Last summer, I contacted the instructor of the Art Metals class at a
local college about signing up for the beginning metals class,
explaining CLEARLY that my goals for the class were to get used to
using a torch again, relearn soldering, and to learn to set stones,
use rivets, and a couple of other things I’d never done before. She
gave me the ok to do this. Since then, I have discovered the
following about this class:
there are only two torch stations in the entire lab, for about a
dozen students PER CLASS (there are three classes).
For those power tools that they do have, half of them have some
problem and we’ve been warned not to use them.
We’ve spent almost 2 weeks “designing” a totally useless object
out of 3 - 2" pieces of base metal (and/or plexiglass). We’ve been
told this object is SUPPOSED to be useless, abstract, and is only
allowed to be perfectly flat. I’ve spent 2 weeks cutting shapes out
of construction paper for an object I’ve been told is going to be
useless (and, apparently, is also supposed to be ugly). Yes, I have a
problem with this.
The only “free lab hours” scheduled are for times I can’t be
There’s a kid in this class who announces loudly to all and
sundry at least two or three times a class period that she’s a
"Design Major", and therefore presumably above the cut of the common
kine (such as myself, a middle-aged fat woman with “no vision”).
This girl makes a point each and every class of coming up to me,
sneering at my work, then cutting me dead. I made the remark that I
was having trouble with the idea of designing a totally useless
object, since I’m more used to making things to be used - a cup, a
bowl, a piece of jewelry, any of that I could work with pretty
easily. A 2" square abstract in metal is not up my alley. She then
informed me that DESIGN is part of making jewelry, too, and that this
class is “all about design”. Oddly enough, that’s not what it says in
the course description. Then she cut me off again. I’d love to ignore
her, but that’s tough to do when she comes up and takes things off my
table. She took a piece of red plexiglass I was considering working
with, and I just let her have it rather than spend one second more
talking to her than was absolutely required. Apparently, since I
know how to use a jeweler’s saw and she doesn’t, that gives her the
right to take what she needs from me because it’ll only take me a
minute or two to cut out another piece. Yes that’s a rant, and I
digress. Back to the point.
In addition, I hit a deer last night and pending finding out whether
or not the car is totalled (or how much its going to cost me to
repair it if its fixable) I could really use the money for more
practical matters. This also caused me to miss a critical class
today. I have until Friday to drop this class and still get 90% of
my money back, so I guess that’s what I’m going to have to do. BTW,
it cost me about $500 to sign up for this class, and I only make
about $400 a month at my part time job.
What I WANTED from this class was lots of hands-on fabrication
practice. I wanted refreshers in casting, shaping, using the torch,
soldering, making bezels, setting cabochons, etc. I wanted to learn
to do things I’d never done before, such as setting cut stones,
making bowls/cups/ what have you by raising them out of flat metal
with a hammer, using a drill (which it turns out they don’t have
anyway, just a drill PRESS). I expected to spend the vast majority
of each and every class period in fabrication, hands-on. Obviously
this is not to be. They just plain don’t have enough equipment for
that to happen (isn’t it weird that the dinky little $80 class I
took through an art society 15 years ago was better equipped than a
full-fledged art department metals lab?) So I don’t see any point in
trying it again.
But where CAN I get this kind of hands-on training? I haven’t been
able to identify any other venues locally.
If I have to do this totally on my own - and I guess I can manage to
relearn the things I once knew how to do - has anyone else out there
managed to teach themselves things like stone-setting, smithing
techniques, etc. - and how did you do it?
I’m pretty down. I was really excited to be gearing up to get
started working in silver again. And despite the implications of Ms.
“Design Major”, I sold every single piece I ever made when I WAS
working. At times I had offers on them before they’d even cooled
down from the torch. I had offers on my STUDENT pieces - the very
first things I’d ever made - which I didn’t accept because they had
obvious solder joints or other flaws, and I don’t sell stuff like
that, even if somebody’s willing to pay me. I don’t make repetitive
pieces (or didn’t) so whatever a teen-age artiste may think, I’m not
concerned about my ability to design jewelry. I was, however, very
much looking forward to refreshing my fabrication skills, and it
looks like that’s not going to happen now, at least not in any sort
of a guided way.
So any advice or encouragement anyone can give me would be really