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Metalsmithing communites or starting a co-op

Hi Everyone! I am curious to know if anyone knows of any
metalsmithing communities? I am interested in joining or starting a
co-op. I have a ton of equipment, including large items like a
Bridgeport milling machine, a 6’ metal lathe, 3 enameling kilns, and
much more (I’ve been called a toolslut more than once in my life -
lol). What I don’t have is a group of other craftsman to hang out
with, share knowledge and inspiration. I’m tired of working in a
cave so to speak. I’ve managed to find a new wave of co-ops that are
part of the “maker” movement, called Hacker factories andother such
names. These tend to be more geared towards electronics and
inventions. In their case, they combine equipment, raise funds for
toolsthey don’t already have, share the cost of rent and utilities
through a monthly membership. I’m hoping that there might be
something along those lines within the metalsmithing community or
that there might be interest in starting one.

Ellen Starr


Where are you locatede I am in Sequim, WA on the Olympic Peninsula. I
have been doing bronze casting for 20+ years, my wife, Cynthia, is
the artist in out family. Another local artist has inherited a
"foundry" (at least equipment) and has asked me to help put it
together. Location of this is Vashion Island, SW of Seattle WA.
Another group, in Ferndale, CA is/has started an “artist unit” and I
may help put the foundry part together. This is a copy of a poster
they have put together. I think that you are interested in getting a
group together for jewelry but one or the other of these might be of
interest. Also a group "Sandbox" metal artists might be
able/willing to help with getting you in touch with folks interested
in something like this.

I think that any/all of these folks/groups NEED to know where you
are so that ideas can be given within the correct physical

I hope this is help. I fI can give you another further names or
phone numbers or URL’s or e?, please feel free to let me know via e
mail or phone 360.681.4240 We work out of our home so we are here
most of the tim, but our answer mating is always “on call” as

Hope this helps a bit.
john dach

Where are you located?

Best regards,

In Imbil which is 160kms North of Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.


Hi Ellen,

Where are you? I call myself a tool junkie. probably the same.

Jennifer Friedman
Ventura, CA

Hi Ellen!

I don’t exactly know where you are located, but I’m in much the same
fix, albeit with lesser, smaller equipment, and far less skill than

“Toolslut”? How rude. I would simply same that we both having
something in common, namely that we both belong to The Tony Stark
School Of Jewelry Making.

I know how big Bridgeport mills are. any lady who owns one deserves
my respect.

Please contact me offline if you are interested in collaborating.

Andrew Jonathan Fine

I am curious to know if anyone knows of any metalsmithing
communities? I am interested in joining or starting a co-op. 

The Metal Arts Guildwas founded in San Francisco by some very
illustrious people in the 50’s. It has widened it’s circles ever
since. There are sibling guilds that have sprung up from it, here and
there. And there are other organizations that are unrelated, too.
Depending on where you are, it’s a place to start. I’m sure that the
board of MAG, as it’s called, would be happy to help you get
something started, too. The Link page, not the home page:

Sound GREAT !!! I’m in East Texas, Tyler to be specific. Where are
YOU? Would truly love to find such a group in my area!!! Tom


Where are you located

Best, MA

Hi Ellen,

First question: Where are you? It matters. You’ll have much better
luck in a large, artsy sort of town than you will in a village in
middle-of-nowhere’s ville.

That said, I have various opinions on the subject. I’m probably at
least as heavily tooled as you are. Several lathes, ranging from
watchmaker’s size up to a 22x40 gap bed, bridgeport, etc.

When I moved up to the bay area a few years back, I was introduced
to maker spaces, specifically the TechShop, by a friend of mine. I
ended up teaching for them for a year. It is a symptom of some of
the organizational acumen of these sorts of places that an MFA
metalsmith with 15+ years teaching experience ended up teaching
woodshop safety. Go figure. (On the other hand, teaching woodshop
101 to a class of deaf Egyptian exchange students was one of the
high points of my teaching career. Great fun, and one hell of a
challenge.) I haven’t figured out exactly what I’m about to say, but
first let me say that I stayed around TS for as long as I did
because I genuinely enjoyed the people. Maker spaces are a great way
to find all sorts of smart, interesting folk. I walked in there the
first time and said “I’ve found my tribe!”.

