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Self taught Vs Formal training


#1

Hello To All Orchidians

I’ve been following with great interest the various threads here and
am curious to know what you folks, who are professionals, think of
learning through books and experimenting compared to formal training
where you learn from a master and obtain a degree. How much of what
you are now came from classes, seminars etc. and how much from
learning as you go and just trying things out?

I am not in a position at the moment to be able to take advantage of
classroom training and am learning all I can from books and also
from things picked up in this most excellent forum. One day I do hope
to be able to take classes…when I retire from my necessary day job.

Sheila in Ontario Canada


#2

In my opinion taking clases validates the teacher more than prepares
you for the day-to-day trials and experiences you learn on your own.
Books such as Tim McCreight’s ‘complete metalsmith’ regardless of
edition, though the pro ed, with a demonstration cd is very useful,
and his boxes and lockets for learning basic construction
techniques,Harold O’Conner’s 'Jewelers Bench Reference" is
invaluable for formulas and as a reference to keep at the bench, and
Charles Lewton Brain’s book of bench tricks and tips, and hinge based
catches and clasps are all excellent essential reading.If you need a
primer in cold connections, Joanna Gollberg has a book i believe with
the same title, and then there’s Jinks McGrath’s books on jewelry
making and design that you should peruse before purchase because much
material is simply reorganized - however they are also valuable to
the beggining metalsmith. Elizabeth Olver is another British
metalsmith and designer that has a very useful book on design
organized in a very interesting way based on the metals and
techniques involved in a particular category or style. Carles
Codina’s first two books, Jewelery Making, and Gold and Silver
Jewelery Making give you a decidedly european take on the processes
involved with a slightly different vocabulary and materials list than
the N. Americans, or British authors mentioned above reference and
you should perhaps consider at least looking over some of Lark books
500 brooches, or 500 rings for an insight into modern design trends.
Alan Revere edited a book I believe entitled Art Jewelery making,
that showcases some of the most widely recognized professionals in
the trade and their specializations. That book contains a brief
biography on the featured artisans and instructions on specific
excercises/pieces you can fabricate - though some require advanced
equipment or technique to replicate, they are great illustrations as
to the steps involved in making a finished piece of high dollar art
jewelery. Those few titles are a good start! I firmly believe that
self-taught is an excellent and valid way to go about learning
jewelry making.It is helpful to take an intensive course in a
specific aspect- i.e stonesetting, or gold working - but those are
essentially high priced demonstartions. Once you pay for travel,
accomodations, materials, and course fees, I feel you’d be better
off investing ion raw materials, refernce books, and a few dvd’s or
videos on subjects that interest you and the basics so you have an
adequate foundation before you pick up a torch. And also i would
recommend starting with.999 silver and working up to gold ( the
higher karat the better as the karated gold above 14 is much more
forgiving in terms of being able to correct mistakes or in reclaiming
precious metals if you use solders that are plumb karated and contain
only gold and silver rather than alloys that not only contaminate
your stock but add steps to refining that are easier to master if you
don’t have to remove copper and zinc or other elements from your gold
or silver, rather just melt and reroll or recast… If you would like
more info from me i’ll be happy to give you a bibliography, not off
the top of my head, and some links to suppliers, and
organizations,schools and teachers that I believe give one the most
info for the lowest amount of money and in the most objective yet,
professional manner. feel free to email me off Orchid if this is
appealing to you and i’ll get back to you tuesday with the
info…butthe bottom line is you don’t need to go to a school to
become proficient or create things in metal. and there are many many
areas of the art and craft and science that one can study on his/her
own that, in some senses, yield a purer final product than watching
someone execute their ideas, or handing you a kit and having the
entire class make the same things at someone elses pace…If you want
to make jewelry you will make jewelry.mastering any aspect of it
comes with practice and experience and experimentation…and while
some people need observation others do just fine without it. In my
experience though, after a while people involved in the art and trade
seek others involved in the art and trade because of the element of
passion it takes to devote oneself to truly learning the techniques
and their mastery, as opposed to a factory like application of skills
where a person may spend twenty years with a pot of paste solder and
at the same desk assembling semi-mounts that are prefabricated into
wal-mart style mass produced adornment that lacks that passion most
Orchideans share, and is realized in the final products that most
produce. If you go to the homepage and look at the benches of thes
members, and then investigate thir websites- it will be clear that
the mass produced low karat made-in-china style is…not here ! To
continue on in this art for a lifetime means you share in that
passion that combines fire,metal and colour ain an ever changing
fashion that you can engage in for money or not but that satisfies
one’s own sensibilities if no one elses…or so i find to be true.


