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[Minneapolis] Jewelry Education


Dear All,

I’m sorry to let everyone know that the Jewelery program here in
Minneapolis has been red flagged. This means that with the latest
decline in enrollment we are facing closure in two years if thing
don’t turn around.I believe we are one of the last true jewelry trade
programs left. We are not an academic metalsmithing program. We have
always been a jewelry industry training program. Our program has a one
year Repair or Manufacturing Certificate, a Deploma after one and a
half years and a two year Associates Degree. Our motto has always been
"Education for Employment".

If some of you don’t know what are school is and has been, let me
explain. Our Minneapolis College (formerly Tech Institute) has had a
metals program since the early 1930’s. In 1955 F.Jules Reed (a fine
silversmith in the old word definition) took over. Seeing that type of
occupation on the decline, he switched the program over into jewelry
manufacturing. He became an administrator and in 1968 Ray Grobe our
areas master platinumsmith / special order jeweler began teaching. Ray
taught from 1968 through 1981, when he retired and went into private
business. Gordon Washura (a student of Rays) taught from 1981 to 1985
and developed the repair focus of the program. I started in 1985 and
brought in my manufacturing background.

We were all hired for our industry background, contacts and
experience. I fear because we are not high tech and academic enough
the college is phasing us out.

Some of the problems we are currently facing aRe:

  1. A good economy. Not as many people attend career based programs
    when there are lots of jobs out there.

  2. Our industry has had an exodus of manufacturing jobs. This has
    kept our wages fairly low.

  3. A longer apprenticeship and learning curve with wages that creep
    slowly upward, but peak at about $17.00 / hour.

  4. College entrance exams that occupation goaled indivuals don’t
    want to take.

  5. An Admisions Department not very user friendly (Are any?)

  6. Younger people NOT being encouraged to become jewelers.

  7. Older students expecting to graduate and immediately become
    successful selfemployed jewelers.

  8. Education is expensive. Time off of life & work to attend,
    transportation, lodging, tuition, etc.

  9. No program budget.

  10. Faculty cut backs.

  11. Massive layers of administration

  12. No support staff.

  13. Our exposure is mainly in the State of Minnesota, not a large
    enough area.

  14. National job statistics have shown a decline in the number of
    jewelers across the country.

I could go on and on. I am aware of other concerns in jewelry
education and would welcome any suggestions. I do have a plan that may
help and I will share some of my thoughts shortly.

It’s been a hard week in Lake Wobegon.

All my best regards,
TR the Teacher & Student


Todd, I believe part of the problem lies at the lower education levels
My daughter took three years of jewelry classes at our local high
school.Due to lack of funds in the arts it was underfunded and lame
.Lack of tools and supplies.But beyond that jewelry is looked at as a
class to take to fill a credit here or there not as a profession.Now
if you need a football field or sports event those are looked at as
carrers even though nary a one will make it to the big time.I am a
jeweler full full time and when I started 25 years ago there was no
place for me to tearn to learn.I worked in jewelry supply stores and
under other jewelers for years before going out on my own.I had a
voracious desire to learn anything about the trade and I still do.I
believe the internet is a wonderful tool for learning.May be get the
school to fund a program to actually teach jewelry techniques on the
internet new technologies are easier to sell than old techniques.Get
into the High schools and spread the word that jewelry is more than a
hobby,Brian Adam stayed with us this last summer and he is traveling
all over the globe teaching people how to make a ring in an hour.That
simple, make a real silver ring in one hour.It sparks peoples interest
and creative gene at the same time.Wow me,make a ring.Kids ,Dads,
Moms.He does demonstrations in his native New Zealand.He makes a ring
in a tree trunk pouring molten metal into a carved out mold in the
wood.Lots of smoke a little fire.But very dramatic.If you were 10
years old and made a ring in a tree trunk that impression would more
than likely stay with you your whole live and maybe spark that fire it
takes to do this thing we all do. Best

J Morley
Coyote Ridge Studio



Perhaps you should teach the Jewelry Revolution. It is a fact that
the jewelry industry is embracing CAD/CAM. If a company produces 3
models per day, the system with the designer and an operator will be
paid for in 6 months. And even better, a savings of $100,000 US in
one year.

What you should be teaching is a better way of life for your
students. People don’t go to college to earn less. Today CAD
designers make a lot of money and they are very much in demand.

I suggested one time before to contact Fred Betlach, a jeweler in
Minneapolis. He does extremely well doing custom jewelry utilizing a
Sanders ModelMaker, a Laser system, a casting machine and Jewelcad.