Looking at it from the standpoint of someone trying to keep the gear
both (A) running and (B) running safely, it was a real challenge.
For every wonderful craftsperson, there was at least one 'special’
individual. They tended to be the PhD engineers. “I’m an engineer! I
know how this works!..” even if they didn’t really.

(That could be an artifact of being in deepest Silicon Valley, but
the type is universal.)

Most of the big tools tended to get crashed on a regular basis. I
know the bridgeports were regularly coming out of tram, and the
lathes got whacked a fair bit. In point of fact, I sold off a 10x40
class lathe before christmas to a TS refugee who was looking for a
lathe of his own just so he knew it hadn’t been crashed recently.

If you’ve got big tools, you’ve probably got a lot more money tied
up in tooling than you think. What would you do if somebody milled a
groove into your BP’s table, or drilled through the vise? All of the
mills at TS when I was there had at least that much damage on
them. It isn’t a matter of malice, but crap happens, especially with
beginners. What would you do if you went to use your favorite and it
was broken?

Equally, what would you do if somebody got hurt? That was the
ultimate reason I stopped teaching for TS: they kept dragging their
heels on finding some way to indemnify the instructors. We were all
’independent contractors’. I could just see somebody getting hurt in
the woodshop, suing TS, and having them sidestep and say “it wasn’t
us, go after the contractor”. In fact, that seemed to be
specifically what they were setting up for. So I stopped teaching,
and had my name removed from the instructional materials I’d written
for them.

That isn’t to say that I think that TS are evil, quite the contrary,
I really enjoyed the members, and the vibe. Had a great time. I just
didn’t think the risks were worth the rewards.

If you’re going to let other people play with your toys, you need to
think very hard about which toys, and what games will be played, as
well as who gets invited to the party. We’d all like to believe that
everyone will respect your tools just as much as you do, but that
isn’t always the case. Even with all the best will and respect in
the world, not everyone is as good with your gear as you are, which
means that accidents will happen. Think hard about how you’ll deal
with that, both in terms of broken gear, and broken people.

I wish I had a more cheerful answer. In many instances, it depends
on the nature of the community of makers you find, or build. Build
the right group, and most of these problems won’t ever happen. But
don’t bet the farm (or your shop) on it.

Best of luck,

Chicago, IL - and I’ve been wanting to create something like that

Ellen, Where are you located? I’m in Fairfield County CT. Anybody
near me? Mary Rose Mcquillan

There is here, in Portland, a place called Shop People. For about
$100.00 per month you get 24 hr access to wood, metals, ceramic and
sculpture tools and equipment, plus your own bench space. One of our
students belongs and loves it. She can work on her own stuff outside
of class anytime she wants. Plus she gets the companionship of fellow
artists. Have fun and make lots of jewelry.

Jo Haemer


Good post. I have never been to any of these types of “shops” but I
do bronze casting and when in Mendocino (where I lived for nearly 40
years) I did allow SOME of the artists I did castings for to use “my"
facilities. It did create problems for me. Bent bits ($30.00+++),
broken drills, problems with air tools, contaminated TIG electrodes
(bunches of them at a time), big groves in 10 " and 12” grinding
wheels, spilled, and not cleaned up, resins, mold materials, lids
left off same, and on and on. Didn’t “cost” the folks using my stuff,
just cost me when I came across the problem. Also problems could and
did occur while casting bronze, , costly. Also
contamination of the ceramic shell slurry, over $500.00 to dump and
make new, , way more actually.

I really did enjoy working with these different folks but how much
"policing time" might one have to expect to allow for in these sort
of situations? Even with a lot of oversight, problems can happen
"instantly" and can cost.

