewelry
manufacturer in Buffalo that wanted to hire something like 15
craftsmen. They only had one application wih any experience and that
was a polisher. About the same time I sent out notices that I was
hiring to 4 colleges with jewelry programs in Western NY State and
had no response at all.

Right now I have 2 full time apprentices, both in their 20s, who
have been with me for 3 years. I think are better trained than the
average from a 4 year art school. I also took an intern from an art
school for the summer and have another working part time while she is
enrolled in art school. The summer intern worked out very well, but
what I find really awful is that only one other student from her
fairly large program had an internship. Both student interns seem to
have found their positions on their own, rather than being part of
educational culture that expects this sort of experience. My summer
intern had been asking me for an apprenticeship since she was in high

So my advice to Tamara is get a job. But my advice to a jeweler who
needs help is to hire someone like her. The people I have hired who
were just looking for a job didn’t work out nearly as well as those
who were looking for an opportunity to learn the craft. Very much
more motivated.

Stephen Walker

Andover, NY

Hi, everyone! I’ve been lurking for a week or so and thought I’d
come out of the shadows to ask for some advice.

I’m an aspiring jewelry artist/designer. I recently graduated with my
As sociates of Fine Arts and had planned to go on for my BFA, but
I’ve been having issues with finding the right school. Right now, I
trying to figure out what is the best way to go about trying to
become a jeweler/jewelry designer as it seems there are quite a few
ways of doing so. The schools I’m currently stuck between are:
Savannah College of Art and Design for my BFA or taking workshops at
William Holland School of Lapidary Arts.

So what do people think is the best way to do this: getting a degree
in Jewelry/Metals, taking workshops, or something else entirely? I
really appreciate any and all advice people could give me as I’m
getting rather frustrated and confused.


Just my 2 cents.

I’ve worked in a very diverse number of industries over the past 35
years or so, I spent a lot of time in school but I also spent a lot
of time working out in the field. Based on my experience, you’ll
learn a lot more doing hands on grunt work than you will in a class
room. After 15+ years of experience going back to school for an MBA
was a cakewalk. If you can do the technical, hands-on stuff while
you’re doing the academic: fantastic!! However, if you’ve got to
choose one over the other, I’d go for the hands-on learning first. A
textbook can’t compete with real world experience.

I hope this helps. Good luck!!!

Hi Laura,

My advice is always to look at the work of the people with whom you
could study and see if it’s in a style or utilizes techniques that
you want to learn.

Having a degree in jewelry or metals is only necessary for teaching
in a college or university system, but with jewelry and metalsmithing
programs facing budget cuts all over the country, those types of
jobs are becoming becoming quite scarce.

Being fairly geographically close to both schools I can tell you that
SCAD’s program places more emphasis on designing, and William
Holland’s classes are more technique/project oriented. If you’re in
GA, also check out Kennessaw University’s program, and the workshops
at John C. Campbell Folkschool (just over the state line in NC),
Georgia Goldsmiths Group, and Spruill Center for the Arts.

Victoria (in Atlanta, where the humidity is always even higher than
the temperature)

Victoria Lansford

Savannah College of Art and Design for my BFA or taking workshops
at William Holland School of Lapidary Arts. 

or both.

So what do people think is the best way to do this: getting a
degree in Jewelry/Metals, taking workshops, or something else

I’ve never met anyone in the Jewelry Industry who cared about a BFA.
If you want to be a bench jeweler, don’t get a BFA, go to Revere
Academy and get their diploma.

If you want to be a designer, then sure, go to Savanah and learn to
render and design.

If you want to be an independent studio professional, get good
skills the fastest, most efficient way possible and get to work.

Maybe you still want to finish your undergraduate degree, but it
doesn’t need to be a BFA, you could go anywhere, finish a BA.


P.S. I have lots more on this on my blog, see Education

Hi Laura,

This is a very poor time in our economy to get a college degree in
hopes of finding a job or creating a career. It would be even worse
to go into debt for it.

I would say that if you are already a natural at metal-working or
some other process, classes will not do much more for you.

For the same price as the final two years of a BFA, you can outfit
yourself with a first class jewelry fabrication shop.

Use the equipment, read books, teach yourself, and get advice from
your colleagues. Attend workshops, but attend sparingly. Let the
customer tell you what’s good and bad, not a professor.

Nothing teaches a person more than experimentation and experience.

Luck to you,
Andrew Jonathan Fine

Hi Richard,

you'll learn a lot more doing hands on grunt work than you will in
a class room. 

Got to agree with you, but I will add a little.

Hands on work will get you far, but you need to know where to go.

So I would suggest that books be read first, or in conjunction with
the practical experience.

If you want to learn insider secrets and fine tune your skills, a
course or two doesn’t hurt.

Regards Charles A.

William Holland is terrific. They have classes that cover everything
at all levels. I learn more there In one week than I do in twenty
weeks at any class in Atlanta. B

Barbara Bear

Hi Tamara,

An academic jewelry / metals education is an excellent choice.

Going to work at the bench in a trade environment is also an
excellent choice.

