Teaching independantly

In trying to figure out sources of income (and gratification), I have
thought about taking on private students in my own studio. I would
really like to hear your thoughts on this-- in particular, the
liability/insurance issues. Have you done this, and made a go of it?
Why, why not?

And if anyone has a lead on a teaching job that does not require
CAD/CAM or a master’s degree (neither of which I have, but I’m an
excellent teacher) I sure would love to hear about it. If it’s in
Los Angeles, where I’d like to move to live near my daughter/future
grandchildren, you will be my BFF.


You raise a no of issues.

Which you need to answer in the affirmative before you go ahead with
this plan.

  1. Despite not having so called professional teaching
    qualifications, you may have many yrs of successful making, marketing
    and designing jewellery.

this know how isnt something teachers as such normally have, being
primarily theorists from book learning. ie they set out to be
teachers, not independent jewellery makers.

So you could offer students the benefit of real work and business

Its one thing teaching someone how to make stuff, something else to
make a successful business from it.

  1. If your thinking of relocating to LA, you need to check out what
    competition you might have from established schools, teachers in
    that town.

  2. Masters in almost any trade have traditionally taken on
    apprentices, they had indenture papers signed by the pupil’s parents
    accompanied by the payment made to the master for taking on said

Research such agreements for background on taking on students.

This should keep you busy for the time being.

Noel- I love to teach.

We teach privately. Because we work at home we vet our students very
carefully. We often meet at a coffee shop for an interview before we
let them know where we live and work.

We have one extra bench between our two and gang up on the student.
We teach in 4 hour chunks of time and charge $40.00 an hour. It seems
high but we teach generally higher tech skills usually to
professionals or I teach trade shop boot camp for newbies to pass a
bench test for employment.

We also teach as we do our own work. “Hey, come over here and watch
me do this.” We don’t really need the money, but do this to pass on
the old school skills that we have learned from long dead master
craftsmen. Plus we want to train the next generation of stone setters
and metal smiths so that as we age and can no longer work as much, we
can hire folks who are up to our standards.

For years I regretted not getting my degree so that I could retire
to teach in an academic situation. Now I realize it would be hell for
me to have to play academic politics and have my schedule locked in.
Now if I want to travel I say “Well we won’t be having class for two
weeks.” I can tell off color jokes and have strong opinions without
worrying about my job. “Wow! Look at this piece of c**p by X in JCK.
See how ragged the bezel is?” Try that in a formal academic setting.

Have fun and make lots of jewelry.

Jo Haemer

Hi Noel,

Jo-Ann here…

A few years back, I was asked to be a guest lecturer/part time
teacher at a local college–Calif. College of the Arts (formerly
CCAC). I hold a teaching credential but no masters. They took my
lifetime experience along with my teaching background and the fact
that for 33 years I have taught an adult education in casting. I
have been teaching lost wax casting for a semester over the last 5
years. It has helped me to stay current and experience my work
through newbie eyes.

I truly love it and find it a great experience. Perhaps you can go
back in your resume, list all your experiences & work, publications
that you have been in etc. and show that you are chalk full of
experience. You can list any workshops etc. that you have been
involved in. Many years ago I lost a job to someone holding the
masters. She was quite capable but not a great teacher, quit after 2
semesters and they asked me back. By then it was too late and I was
employed in the commercial field as a day job.

When I have taught students in our shop–our liability policy has
covered them being here. If your studio is at home, I’d check with
my homeowners insurer.

Just my two cents-tax free.
Ciao, Jo-Ann Maggiora Donivan

Hello Noel,

Be sure to include your published instructional work as well as your
awards in your resume. I admire your pieces seen in the magazines
and regardless of your academic education, they exemplify your

Judy in Kansas


Trying to figure out “sources of income [and gratification]” is the
ideal (for sure)… desires that sometimes seem elusive when
considered together. They don’t have to be. I’ve based my jewelry
career on choices with lots of teaching mixed in over the years. When
I first considered in-studio teaching I wondered if I’d be willing to
give up what I had…

current job, free time, working hours, home privacy, etc., to get
what I wanted. A question, akin to the ‘bird in hand vs. two in the
bush’ proverb, ones answers may reveal a lot or, at least, help frame
or clarify what’s most important to each of us.

Teaching in your studio has benefits and drawbacks. I’ve done it for
years and still do. There are no simple solutions that resolve all
self employment issues when complicated by public attendance in our

You raised questions about liability and insurance. Both need
consideration but, depending on what students do or are exposed to
in your studio, likely require different degrees of (legal)
attention. I drafted a registration form / disclaimer everyone must
sign before a taking a class. Because of our increasingly litigious
society the form has become more complex over time. Does every (self
employed) jewelry teacher need one? I don’t think so. Mainly depends
on the subject matter and the ages you teach. I also use a parental
consent form when needed.