Also there is a software product called Freeform that will allow
anyone to carve anything on the computer. No learning curve required.
Extremely useful for sculpturing. Just imagine making a mistake,
undo it and do it over again.

Here’s a quote from someone who utilizes Jewelcad and the ModelMaker.
Perhaps reading this you’ll get a sense that he or she designs by
hand. “In each piece, I have tried to create a sense of relaxation
and contentment: the feeling that one gets after working hard; the
sensation of a soft, mild breeze caressing one’s cheek; the faint
sound of falling leaves; or the sparkle of reflections of the sun on
water. My goal is to capture these moments in my work, achieving a
universal poetry that I can share with my audience. Each is really a
universe, a thought, a moment.”

Education is required for the jewelry industry, but I think you
should do it some justice and teach them how to design using Jewelcad
or whatever CAD package you choose. I’m certain if you put together
something for your staff so that enrollment would increase, your class
will thrieve.

I don’t quite understand how the jewelry industry managed to stay
away from computer generated art. The industry has to change or you
will not be able to compete.

You need to teach them.



Dear J,

I hope to have a HIgh School Jewelry Design contest held here this
spring. I have done extensive info gathering around our area here in
Minnesota and found there are about a dozen jewelry courses offered
at that level. Funding for vocational education is drying up at our
college right now. At least for the non high tech programs like
jewelry. My greatest difficulty is that we don’t fit in the
collegiate structure as an occupational training program.

Best Regards,
Todd Hawkinson

Jewelry Dept.
Minneapolis Community & Technical College


Dear Rolf & All,

I can’t agree more with what you said. I have spent the last four
years bringing CAD CAM into my own shop. Getting the funding to add
this to our program at the college is impossible. Our whole college
had a financial deficite this last year so EVERYTHING is cut back.

We am sponsoring a High School Jewelry Design Contest this Spring and
hope to generate some exposure and interest in our area by this

I am not sure if jewelry education is down just in our region or if
this is a larger trend.

What I hope to find from Orchid is some national status regarding

Best Regards,
Todd Hawkinson

Jewelry Dept.
Minneapolis Community & Technical College


Hi Todd

It is true that we (schools) are in state of changes since the last
10 years. (I would like to mention that writing in english for me is
difficult, my native, working and living language is french). Writing
with errors for a teacher is not acceptable but I should be excuse for
my english ones) I am also working in jewelry education for sixteen
years (and still practicing jewelry in a private workshop) and our
department had to completely change our jewelry program five years
ago. Fortunately, we never had enrolment problems ( we take 40
students for 2 years) but we saw them in front of employment
difficulties with a school program who do not stick to reality. As a
public school, and to make up for, the provincial education government
in cooperation with us started to work on a new program based on
jeweler’s realties. After a consultation to a group of jewelers from
every kind aroud here, they wrote (with help from jewelers and
teachers) a new program based on jeweler’s needs about students who
are coming just, as beginners, on a new job (the basis). The program
rose to 1800 hours instead of 1350 with a lot of time for repairs.
Things changed and students starts to find jobs easier. Our reputation
is going up and we think that we are also a true jewelry trade school
now, not for industry (no real industries here) but for shop workers.

I’m talkink for my parish as we say in french but: It is hard to
exchange with you within no living situation but there are questions I
was asking to me when I read your invoice. Your school is an old
institution and may be you need a renewing. Does the number of
students you want is related to the regional market? Does the market
changed in the past years? Can you become an academic school? Does your
contacts with industry are realy alive? Do you offer a kind of work
and study progression with industry? Where do your financing come
from? Does a part of the tution are payed by the government or by the
industry? Wages; anyway do not go over 17 as a shopworker, neither as
a industry one, for most. How do you do your promotion? Young peoples
are surely interested. Can you go through youth schools to talk about
our trade? In which kind of school department are you (government one
or not)? Can you work with your education system (if you are related
to)? Can you deal with another school system?

I don’t think that jewelry market is realy sick, may be a down by
laps of time. Here, where I live is one of the worst place for luxury
things in north america and students are finding jobs quite easily and
we can live with, why north center of USA cannot? Studying in jewelry
is valuable for everyone in this trade. Learning out of school is less
possible because a minimum of experience is require nowadays. We carry
the standards and the promotion for people who wants to go through
jewelry working, also for the benefit of employers who desire to
engage young jewelers who knows the right basis. Hard to realy write
what is going on with my thoughts. Good luck and I’m sure there is
someting to do. Let’s talk about it.

Vincent Guy Audette
in Quebec city