One does not exclude the other. Each choice offers something
different. The academic route holds the promise of self expression,
non traditional technologies and a view of jewelry and metalwork that
is not necessarily tied to functionality. While this education can
push the envelope in many ways, it is often not the best of technical
educations. It is a different animal, to be sure.

The trade or traditional route where you might work at the bench
alongside other smiths holds the potential for achieving technical
excellence (as does the academic path although, in my opinion, to a
lesser extent). It will teach you to be quick and efficient. It
offers higher odds of employment and some sort of financial benefit.
It is a great way to gain and then hone your skills. You will learn
the ins and outs of the (most likely) jewelry world and the way that
wearable ornament is viewed by the general public. For some, it can
be a stressful environment and stifling to broader creative goals.

Workshops are a great way to tune up and expand your creative,
conceptual and technical education but they may most effectively
serve as an adjunct to the academy and the trade.

I think that an academic education is wonderful in that it can
expand the range of possibilities far beyond that of most trade
situations. It can be creatively gratifying and can help expand the
horizons and build a sensibility that can, in fact, be brought to a
more traditionally based practice such as studio goldsmithing and
help set you apart…

In a perfect world, my advice to someone staring out would be to
spend some time building a solid technical foundation. Working in the
trade or through technically based schools is a good way to access
that knowledge. That experience can also be found working in a
smaller artisan or goldsmith’s studio. Then one can decide which path
to take. I can say that, in my opinion, the only way to successfully
express yourself in this field is though a fluent technical

Personally, I discovered jewelry and metalsmithing in an academic
setting. But my teacher always encouraged us to look to the people
that are making a living at this for a technical education. I took
that to heart and gained proficiency (at least some level) at the
bench, working in jewelry stores and trade shops. But I always knew
that that setting was not where I wanted to end up. Without that
education, however, I could never have explored my ideas

Take care, Andy Cooperman

Hi Guys,

Sorry I forgot that the American unemployment rate is about 10%.

If further education is too expensive, then borrow books, and learn
by doing.

The one problem with learning by yourself is that you can miss a
lot, and have to re-invent the wheel.

You’re in Orchid at the moment, join a few Yahoo! groups, and see if
you can get a couple of locals to workshop with you.

Kindest regards Charles A.

For the same price as the final two years of a BFA, you can outfit
yourself with a first class jewelry fabrication shop. 

Uh, actually, if she’s considering private school, that’d be one
heck of a jewelry shop, or two or three!

Nothing teaches a person more than experimentation and experience. 

On the other hand, one does need a degree to get nearly any job.
Heaven forfend she meets any roadblocks in her jewelry career and
wishes she had her degree to give her more employment options. It’s
harder to go back to school later.

So I’d say those are two separate things – how to get training for
the jewelry career and whether to finish college.


Education vs* trade* vs hands-on which is the better choice? All
of these are good choices and it seems right now it might take doing
them all. Over my thirty five years in the jewelry business, I have a
degree M.ED./concentration on Jewelry, GIA training, trade shop
worker in the jewelry industry, attending metalsmith guild workshops,
and now I own a gallery where I represent 13 metalsmith artist. I
wear many hats: repair business, custom, teaching, gallery walks and
it takes all my experience and more learning daily. Making living in
the art or jewelry industry is not easy…but I still love every day
I am blessed with the opportunity.

Hi Sheridan,

*Education* vs* trade* vs *hands-on* which is the better choice? 

I think it’s a matter of what’s available to you.

Trade is unavailable to me, because I’m simply too old for
consideration. Hands on, and book learning was the only option for me
up until recently, and with some of the things I do hands on and book
learning “is” the only thing available to me. Education is only
available to those accepted, not everyone can get in.

Basically whatever works and gets you producing jewellery is a good

Regards Charles A.

Andy makes perfect sense.

An academic setting will have more opportunities for creative
expression, but may not relate very well to the real world of making
and selling a product. Where the academic program seeks to develop a
design “vocabulary”, I’ve found that many coming out of that setting
don’t have the efficiency and speed needed to actually produce work
in a time frame conducive to making a living with it. Not to say that
all creative work needs to be accomplished quickly, but a
consideration of just how much time will go into a piece of jewelry,
relative to the selling price is vital.

I’ve spent many years in the commercial jewelry trade, but began in
a university program. The university program I first worked in, I
found anemic, and the hours behind the jeweler’s bench in later years
doing repairs and custom work were often brutal. I spent huge amounts
of time in my garage studio just making work I enjoyed. In the early
80’s, I was working so hard at my workbench in the Jeweler’s Exchange
Bldg., that my hands required a full weekend to recover from the
beating they took at the workbench during the week.

All types of education in the jewelry trade are valuable, whether it
be in an accredited program, apprenticing at a manufacturing jewelry
store, or taking workshops from jewelry artists.

In our studio we try to offer a lot of technical expertise, as well
as creative experimentation. We try to bring in a wide variety of
artists to teach workshops, like Andy, to further expand our
students’ creative experience. Artists like Andy Cooperman should
really be a role model for aspiring jewelers. He has spent lots of
time in the academic setting, commercial venues, and has just worked
a lot in his own studio, experimenting. He has found his “voice” in
his work. He has a recognized style, excellent craftsmanship, makes
extremely salable pieces, and is a sought-after instructor.