#3

One of those threads that will have as many sides as there are
people. For myself, I’m “factory trained”. I had one semester in
college, and learned everything else on the job. Two thoughts,
though: A degree in jewelry and $2 will buy you a cup of coffee. What
that means is that more than almost anything jewelry is about
results. Skill, talent, artistry, ability. If you applied for a job,
they’ll say, “Oh, a degree - well, why don’t you sit at this bench
and let me see what you can do.” The learning behind a degree is
important - having one has little meaning. This applies to making
jewelry hands-on, not gemology, professional design, marketing and
others. And you simply cannot do everything yourself, nor can you
invent everything yourself. Higher level jewelry making - meaning
"Professional" - is a team effort - design, goldsmith, diamond
setter, engraver, polish, plate, enamel and more. When you have a
goldsmith with 10 years @ 10 hrs./day, a setter with the same, and an
engraver with the same, it becomes obvious that one person can’t be
all of those things. Whether it’s books or real people, that’s how
you learn more than you can make up in your own head, and widen your
scope. Everybody on Orchid has a story, but all of them who have
reached some level of attainment are going to include other people in
those stories, whether it’s school, mentoring, or just working next
to
someone skilled in a shop.

http://www.donivanandmaggiora.com


#4

The dinner guests were sitting around the table and one CEO asked
everyone what they make. I am a banker and lend out money to those
who need it and at the end of the line the line was a teacher. A
teacher, I know what you make, "Do you mean if you can’t do
something, you teach? Well there was long pause and this is what the
teacher said and it stopped everyone in their tracks during their
dinner.

I make students work harder, harder than they have never worked in
their lives. I make a C+ feel like the Congressional Medal of Honour.
I make kids sit through 40 minutes of class time when their parents
can’t even make them sit for 5 without an I-Pod, Game cube or
movie-rental. I make the kids wonder. I make them ask questions and I
make them criticize. I make them apologize and to mean it too. I make
them respect and take responsibility of their actions I teach them to
read, write and more reading. I make them show all of their work in
Math. I make them accept that people are not all from America. I tell
them that nothing is perfect in this life, and mistakes can, and
will happen in due course. I show them that the gifts they were given
are thatgifts. To keep their heads held high, work hard, and to
follow their hearts, and that they can succeed in life! Then when
people ask me what I make, and they should not to judge me by what I
earn. I can hold my head up high and pay no attention to the others
as because some of them are ignorant. And you know what I make? I
make a difference, and Mr. CEO what do YOU make?

“We” the collective community of teachers make the following. We
make them ask questions. Let them know ahead of time no question is
too insignificant, or ridiculous. We make time for any simple
question. We make them ponder the solution through their own eyes,
not mine. We make them think in the “abstract and linear”. We make
them think of the ‘pro’s and con’s’ for every possible solution.
Confidence is taught through activity, and that is the best teacher.
We make them feel that mistakes will and can happen, for nothing is
perfect in this life.

In my opening sentence in my setting class is this. “I can teach you
all of the many setting techniques, but one thing I can not teach
you all here, is experience”. It is self-taught and it has to be
FELT! Feeling that during the first few lessons of setting the CZ’s
in sterling silver is the most exhilarating feeling for both the
teacher, student and also the class, it is the individual
"achievement". I make the whole class feel how hard it is and then
after a while it does come easier, the mountain full of smiles and
the resulting energy is a most wonderful thing.

Gerry Lewy!


#5

This is a non issue.

If you want to write a book, would you make up your own alphabet?
Would you ignore all the books that others have written before you,
including ones on how to write?

