Back to Ganoksin | FAQ | Contact

Teaching techniques


Hello Everyone:

For those of you who teach. I was wondering, do you teach mainly
classes geared towards technique where students learn specific
techniques to design their own pieces or do you teach specific
designs of your own in your classes? If you teach specific designs,
do you address this at all in the class? How do you handle the
occasional student who asks outright if they may copy your design?

Thanks in advance for any input you may have.

Best Regards,
Kim Starbard
Cove Beads



My classes are geared towards learning specific techniques. If a
specific design is used, it is one that it will help the student
gain practice with a technique. I will teach designs in the advanced
workshops that I know work… that is I make money with it. If a
student wants to copy my design…go for it! I encourage it! It
serves as jumping off point for them. Most move on to their own
vision in short order as their skills improve. Then I get to learn
from them!

I have a great friend who engages in the wonderful sport of “Show and
Tell”. We look at what the other has come up with then run off to our
benches and expand on the idea. The result is that we are both
getting better at what we do.

Bill Churlik


I teach techniques. Very occasionally, I design something
specifically to teach a technique. I am very open that people should
do their own designs and will help them when they need it. Only
occasionally will I get someone asking me directly how to do a
design of mine. In that case I remind them that I teach techniques,
the designs are up to them.



I teach in a public high school. I teach technique through design. I
assist my students in understanding that a good design is a must
because no matter how good their technique, the design of the piece
it what makes or breaks it. Because I produce myself using a full
range of techniques, I help my students choose the best technique for
their design. They must come with their unique designs before
proceeding with the piece.



I teach my techniques, and expect students to provide their own
designs either during class or later when they use the techniques in
their work. Some of my techniques result in the end product without
any further intervention, so I tend to shy away from teaching those
skills as they effectively pass on my designs.


B r i a n A d a m


I teach a range of levels at a couple of community art centers. I
start students off with a few “projects”-- designs that are
pre-determined and they have minimal input. After that, I give
guidelines-- “design a piece that requires piercing, has more than
one level (sweat soldering) and more than one texture”. If they
can’t design anything yet, I give suggestions. As they have more
ideas, I offer fewer direct instructions, just new techniques and

The designs I use in class are never ones I market in my own work.
If students want to start producing them, I don’t care, though I do
talk about the issue of originality, copying, etc.

As for my pieces that they see, if they are capable of copying them,
they are advanced enough not to need to.



In what arena are you teaching? University, workshop?


people -

classes geared towards technique where students learn specific
techniques to design their own pieces or do you teach specific

to paraphrase the old maxim “give a man a fish and you feed one man
for one day; teach a man how to fish and you will feed his family
forever”: ‘teach students how to copy your design and they will know
how to make your design; teach students how to make any design and
you will open their doors to creativity.’

“How do you handle the occasional student who asks outright if they
may copy your design?”

tell the occasional student “i could let you do that but afterwards
i’d have to kill you - it’s my design and you’re here to learn how to
make your own.”

who believes you can do anything as long as you do it with humor.


I would like to give a small suggestion of teaching and art.

I went to an art college where the teachers taught technique and
inadvertantly taught their style. I can understand how this could
happen. Not everyone develops style quickly or at all, and not every
teacher knows the difference between proper technique and individual

I would suggest a simple design, that allows your students to
embellish their own style. With jewelry it is a little different from
art as there are much fewer techniques and you are much more limited
by your material.

when I first started out, my mentor gave me a piercing project. I
designed a cuff bracelet with a pierced design. this project was
solely for teaching drilling and piercing technique (though you may
have to go through your students sketches for feasibility
issues.)…for soldering and wiring you can ask them to each design
a link chain, have them make the links (in whatever shape they want,
but bending the metal) then let them solder the links together.

this type of teaching gives the student the chance to learn
something about design and it’s feasibility, giving them room to grow
and learn, yet also teaches them proper technique and application of

hope this helps
-julia potts


to paraphrase the old maxim …
who believes you can do anything as long as you do it with humor.

(OT alert)

Goods points I’m sure but I have to say that I laughed out loud first
time I read your sign-off … I thought it said “you can do anything
as long as you do it with a hammer”. Ya, that’s my kind of sign-off!
Ooops, wait a sec…

Trevor F.
in The City of Light
Visit at

In that case I remind them that I teach techniques, the designs are
up to them.

How does a teachers ability or lack of ability to design or to teach
design affect the outcome? What limitation does the student
experience by not having support in what my opinion is probably the
most important aspect of making something. Without learning design,
it seems that imitation is all that is available to most students. I
realize some people have a natural ability to be very creative with a

Is creativity in the technique, or is it in the ability to design?
And the difference between having a preconceived outcome, learning
from that experience and using what you learn as evolution of an
idea, or relying on serendipity.

I wonder about the relationship of teaching as a technique as
opposed to teaching technique as a function of design.

The limitation of the teacher is the limitation of the student.

