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The purpose of beginning jewelry class


#1

Was: Selecting bezel wire size

Your view puzzles me. I would have thought that the object of many
short-term jewellery courses is to enable the student to make a
piece of wearable jewellery. 

The object of any course in jewellery making should to teach how to
make anything which can be called jewellery. Quality bezels are
above any beginner’s skill set. "

for me, i want the class to teach me techniques. i don’t value
having a finished piece. often i don’t have a finished project
because i work slowly, but that’s ok for me. i think more students
want a finished piece though.

working on a piece i have conceived is helpful because it teaches me
to figure out how to go about achieving what i have envisioned.
this is so important, maybe more important than mastering a
technique. if i can, i practice the technique at home and then come
to class with questions. that’s the best use of my class time.

aside from the instructor herself, the other value of class is using
the facilities!

jean adkins


#2
Quality bezels are above any beginner's skill set. 

I dare say quality ‘anything’ is above the beginner’s skill (please
don’t make me say ‘set’) because it hasn’t been developed yet. But
you have to start, don’t you?

Cabs are a natural for bezels and there are numerous low cost cabs
available so its low cost low risk for learning. And a bezeled cab is
relatively easy…form it, solder it, set it. Prongs or channel or
whatever else are more complicated to make the seat. Small victories
give the new jeweler some confidence. One typically doesn’t write
best selling novels until one has learned the alphabet and maybe
written a short story or two.


#3
for me, i want the class to teach me techniques. i don't value
having a finished piece. often i don't have a finished project
because i work slowly, but that's ok for me. i think more students
want a finished piece though. 

I think you have exactly the right attitude. Learning the technique
and practicing it over and over again is the key to mastery. You may
be slower than the rest of the class, but don’t let it bother you. In
the long run, you will be far ahead of the crowd.

Leonid Surpin
www.studioarete.com


#4

I agree fully Neil.I am just graduating from Texas Institute of
Jewelry Technology in Paris, TX. That beginning class is so very
important. I certainly could not do what I do now without it. I am
still so very green and am graduating with great respect for those of
you who have paid your dues in the business, and great apprehension
for what awaits me w/o my instructors. However…! I have been
taught well, and given high standards to meet, soin time, the fear
hopefully will leave, and the art will take over and fly!

Have a wonderful weekend.
Sincerely,
Angela Hampton


#5
And a bezeled cab is relatively easy...form it, solder it, set it.
Prongs or channel or whatever else are more complicated to make the
seat. Small victories give the new jeweler some confidence. 

Let me try to answer it this way:

I have been the member of this forum for a couple of years. I cannot
recall a single instance when question was asked of how to set in
prongs. But bezels comes up over and over again. If bezels are easy,
why do you think that is ?

The “confidence” that beginner acquires completing bezel project, is
a false confidence that quickly turns into poison, which severely
impairs all future progress.

Leonid Surpin
www.studioarete.com


#6

This is an interesting thread to me. We have been doing classes for
about a year now both at the local CC and in our store shop. When we
began I focused on imparting the basic skills with tools and less on
having a finished product.Many of the students were eager to learn
more procedures and equipment uses. As we have done more classes I
have realized that these people are probably not going to be taking
up jewery careers or even becoming parttime Etsy salescraftpeople.
For most of them they want to spend an evening doing something
totally different than what they do at a desk all day, have some
fun, and if they have a little pair of earrings to take home and
tell their friends they made themselves it is all good.

I’ll be interested to see what others say.

charlie


#7
for me, i want the class to teach me techniques. i don't value
having a finished piece. often i don't have a finished project
because i work slowly, but that's ok for me. i think more students
want a finished piece though 

I feel exactly the same way, I’ve been taking almost a year’s worth
of classes and no “finished” pieces at all, but that is totally ok
with me. My fellow students are all working with the goal to create
finished pieces. I feel I am there to learn as many techniques, etc.
as possible in the shortest period of time, in order to work toward
being able to have the skills to create what I have been envisioning.
I am totally happy with the “unfinished” things I’ve created, because
I am excited about what is to come.

Michelle


#8
If bezels are easy, why do you think that is ? 

Ummmm, maybe because more beginners start with bezels?

The "confidence" that beginner acquires completing bezel project,
is a false confidence that quickly turns into poison, which
severely impairs all future progress. 

Well Leonid, and I say this with empathy, most beginners are
fortunate enough not to have teachers who smash their student’s work
(and confidence) with a mallet if its not 100% perfect.

I think too much is made of the difficulty and complexity of
crafting something, anything… jewelry, bookcases, hotrods(the
latter day quintessentially American folkart). We have people here
who are afraid to pick up a torch partly because, imo, they hear
horror stories from web experts. This is not rocket science, its
mechanics (sorry if that offends anyone), learn procedures and use
good sense. All anyone can do is build upon what they have
accomplished so far, that goes for master as well as novice.

I’ll go a bit further because I still have half a cup of coffee. I
believe (others may not) that there exists a very intimate
relationship between the craftsman and his work. In some way the
work becomes your reason for being, its your identity. Every jewelry
master started out knowing zip and able to accomplish notta. I have
a hard time believing they progressed into more challenging work
laboring under false confidence.


#9
I cannot recall a single instance when question was asked of how to
set in prongs. But bezels comes up over and over again. If bezels
are easy, why do you think that is ? 

We’re talking about making the settings, not setting the actual
stones. Making settings for prong set stones is far more complicated
than making a simple bezel for a cabochon.

And having been a teacher, I know the importance in allowing the
students feel accomplishment and achievement. Grab their attention
by making them feel that they CAN do that, and they then want to come
back for more.