No, you would go to school to learn your ABC’s first. Then you would
read a lot to learn from what others have done, in preparation for
taking your pen to paper.

Alan Revere
Director

Revere Academy of Jewelry Arts, Inc.
760 Market Street Suite 900
San Francisco California


#6

I had on semester under Richard MaFong, then 15 months in a Rhode
Island jewelry factory as a designer modelmaker. With the exception
of working for Abbey Taylor for 6 months in 1979, that is last time
someone handed me a paycheck. Some of the assistants I’ve had have
become very good jewelers- but their school training didn’t get them
very far. I also got to mentor 3 teenagers along the way, I am not a
parent, so they certainly left me surprised! One of them, Rubin, is
currently designing a high end watch, though his career choice is in
the financial world.

Rick Hamilton


#7
In my opinion taking clases validates the teacher more than
prepares you for the day-to-day trials and experiences you learn on
your own. And also I would recommend starting with .999 silver 

I believe it is a rare individual that can overcome the learning
curve of approaching jewelry making by self teaching. I started out
self taught. While there are things I accomplished that I would not
have attempted if I had a teacher, as those things were not supposed
to be done, I really wish I had started taking classes and workshops
far earlier.

What I learned from knowledgeable teachers opened up opportunities
that were not available through me learning on my own.

I have posted many times about this subject and pointed out that in
Europe things are done quite differently, with good reason.

There is not one good reason for anyone to start making jewelry with
pure silver. No one teaches silversmithing using pure silver, and I
believe while there is good on jewelry making books in
this post, I believe it is irresponsible to invalidate training.
There
is an enormous assumption that a person, on their own, can get the
right tools and materials and not waste the money that could have
gone to taking a class. Stating that “taking classes validates the
teacher more than prepares you” is an extremely prejudiced opinion
related your experience and emotions, and I believe not held by those
who have taken classes. While some have had bad experiences, I
believe most gain far greater than by learning on one’s own.

Self taught dentist? Doctor? Auto mechanic?

Any training requires practice to develop skill.

There is no self taught person who along the way that has not
learned from someone more skilled, and found an easier or better way
to do something that they themselves had not thought of. Assumption
is
that what is in a book is right.

Richard Hart


#8

I am a beginner. I have taken 4 or 5 classes now. I have learned so
much more than I could ever have on my own, even with all the books.
There is just no substitute. Even if you only learn one thing in a
class. It can sometimes be a very important thing. Something you
might not have picked up in a book.

Right now I am not in a class and truth be told, I am a little lost.
Basically I am practicing the things I learned in my last class and
of course it will take me a long while to get good at things like
bezels and soldering. But I am always looking for classes and will
take them as I can.

Roberta


#9

I have a bit of experience at both pursuits: the path of being self
taught and the path of formal training. I began with 12 years of
goldsmithing, entirely self taught. This has been followed by 20+
years of occasional and continual formal training.

Formal training is better by far, no question about it. Having
expert guidance and instruction is more efficient, less costly, more
productive, more fulfilling, and more satisfying in the long run.
Maybe this is not everyone else’s perspective, but that is what my
experience has been.

For me formal training was like having the light turned on in a long
dark hallway. It allowed me to see where I was and where I wished to
go. It didn’t take me there, rather it gave me the ability to take
myself there. The best training in the world still requires the
intention, the arduous work, and the consistent application on the
part of the individual, to achieve proficiency and make good use of
it.

It is interesting and coincidental for me that this reoccurring
topic comes up again right now. It has been exactly 21 years since I
undertook

my first formal training at Revere in 1986. I have taken many
classes and workshops over the years since then, and I am quite
looking forward to taking another class at Revere this spring.

Michael David Sturlin
www.goldcrochet.com
www.michaeldavidsturlin.com


#10

Hi

This is a non issue. 

None the less, it is an issue that people here struggle with from
time to time.