Richard Hart



How do you handle the occasional student who asks outright if they
may copy your design? 

I think this depends on what they will do with the design. On this
one I have to disagree in part.

When I started out in working with resin inlay, many of the designs
looked just like my instructors. It was done so well, that when
people picked up a piece they would state, “oh, this must be
Claire’s.” I didn’t mean to copy her directly, but because I was new
at the process and it was her instruction, they all had the "Claire"

Looking at BFA grads from particular art schools, I can tell which
students are from which programs and with which instructors. You
can’t help it in the beginning because this is the only foundation
you know. However, you do develop your own style eventually and that
is the evolution of branding your own work.

For my granulation class at Revere Academy East from Ronda Corywell,
we all started out with the same Greek rosette. However, everyone’s
was a little different. With the same granules, the same wire, the
same little scraps of silver and gold, no two were alike.

The world is such a big place and it is hard to get started on your
own idea. Students who come up against this stumbling block is when I
pick up a book of somebody’s work and say, "here, copy this pendant."
They do, because it teaches them about fabrication methods, soldering
considerations, weight, placement, design line and they don’t get as
frustrated because it is not their design. Sort of like copying old
masterworks in a museum.

Copying designs for EDUCATIONAL purposes is fine. SELLING copies of
designs as your own is wrong.

How about cooking? Recipes in a book are all about copying the
process and making the food exactly to what is in the book. They even
provide nice glossy pictures because your meatloaf surprise is
supposed to match the pretty picture in the book, right down to the
garnish and table setting options. It doesn’t mean that everyone is
going to go out into the world and open restaurants based on your

Open the process, encourage practice and refinement and then assist
the students in developing their own personal style.


Karen Christians
50 Guinan St.
Waltham, MA 02451
Ph. 781/891-3854 Fax 3857
Jewelry/Metalarts School & Cooperative Studio


Students of any age, no matter their background, in this new
profession need something to use as a guide. I always try and expose
them to varied styles of setting. If by any chance they wish to
improvise along the way using my methods, great for them. I won’t
"dispatch" them…:>) but instill in them confidence. Confidence is
so-o-o terribly important at this stage of learning. If they use my
ideas and improvise on them, fantastic!

When I was learning my trade in setting, I listened and watched my
mentor/teacher all the time. With a wee bit of creativity, I again
improvised and carried his “flaming torch”, and here I am! Everyone
needs a “mentor in learning” to use as a base and then to eventually
work with.

Once this whetting of their appetite is sweetened with knowledge, I
mold them more. After that semester is over, I will again (next
semester) guide them into more difficult styles of setting. Up the
rungs in the ladder of learning. Sorry for being so darned poetic
and eloquent!..gerry!


Here is an article of mine on teaching at the Ganoksin Project. It
is about teaching skills and jewelry making in an art school context,
but applies to other situations as well:

Dee Fontans has her version of a statement on teaching at



Well said, Richard;

I’ve done a lot of teaching, and during the early years, mostly
taught the way a lot on this forum have. Teach techniques, let them
copy the work of others. In art school, it’s about "self expression"
and “content” and design belongs to that other department where they
work with the computers making new cool kinds of can-openers. If you
look at Oppi Untracht’s book, Metal Techniques for the Craftsman,
you’ll notice something. It seems to be about techniques, but every
time he introduces a technique, there are examples of pieces that
really explore the design potential of that technique, some modern,
some historical. There is something we haven’t mentioned in this
thread directly. That is, there is a relationship between technique
and style (different essentially than design).

Now when I teach, which is rare, I work with only one student at a
time, through a number of classic projects, a fishtail mounting, a
split shank with basket head, a carved signet ring wax, etc., no
design other than the choice of proportions and the style of various
elements. This teaches technique, but keeps the focus on the
engineering, not the embellishment. All the while, I’m explaining why
things like this have come to be, why they are made the way they are.
Next, we build our projects within guidelines which limit the choices
of what to make and how to make it, but require the student to vary
the elements of construction to make it individualistic, but we are
editing everything along the way, talking about each choice, why
this width here? What will happen when we get to the next step after
this, etc. This is blow-by-blow design. The goal is to have the
student learn that any technique requires you to take that technique
out to new and personal limits and expression. Exploit it, elaborate
on it, but do it within sound design constraints. I think of that
movie, Million Dollar Baby. It’s a great example of teaching. And
like that movie, while I’m teaching people how to make jewelry, I’m
also teaching them what they can expect from this trade, where they
can take it, how they can survive it. I fear most students think that
is just an old man taking advantage of a captive audience, but in
the long run, that part of the lessons is the most important part of

David L. Huffman

I wonder about the relationship of teaching as a technique as
opposed to teaching technique as a function of design. The
limitation of the teacher is the limitation of the student. 

