For many years, I have begun each of my classes with a brief talk
on what the class will consist of, a short shop tour, safety
I love it when I get a tour of any well equipped shop. Seeing
different setups, new tools, organizing ideas is invaluable.
Good question! It is wonderful to see so many good answers. For what
it is worth, I’ll add mine from my experience as a student and
teacher and still student because I am forever learning. A good
teacher is a person who serves others. A great teacher is a person
who serves others with passion and love of their craft.
My first project was a simple band ring that our whole class had to
make. It’s actually something I still teach, because for adults in an
"adult education" setting we want progress quickly. When I first
started teaching, it was from my experience as a fresh BFA grad to
adults and I was in for a shock. I learned quickly what the
expectations of my students needs and that allowed for streamlining
my curriculum to fit THEIR schedule and THEIR expectations. Teaching
is really about two things. One is to reduce anxiety and the other is
to fuel passion and excitement.
It’s daunting to teach so much of our industry in such a short
amount of time, but here goes.
Expectations of adults. Have a syllabus or outline of your time
together. It keeps everyone on the same page. You will have mostly
women. They spent money and their friends want to see a piece of
jewelry on their finger within three weeks. That’s why I like the
band ring project. Every rectangular shaped piece of silver stock
starts out the same, but they all end up different. Thus, creativity
comes pouring out and students love the diversity of what everyone
else makes. They are wearing their ring everywhere as it is a symbol
of “look what I made!” That was me too.
The torch. For most people this is the scariest part. When I
teach beginning jewelry, I get this out of the way immediately. I let
everyone turn on and off the torch and let them control the flame.
This little step reduces anxiety and allows their brains to relax and
learn what’s next.
Sawblades. Older students have great difficulty in seeing
anything. A pack of a dozen blades, let alone one, will have everyone
screwing their eyes and struggling to focus. Once the blade was
loaded in the sawframe, and this will take time, the little "ping"
that the blade makes will be a sound that will lock in their brains
forever. I make a quick joke to release their tension. "Hey, if you
grip that handle any tighter, you are going to milk wood juice, LOL."
They stop and laugh and relax. They will break lots of blades. Be on
hand with extras and lots and lots of encouragement.
Find a good practice piece for piercing which will allow flow.
They can pierce something in brass for their keychain. A quick
functional fun tool which is a reminder of their achievement every
time students drive their car.
Pierced project with set stone. My first piece from this class
sits at Metalwerx on the wall. It’s a good one and I learned a lot. I
took it one step further and hand hammered wire, drilled each side,
thread jump rings and soldered each one. It was the defining piece
for my jewelry career and it had everything in it; piercing,
soldering, hammering and stone setting of a simple round cabochon.
The hard part. Let your students make mistakes. Even more
important, when you are doing a demo, you the teacher can make a
mistake. This makes you human and accessible. Demo demons are not
what we want when we are demonstrating a fussy soldering technique,
but life is life. The true learning is not when everything goes
perfectly, but when you screw up and how you creatively problem solve
your way out of a mess.
Dealing with missed classes. Ooh, this is when you have to play
the bad cop. A student who misses two or more classes and then wants
you to catch them up on demos during class time needs to realize that
they need to pay you extra for YOUR time. Actually I set up four
sessions at my local adult ed called Studio Saturdays. This solved
the problem for those who needed to catch up due to illness or
travel. It gave us six hours of uninterrupted time, created a nice
community of people and gave me extra income. It was a good solution
to a problem and is still in place today. The extra time allowed all
students to join the extra sessions and just hang out and work using
Kits. Have them. You have a short amount of time to work and you
want everyone to stay on track. It’s a real time waster when you give
a long list to busy people and expect everyone to come up with
everything on thier own. There are a few things I encourage students
to purchase on their own, like a good 6" mill bastard file, or a few
drill bits or sandpaper. It’s good for them to shop, explore hardware
stores or large ones (sigh), and they have ownership in the process
they are about to embark. You can take care of the things they have
no idea, like sawblades, metal, solder, etc.
Demos. Keep them simple and straightforward. Make everyone bring
a notebook or start a journal. Get them in the habit of writing
things down. Handouts are helpful too, but don’t expect people to
actually READ everything. The best handouts are useful charts like
drill bit guides to wire width.
Relax. The more relaxed and confident you are, the more it sets
the tone for the class. Smile. Crack a few jokes. You were a beginner
yourself and remind them of that fact. You understand where they are
at now because you were there yourself. We all were. I learn from my
students all the time.
Good luck. Strive to be a great teacher and you will have great
Hand out a materials lists and step by step instructions. Have
samples to pass around to each student and invite them to take
pictures of the sample with their camera phone for reference.
I considered a class successful not by the first sample I ever made
in class but the ones I made at home after practicing the
techniques. No matter how good my notes I found my best success was
when the instructor helped with just a few simple basic reference
Have fun teaching and your students will have fun learning.
I have taught two classes. Both bootstrap affairs, cheap fees bought
shared tools because I was starting with nothing but my tools I
First class like my first class… by rote, here are 4 different
projects. It worked for me long ago. Second class I described
techniques and the potentials. 1/2 an hour or talking about and
showing what a hammer can do and then letting them loose.
First class and everyone took home trinkets Second class of 6 and 2
went on to a real art school, one I believe is still in the business
I also use siiver, not brass or copper so they can wear the
I only use brass, copper, and nickel-silver, and my students (and I)
wear and love the pieces.
I only use brass, copper, and nickel-silver, and my students (and
I) wear and love the pieces.
I LOVE to see my high school Art Jewelry students experiment with
metals. They start out being nervous about spending extra money on
something (they may botch?), but create some great pieces. Bit by
bit they become more confident and start adding little silver
embellishments which look great on copper, and then before long,
they often ‘splurge’ and make something they really love in silver.
It’s very rewarding to see them create and they love to see their
pieces on display at school. Copper and brass are beautiful metals.
We use Tarnex to dip oxidized pieces and Renaissance Wax as a
sealer…a little goes a LONG way.