It’s my impression, and I apologize if I am out of line, that the
issue stems more from “validation” than anything else. There was a
movie that came out a while back…not a great movie, “Girl,
Interrupted” In the opening, the girl has just attempted suicide and
is sitting before a panel while they decide where she should be sent.
The panel asks her “well, dear, what do you plan to do now” She
replies, “I plan to write”. The forum says “that’s nice dear, but I
mean for work?” She stammers and they send her to a psychiatric
facility.

There is, I believe, still a certain stigma (I’m sorry that I don’t
have a better word) attached to any career choices related to the
"arts". Surely, from conversations here, many feel that jewelry
making is related to the “arts” or, some say, is an art.

I see it too. People ask me, from time to time, what I do. I tell
them I’m a jewelry designer. “I make beaded jewelry, which I sell, in
galleries”…“that’s nice dear”. and “I’m studying to be a
goldsmith”. Their eyes light up. This is far more admirable than just
beaded jewelry.

The original poster didn’t elaborate on her current position. For
myself, a trained accountant, I find that I feel I have to justify
the fact that I don’t plan to go back to my former career choice.

It’s up to you. No one can answer the question, but you.

I have to say, from some of the things I have seen written here, I
would much rather buy my jewelry from someone who had a formal
education, preferably, GIA or the Revere Academy, but I can be a bit
of a “tight-wad”. I’m frugal. I really want to be assured that the
person who made my jewelry knows what he/she is doing. That’s just me
and I’m talking about expensive jewelry. Again, there are many
factors, one of which is, what type of jewelry do you plan to make?

At the end of the mediocre movie, the girl is sitting before the
panel and they are deciding whether or not she should be allowed out
of the psychiatric hospital. They look at her very evenly and ask
"what do you plan to do?’ and she says “I plan to write”. you all
know what they say. She stands and says “I plan to write”.

If you are asking the question here, you already know the answer.

Good Luck
Kim


#11
If you want to write a book, would you make up your own alphabet?
Would you ignore all the books that others have written before
you, including ones on how to write? 

ahhh… Alan if life were only so simple and straight forward. If we
could only all afford to take the chosen path. We all come from
different walks of life. My life path lead me into this industry at
the ripe age of 19 when my father died of a heart attack. We had a
jewelry store in VA and somehow I became the chosen one. I entered
this industry as a sales person, buyer, financial advisor and chief
toilet cleaner. I learned many lessons along the way and took
classes as time permitted. I have struggled through things that
people were “taught” only to learn additional skills.

No teacher (that i’ve met) can teach you what it takes to succeed.
Desire, Fear, Will, and Self Motivation* If there is a will
there is a way and this woman did find her way. (with out formal
training)

Kristy Ford
Now starting my third successful business


#12

Good morning, I’ve watched this thread for awhile, and I would like
to interject into this conversation my experience. I have a BFA in
design and metal arts. This taught me and gave me the opportunity to
explore what can be.This brings metalcrafts to the creative art
level. What it could not do for me is make me a good metalsmith. This
was done at the bench over a period of time, the best learning curve
I’ve ever experienced. The competition was intense. Our raises were
based on our production and level of expertise. SCHOOLS: Trade
schools can introduce you to the requirements for working at the
bench, but not make you a proficient craftsman working in the jewelry
industry. I can’t name names, but I just had a past customer call me
needing a little help until he found an on premise goldsmith. He was
freaked out. He had just bench tested a young lady who was a recent
graduate from one of the better known trade schools. She was at the
bench all day. The test was size two rings, do several types of
setting, polish and clean the work She left in tears and he called
me. Next bit of info. I have done work at different times for a very
large chain of stores. One of the big guys in the company told me
they have a no hire policy for students graduating from a certain
trade school. To many problems with their work. The store owner I
referred to earlier, hired a Mexican gentleman who was trained by his
father. Things got busy and the goldsmith said he needed help.OK
fine. So he brought his teenage son in to help him part time. No
dought his son will learn to be a good jeweler. Art classes: They
sure can be fun and informative for art projects and personal
expression. They will not do much for making a living unless you are
a superstar. Personality plus, marketing, swooshing the s—t out of
people that have an interest in either you, or themselves wearing
your creations. These art class skills are for you, not the jewelry
industry in general. I think you need to define what direction you
want to travel. What ever direction you decide to take, and what ever
methods lead you to the one thing you can not do without, self
confidence. Amazing source of personal power. This is nothing more
than my observation. I hope it helps. It’s very hard being a newbie,
but it’s better than being a wantabe. Just start making things, even
if it looks like crap don’t be afraid of making it over again until
you are satisfied. Get on your mark, get ready, set, GO!