So what to doee? Great question. I am in the process of dealing with
2 different “operations” which are looking forward to having folks
come into the facilities and do “their” work. We shall see how this
goes. I have a feeling that a HUGE amount of costs of group “art"
working facilities, is used to keep things operating. Just my

Good lucy to anyone trying this sort of thing. I am not saying don’t
do it, just be aware of the potential downfalls and unforeseen
additional costs.

john dach

jewelry tool place went out of business. It wasn’t hard. We used
their customer files (with permission) to find interested people. Also
info tables at craft fairs. It is doable. Sheri

Chicago, IL - and I've been wanting to create something like that

I haven’t followed this whole thread, but in Chicago we have:

The Chicago Metal Arts Guild, a not for profit 501 c 3 that’s been
around for 10 years!

Lillstreet Art Center has a group metalsmithing studio and classes.

There’s also a new place in town called Benches on Division that has
rental benches and workshops.

So what you’re looking for may already exist.


Metalwerx in Waltham MA orginally started out as a jewelry school
with afully equpped studio that jewelry students and jewelers could
pay per hour to use the studio. It gradually evolved into a larger
school with separate workbenches that people could pay a monthly
rental fee to rent. Even with well-trained studens and benchmates (as
the people who rent the workbenches are called), the tools in the
classroom still gets beat up. We keep replacing the dapping punches
and blocks, and other tools, and the important ones are locked up. I
should know, for I teach there, and I have to deal with
broken/damaged or missing tools when I’m trying to teach. As a
result, any student has to have the permission of the instructor
before they can buy a block of hours to work in the classroom doing
open hours.

So if you are going to have a metals co-op, you need to set it up and
have contracts for each member, so that the rent gets paid, the
water/electric/heat/gas is paid monthly, and that each member is
expected to cleanup after themselves and take care of the tools/keep
things in working order. It works great when you have a great group
of people, but once you get someone who slacks off, or becomes a
liability, then that member is asked to leave. There was a metals
co-op out in the midwest that worked well, again in NH and then it
was disbanded.


Thanks Alberic for sharing your experience with TS - it’s very

To answer the question about where I am, I’m currently living about
an hour from Minneapolis MN, but am looking to relocate somewhere
warmer and with a bigger fine craft community. I made the mistake of
moving to asmaller town that really doesn’t have much to speak of
for the arts. Minneapolis itself does have a lot of art, but like
most big cities, everyoneis scattered all over. There seems to be
more 2D visual and performanceart. I did manage to find 2 "maker"
places here. One is total chaos and I would never put my equipment
there as it would definitely get damaged. The other is more like
TechShop, expensive to be a member, more controlled environment, but
geared more towards engineering - 3D printing, laser etching,
electronics, not craft/artistry - no room for individual studio
space if I want it.

I guess I’m not looking for something huge, just a small group of
people/tribe that would like to work in a joint environment.
Personally I would want some of my equipment to be off limits, like
my jewelers bench and then have an area of shared equipment. I’m
also not really looking for it to be a place where we are teaching
beginners, but are already competent at our given craft. Cross
pollination however isalways wonderful thing.

I guess maybe I’m a bit too idealistic. Even at my age I am still
amazed that people who damage or break something don’t have the
integrity to fess up, take responsibility and fix or replace it.
(ah, the joys of broken people) However, in light of that, I had
figured that some sort of a monthly membership should be geared
towards shop repairs and support. I have a 60 watt epilog laser that
just from regular use will eventually have to be recharged and that
will cost over $5000. Any business has to account for replacement,
repair and upgrade costs.

I was thinking about the area around Ashville NC. I know that there
are a bunch of really wonderful craft schools around there, like
Penland. I know there is a huge arts community, but I’m not sure if
there is anyjoint endeavors or spaces. Is anyone familiar with the

Thanks Ellen Starr

I actually am a student at Lillstreet, but it’s on the North side -
quite the schlep from here in Hyde Park!

Just come on down about an hour south of Asheville, to Greenville.
Upstate Visual Arts, Metropolitan Arts Council, The Governor’s School
of the Arts and Humanities, and many coop shops and other venues are
readily available. The Art Museum has a great Wyeth collection. Bob
Jones University has one of the best collections of religious art in
the world.

And all those great schools are nearby, as well as mining areas for
ruby, sapphire, emerald, hiddenite and other stones.

I live here so I am a bit prejudiced, but we have a fantastic
climate for the artist.