I teach adults in an art center. I start by teaching basics
including a bit of forging. I do this in copper so the students won’t
get hung up on the price of metal. After that, I teach techniques as
needed by their designs. I marvel at the variety of styles that I see
develop. I see no copies. It may well be different with college age
students who have not yet developed their own styles of dress and
decorating a home. Life experiences do make a difference.



I have taught silver jewelry for 25 + years as a volunteer at senior
centers. I teach techniques and advise students to start a design log
as soon as possible in a notebook. Many students are quite creative
and quickly surpass my design capability I try to get them to be
creative rather than copy


I teach at a small non-accredited art school. We have a nicely
equipped studio that holds 10 to 11 students at a time. My classes
range from basic jewelry making concepts and techniques through
advanced plus gem cutting.

I find new students don’t know enough to ‘design’ anything…except
for the few who have had training in various visual arts or have had
contact with the jewelry industry in some other capacity. While they
may be able to depict a shape or form they cannot ‘design’ a piece in
any detail because they don’t know the processes required to make

I assign all my new students specific ‘designs’ for their first
three projects. They are given some latitude in basic form but I
control that to the extent that they must perform certain functions
when doing each project.

After doing the three required projects, I begin to separate them by
demonstrated talent. Those who have problems with certain techniques
or ideas remain under closer supervision and I give them further
excercises to improve their skills. Those who grasp things more
quickly move on to more sophisticated work that I encourage them to
conjour themselves. Sometimes its just a picture but it can also be a
sketch of their own idea. I have whole ‘idea books’ filled with
projects taken from old Lapidary Journals, Rock and Gems or Gem and
Mineral magazines to get their juices flowing. Usually, at this
point, they over design…they want to do an original or something
that is way ahead of their abilities. Nonetheless, we try to
negotiate something that they CAN do similar to their idea.

When they get stuck on an issue, I have a whole case of my own
designs that we look at and where I can point out various ways to
resolve problems or perform techniques. Any new technique is
demonstrated to the class as a whole so all benefit from these
skrimiges. If that means making a knock off of one of my designs
well…thats what I made them for…I’m a teacher after all!!
Besides, nothing they make ever seems to look like the original
anyway. And, if someone should make it as well (or even better) then
I commend them and I’m proud to say they did it. That is why I teach!

I find this is a rather slow process for most students who go
through a ‘struggle period’ during which they may ruin any number of
pieces before they can say, “Ureka, I can do it”. Remember,
Churchhill once said, “Success is measured by going from failure to
failure without loosing your enthusiasm”. We must teach our students
to be tenacious, patient, and determined, if they are going to find
success. As an instructor, never loose your cool, keep telling them
how to do something over and over and praise them when they do it
right. I like nothing better than to see a student achieve a level
where they themselves are satisfied…and then I loose them as a

Cheers from Don at The Charles Belle Studio in SOFL where simple
elegance IS fine jewelry! @coralnut2


I have the good fortune to be associated w/, as well as designed,
the Sharon Art Studios’ metal arts/ jewelry program for the San
Francisco Recreation Dep’t. We are located in Golden Gate Park. My
view on design and teaching any aesthetic application is that you
need to present how the visual works, as an integral part of the
WHOLE, when teaching technique. One can’t exist without the other,
and have the finished object stand on its’ own.

As an introduction to the idea of how to think about design
applications, I have been using the last chapter in Robert Von
Newman’s’ “The Design And Creation of Jewelry” as a starting point
of our conversation on this topic.Its’ written in a very concise, to
the point manner, without resorting to ART SPEAK.


I am reading this with great interest.

Over the last 30 years or so, I have been in and out of smithing
classes, formal and one on one. In the past, I have carved and cast,
etched and formed, pierced and fabricated.

I have learned some from every teacher and have no plans at all to
stop. Time and finances have been a major factor along the way.

Some two years ago, I happily found the Crafts Center at UCSD. This
is an Oasis of Creative spirits. Jewelry has two teachers, both
formally trained and each excellent in their own right.

I personally will never achieve perfection, I don’t want to.

My current teacher, a member of this group Jay Whaley, has shared a
lot of knowledge and has me moving forward with confidence. He
prefers a drawn design so he can know what my end result will be. Me,
I am not a pencil and paper artist and do not want a computer
assisting me.

I prefer to handle my stone, natural and preferably not calibrated,
and allow it to speak to me. I also like to take my silver, alloy it
if I plan to reticulate it, or play the torch over it to see what
shape it cares to take. I then take time and it can take a year
before I see a meld between metal and stone.

Do I have design problems, yes of course. bails and hanging angles,
do I bead or make chains, how to bring it all together. These are the
areas I feel guidance can help me.

One thing I have consistently heard from my instructors, has been
"why do you try to make it so hard?" Well easy is what too many do.
One day I will find a soul mate as an instructor, or maybe I won’t.

I love the atmosphere where I study and do studio now. I will again
take a class with Carol Sivets the other teacher at the Crafts
Center. Learning is my only path.

I love Orchid for what I see here and for those I have met here. You
are my online Oasis.

Hugs to all,