#13
If you want to write a book, would you make up your own alphabet?
Would you ignore all the books that others have written before you,
including ones on how to write? 

Well - to put a fine point on it - how did they create the first
alphabet? Often experience is limiting when it comes to taking a
risk.

Archie


#14
No teacher (that i've met) can teach you what it takes to succeed.
***Desire, Fear, Will, and Self Motivation**** If there is a will
there is a way and this woman did find her way. (with out formal
training) 

Wharton School of Business graduates average 200 million a year

Anyone who has not has any formal training has nothing to compare
what they have done with what they could have done with more
education. Having a jewelry business and being a goldsmith is not
comparable The mistakes a business owner makes does not involve the
crisis of screwing up a customers piece of jewelry, especially such as
chipping a lage diamond, frosting a diamond. If you get any of the
trade magazines, I assume you read articl= es and not just look at the
pretty pictures. That is not a class, but it is education. There are
people smarter than I am. To avail myself of their knowledge for a
small fee is completely to my advantage, there is no disadvantage. As
a member of JA, I have been able to do workshops with Brad Simon, and
it has been a tremendous help. One good idea can make you money or
save you money. David Geller’s can easily repay the cost
of the program many times over in one year. There are people who in
principle are against his program who have not seen it or tied it. One
of the reason people read these posts, is for education. Hello!!!

“No teacher (that i’ve met) can teach you what it takes to succeed”

Seriously, upgrade who you pick to to learn from, unless you feel
you know it all. Perhaps then, you could teach.

An opinion based on ones own ignorance is not a blessing.

Richard Hart


#15

I am going to play the feminist card here and advise every woman
reading these posts to go get the best Formal Training she can find!

I apprenticed under 2 German master craftsmen who immigrated to the
US and after 3 years they would not pay me, nor would any other
jewelers hire me because I was a GIRL. Plain and simple, “This is a
man’s profession,” I was told in 1977.

So, I went to a place that my being a girl didn’t matter to get
jewelry training I went to a University. When I got out, I easily got
a job as a bench jeweler.

But in 1982, I was still being paid only 60 cents for every dollar
the less skilled, and seriously design challenged, men I worked next
to were making because I was a GIRL. The women’s movement has done
very little to change this pheromone. Equal pay for equal work does
not exist in the jewelry industry. Not in the US and not overseas= .

So, I continued my formal training and went to the Revere Academe
and the GIA and it was my formally learned skill level that placed me
in a position of financial equality.

Formal Training from the best schools and the best teachers is one
of the best ways for women to level the playing field. No Joe Dirt
with a mullet will ever b= e able to deny your diploma from the GIA or
your certification as a JA master bench jeweler.

Nanz Aalund
Associate Editor / Art Jewelry magazine
21027 Crossroads Circle / Waukesha WI 53187-1612
262.796.8776 ext.228


#16
If you want to write a book, would you make up your own alphabet?
Would you ignore all the books that others have written before
you, including ones on how to write? 

With much due respect, what if there isnt an alphabet, nor a book
for that matter. This is the challenge I face with my material of
choice. I can only learn what is out there, both formally and
informally. Then reconfigure it to suit my needs, or develop new
techniques/processes that help me get to the goal at hand based on
life experience…

As for the conversation of self taught vs. formal training, there
are advantages to both. Being mostly a self taught person, there is a
ton of pride/joy in figuring something out…on the flip side, there
is the same amount of enthusiasm and gratitude when applying a
learned skill to achieve the finished piece, knowing certain
individual(s) willingness to share made it possible.