Do you want to know how he designed a particular piece of his, and
what steps he went through to make it? Just ask him, he’ll tell you
everything, in detail. It’s unbelievably valuable from a
guy who’s been there, done that.

Jay Whaley


On the other hand, one does need a degree to get nearly any job.
Heaven forfend she meets any roadblocks in her jewelry career and
wishes she had her degree to give her more employment options.
It's harder to go back to school later. 

Were that to be true, I would have a job now, as I have degrees in
both electrical engineering and computer science, with 15 years of
work experience intersecting both fields.

I could build anything, but does anyone want to hire me for any job?

What the young lady needs more than degrees, and more than
experience, are people in high places who know her and would be
willing to give her b a job.

Seems now that the most important professional skill required to
obtain or keep a job is anything but a productive one, but alas seems
so necessary: she needs to develop a list of names in high places
willing to endorse her.

Nothing else matters. And that’s detestable.

Andrew Jonathan Fine

This is excellent advice Jerry, and Andy has been the voice of
reason for many of us.

I remember years ago when the governing body of the equestrian
sports brought up the brilliant idea of certification and licensing.
(By the way it ended up being a 25+ year ‘discussion’ which ended up
splitting up the National and International Boards but that’s another

There was a period of time, when we had many international coaches
and trainers in this country, many of whom did not have a clear grasp
of the language but they could produce top international horses that
were Olympic caliber down to the family sport horse on the show
circuit. Time and time again they were available for workshops, or
clinics, or apprentice programs.

The work was endless, hard, and quickly weeded out the people who
were looking for quick results.

The single most important thing I took away from these programs was
a good work ethic. With this, you could pursue many careers.

Talking to some of the top trainers and coaches, the response was
all the same. " You can go to school to become certified and
licensed, but who will teach you what you need to know about the path
and journey there?"

In our arena, as in my equestrian one, education and learning the
steps along the way to creating, whether it’s with metals, gems, or
horses, is crucial. Workshops are critical to stay current in your
career. Clearly education is important, but for those of us who may
not be in a position to go to a four year school, internships,
apprenticeships, and books and just plain ‘working it out’, go hand
and hand with whatever success you have.

One thing that sticks in my mind was a statement from Capt. Nadasy,
and I have passed it on to the hundreds of students I’ve taught over
the years:

"Never forget how to use a broom."

I’ve been following this discussion intently because I find myself
at a similar crossroads. I have a degree in business and 10 years of
working in high tech. I lost my job last year and I decided to take
my apparently strong talent for metalsmithing a little more
seriously. I have taken some workshops and a Metals 1 course here at
the Oregon College of Arts & Crafts but I feel like I’m missing some
key technical points. So my question is, do I look for someone to
apprentice with or do I look at a degree program. I have/had a small
studio setup at home where I can work however I’m moving states and
that will be packed away for quite some time. That rules out taking
on projects out of a book. I agree with the comment that going it
alone means a lot of frustration in re-inventing the wheel on

Thoughts? Anyone on list located in or around Boise? If so, I’d love
to connect since that is where I’m landing for the next year.

Desiderata Designs


When I attended college for metals, making work or production work
to launch into the real world was frowned upon. When certain students
became successful, they were invited back to school as folks who had
"made it." At past SNAG conferences, students wanting to be heard
about how to work and make an income created heated debates. You are
absolutely correct about Andy (sorry Andy to talk about you in the
third person), but I have been incredibly inspired by Andy’s teaching
and not realized what he was doing until many years later.

Academia gave me something that a structured bench jewelry program
could not. Did it make me a better artist? No. However, learning the
vocabulary of art allowed me to ask better questions. I wouldn’t have
known about the word metaphor or even understood its potent
implications in objectifying the world of 3D. Conversely, I am
realizing more and more, that I need a solid foundation in bench
jewelry practices. These hands are ready and motivated but even with
that, there is a third and missing component. As much as I want to
make good money from what I create or teach, I am not a business
expert, nor do I possess an MBA.

Thankfully this part of the puzzle is available to me now and every
person who wants to make a living at what they do should understand
the basics of business, otherwise, give your work away and don’t

Andy you are a superb, generous and gifted teacher. You bridge the
worlds of metaphor and commerce and create excellent art. The major
concern I have is the audience who sees and understands the art and
how we keep developing the movement to ring the cash register.

I am beholden to people like Jay and Andy and many others, who teach
with passion and enthusiasm with a foundation of superb knowledge and
the generous gift of passing on what they know to others.

Karen Christians

Hi Rebecca,

Thoughts? Anyone on list located in or around Boise? 

go here Jewellery Career Options - Ganoksin Jewelry Making Community

and define what part seem to fit you, and then that is the starting
point. Nex t is to define what your day is like 5 years from now,
write it down, and know that that whatever you write is three times
smaller than you should. Write that three times larger goal (and
writing it down seems to make it happen).

Anyway, first step is to define what your day is like (some need a
swimming pool some don’t need a car) and what your needs are.

Then you backtrack to make decisions that will fill your needs. Each
decision comes with responisibilities. There is no compromise