For soldering classes: yes, I’d use a disclaimer. For a pearl
stringing liabilities? It depends. Underwriters sometimes want to
know how many students at a time, how often are the classes, what
percentage of your income does in-studio teaching provide, etc. For
starters: verify you have a rider on your home policy that allows an
in-home business. You can over protect and over insure yourself plus
overwhelm students with paperwork when they’ve come to make jewelry
and enjoy themselves so I’m not advocating over formalizing a home
business as you ‘test the waters.’ Think about addressing insurance /
liability issues more fully a later if teaching activity begins to

Will it grow is a Big question too! Marketing your class offerings
is another aspect of the equation. Developing an on-line presence is
part of that. Deciding what people want to learn should be at the top
of the list if income is an important factor. Will classes be private
instruction, group sessions or both. Lots of considerations and ways
to structure things.

In the beginning, depending on the subject matter taught, deal with
some basics like studio safety considerations, think about class
costs, payment / refund policies, student use of your restroom
(that’s important), etc. I’ve experienced situations in class that
never dawned on me I might need a policy about. Bigger things and
lots of smaller ones. People wearing too much perfume that got on
tools then on other students hands and clothes. Funny? Maybe, but not
necessarily to the person sitting at the next bench. Lots of
student’s cell phone interruptions or emergencies requiring students
to leave mid class then expecting to re-take a private instruction
class at no charge. and on and on. So many situations you can’t cover
in pre class paperwork so I try and remember why I’m teaching, what’s
my motivation, my goal. To help other people. Life’s little
distractions are just that “little” in the bigger picture.

Finding a balance between the many business considerations of
in-studio teaching and the passions many people have about sharing
their skills with others is an evolving matter. I believe important
qualities that define good teachers is wanting to inspire; wanting to
pass along learned skills and techniques and of course to encouraging
others as they learn. These things trump an academic degree in a
students mind.

I’d encourage a teacher to follow their heart first. If teaching
brings you joy, and it still does for me, you’ll likely pass that
along to students where ever your classes are held. Take action, hang
out that classes sign and be part of people’s lives as they learn
something new.


Hi Jo et al

but do this to pass on the old school skills that we have learned 

Same as me. While I work in a school a deal was struck when it came
to my jewellery class.


In other electives the students think it is their right to be in the
room. In my class it is a privilege.

In class the other day a student who had made their silver band
wanted to do some bead work, good showed enthusiasm. Did not clean up
beads left all over the bench. Guess who will NEVER be back in my

In the same class was a very shy and polite girl, who tackled
everything asked of her with quiet determination and did a great job
at her first task. Then told me how she loved making things and at
her last school had made a clock from wood and set the mechanism in
it. Stayed and helped make sure all tools packed and room cleaned.

Welcome every time.

For safety reasons, as these are raw beginners, I take the pieces to
my work shop and polish them.

Gave a boy back his silver ring, he kept on thanking me, until I
told him to shut up and said, “You did the work, it took you half an
hour to make this all I did was polish it for I minute, got it.” It
sunk in that it was his work, and I just polished it, (hey this is
not slight to professional polishers I know how hard a job that is).
He now “owns” the piece but still can’t believe that he did it.

He showed other students, they said it was BS until I said no he did
that and then showed them other students work.

Usually they hide it so it won’t get stolen. They all want to make
one and all will get the chance, if they get to continue depends on
them. Except, seriously, the ones whose psych evaluations say “not to
be near sharp objects”

While we are working at the very rudimentary level, making silver
ring bands. What it means to these kids to actually have something
they made that is as good as the jewellery store down town, often
better, is soul building.

These are the worst of the worst, most have been expelled from
mainstream education and many are on court orders for attendance. But
in my jewellery class they all have the chance to make good quality.
While I get paid $80 an hour to teach these kids, that’s nothing to
the million dollar minute (the feeling I get) when they see the
polished piece and their faces light up with pride and hope.

If I could tell you the lives these kids have, the law prevents me,
you would all shed a tear.

My point is that jewellery making can change peoples lives for the
better. A new world opens for them and even if they only want to make
one ring and then leave they wear it with pride or impress their girl
friends with the hand made gift.

These kids are always being told they can’t, I tell them they can
and they do. The art and visual design teachers are in the same
situation, while kids will leave or hide to avoid maths or English
they annoy us to get to get into class BEFORE the bell.

A sign in one of my wholesalers says “Making Jewellery is cheaper
than therapy!” For these kids it is therapy.

While making jewellery may not change the world it can change
peoples lives for the better.

Xtines Jewels

Bless you. Keep up the work with the students.