Like many others have said, having the resouce to go somewhere to
learn new things can be a challenge. While being self taught, time
and motivation are the only resouce you need…

Much Respect,
P@
www.patpruitt.com


#17
Having a jewelry business and being a goldsmith is not comparable
The mistakes a business owner makes does not involve the crisis of
screwing up a customers piece of jewelry, especially such as
chipping a lage diamond, frosting a diamond. 

I respectfully disagree with the statement. The comparison maybe
different, but the outcomes just as devastating. Can you imagine
making bad business decisions and having to let your entire staff go
before the holidays or loosening your house? Thankfully, these
things have never happened to me but I know many "GOOD no Great"
jewelry store owners who have been in these positions.

I assume you read articles and not just look at the pretty
pictures. That is not a class, but it is education. There are
people smarter than I am. To avail myself of their knowledge for a
small fee is completely to my advantage, there is no disadvantage.
As a member of JA, I have been able to do workshops with Brad
Simon, and it has been a tremendous help. 

If you choose to read an article are you being taught or are you
choosing to learn something? BTW…This thread is titled Self Taught
VS Formal Training and I’m pretty sure they are talking about going
to a school not reading an article. “Seriously, upgrade who you pick
to to learn from, unless you feel you know it all. Perhaps then, you
could teach”

I didn’t say that I haven’t had any good teachers. I said you can’t
teach success. "It takes Desire, Fear, Will and Self Motivation.
Btw…I do teach… CAD / CAM.

All I’m trying to say here is that there are many paths that one can
take and you need to choose the path that best suits you and your
situation. Not everyone has the privilege of attending an art
school, trade school or college. Yes, I think if it were an option
for everyone they would choose to go to an art school, college or
trade school. This path seems easier to me in a lot of ways. {the
grass is always greener on the other side} :slight_smile:

My partner (in life) and I have had several discussions on this very
same topic. You see, she went to college for 11 years to earn her
Ph.D. (4 years undergrad 2 yrs masters 5 years doctorial program.)
and I attended 1yr of extended formal education before my father
died. Now we laugh and joke about all the nights she stayed up late
studying and I stayed awake balancing the books and cleaning
toilets.

FYI… Pablo Picasso and Henri Rousseau did not have a formal art
school education. Picasso was a child prodigy and taught by his
father. Henri Rousseau claimed “he had no teacher other then nature”
“There is never just one right answear”

Kristy


#18

Hi Nanz

I am going to play the feminist card here and advise every woman
reading these posts to go get the best Formal Training she can
find! 

I wanted to say that, from my other post on this topic, it’s going
to look like I’m trying to slam you and some of the others who have
posted pro-formal education. That’s completely not my intent though.

What I’m trying to say is that people should follow their own minds
and hearts. Everyone on the list has many reasons to obtain or not
obtain a formal education. Everyone’s different. Everyone’s
motivations are different.

If the poster of the question is looking for life answers, this list
is definitely not the place to find them. Here, you can find
examples. The answer to your question, though, can only come from
yourself.

I wish the poster the best in everything.

In the eternal words of Eminem “you can do anything you set your
mind to, man”

Kim Starbard
http://www.kimstarbarddesigns.com


#19
But in 1982, I was still being paid only 60 cents for every dollar
the less skilled, and seriously design challenged, men I worked
next to were making because I was a GIRL. The women's movement has
done very little to change this pheromone. Equal pay for equal work
does not exist in the jewelry industry. Not in the US and not
overseas 

Speaking as a male - I don’t believe this is literally true.
Certainly there are lots of women in the business - hey, life is
hard, ya know? [;


#20
I make beaded jewelry, which I sell, in galleries"..."that's nice
dear". and "I'm studying to be a goldsmith". Their eyes light up.
This is far more admirable than just beaded jewelry. 

This is a good place to say something I’ve needed a place for. Bead
stringers do get a bad rap - I think it’s because most people think
of it as putting beads on string - even a child CAN do that. Of
course, real stringing is more than that. We have a team heRe:
goldsmith, setter, engraver, gem dealers, stone pickers, and yes, we
depend on our stringer when needed. She’s an essential part, too. Not
very “sexy” maybe, but just as valuable an asset.

http://www.donivanandmaggiora.com