Helen
UK


#10

Neil wrote exactly what I was trying to say - thank you Neil. Setting
a prong set stone may be easy, but making a basket setting or
whatever, is far more difficult to make than a bezel for a cabochon.

Helen
UK


#11

My first question is what kind of curriculum is being taught at
these beginning classes and who are the students? A beginning jewelry
class at New Approach School or Revere Academy is going to be way
different than Massachusetts College of Art, Metalwerx, or your local
recreation center.

Adult students have different expectations than younger ones and to
what program they are attending. My experience is art school, adult
ed and Metalwerx so I can only respond from this. Art school was less
about technique and more on concept. I appreciated many aspects of
this learning process as it gave me a foundation to ask good and hard
questions, to give honest and articulate critiques and bring metaphor
into my work. At adult ed I had more of the basics in simple
technical processes, like filing, soldering, piercing, etc. I haven’t
had formal jewelry training, not even at Metalwerx where I was more
concentrated on running the school than taking the yummy classes I
set up for others. But somewhere, that knowledge oozed its way in and
I can make a piece by referencing some technical material.

When I look at the first piece of jewelry I ever made and compare it
to the last piece I just fabricated or in process of fabrication, I’m
amazed at how far I have come and am grateful for all the assistance
that has come my way. However, nothing can substitute trial and
error, practice, practice, practice and documenting everything you
do.

When I made my first production sterling silver cast tea leaf pins,
tea pots, tea cups for resin inlay, my caster at that time left
sprues. Each one had to be sawed off, ground down, tumble polished
and the pin backs soldered on. This was my first leap into repetitive
work and I learned a lot about working quickly, understanding the
metal and how it behaved.

Is it important to finish a piece? Depends on who it is for. The
most important aspect is not that you finish, but you enjoy the
process of doing. For me when I work, I am launched into a zone, and
that zone is absolutely intoxicating. Learn because you love it. Do
it because you love it. The rest will find its way to your door.

Karen Christians
Cleverwerx


#12
But bezels comes up over and over again. If bezels are easy, why do
you think that is ? 

Because many beginning classes will show students how to form and
solder down to a base layer, a simple thin bezel made of (usually) 36
guage or so, fine silver bezel wire, or some similar bezel
arrangement. This is simple construction, easier than teaching people
to make a decent prong setting. Additionally, the inexpensive
cabochons one usually sets into these bezels for these beginning
classes, really are cheap, usually pennies to a buck or two.
Granted, there are also facetted stones in that price range, but
they’re usually small, or ordinary synthetics, or otherwise
uninspiring, while even the cheap dollar agate cabs can be
individualistic and interesting.

And burnishing that type of simple silver bezel over a stone is,
indeed much easier to do than most prong settings. Yes, Leonid,
learning to be really good at burnishing even these bezels, is more
involved and takes some skill. So, of course, are the much more
tricky to set sorts of bezels most of us who are professionals are
making, thicker metals, more precious metals, etc, used to often hold
irregular stones that are harder to cut seats for, and require quite
some skill with a hammer and punch, or hammer handpiece, to set
without damage to the stone or getting an ugly result.

Simple premade prong settings aren’t hard to teach a beginner to
set, at least for round stones, but usually those beginners need to
be able to make the settings too, and that’s quite a bit more tricky
to teach than the simple bezels.

Your point, however, is well taken, Leonid, if one considers setting
types only in terms of what one encounters in commercial practice.
There, it’s true. With commercial types of settings, the bezels are
harder. But you should not equate these types, with the types being
taught in those beginning classes. There, I assure you, even the
clumsiest of rank beginners can probably produce a finished product
that, at least, they or their mother would be proud of. This isn’t
teaching people to make professional level work. It’s a beginning
introduction into silversmithing and metal work, and being able to
teach something that’s rewarding to even the beginners right at the
start, is a great way to start with stone setting. Most metals
programs, other than those geared specifically to teaching would-be
professional bench people (like the GIA setting classes), start with
these simple bezels. And THAT is why so many questions about them
appear here. By the time these same people get to more advanced
setting, and are learning to to properly set prongs, they’re much
more familier with the tools, the metals, and how to learn the
processes. So fewer beginner level questions here on the list.

You can easily demonstrate this preponderance of simple bezels as a
beginning point by visiting any local craft fair. The simple outdoor
type with street vendors and local craftspeople selling their wares
maybe along side the refreshment booths, in a show that has no jury
process or repuation for great quality. You see them commonly near
and around the various summer street festivals, or other holiday
festivals around. Often the people selling their work at reasonaly
low prices at these events are not yet highly skilled. Some are
entirely self taught. Others have taken some classes. Still others
have taken lots of classes but haven’t been doing it long. Generally
they’re not using very costly materials. You’ll see lots and lots of
cabochon set stones in simple thin “rub over” bezels, and much fewer
stones well set in prongs. And if you look even more closely, it may
surprise you to notice that many of these bezels are actually
reasonably well set, while more than a few of the prong set stones
will leave you less than impressed by their security…

Peter


#13

I’m going to quote two posts:

For most of them they want to spend an evening doing something
totally different than what they do at a desk all day, have some
fun, and if they have a little pair of earrings to take home and
tell their friends they made themselves it is all good. 
feel I am there to learn as many techniques, etc. as possible in
the shortest period of time, in order to work toward being able to
have the skills to create what I have been envisioning. I am totally
happy with the "unfinished" things I've created, because I am
excited about what is to come. 

As you can see from the two quotes above, we are talking about very
different reasons for taking a class. When I first posted about the
purpose of a beginning jewellery class (at the time still under the
bezel height thread), I was speaking too broadly and didn’t take
into account the many different types of jewelllery making class.

For those wanting a career in jewellery making, ie taking classes
with the long term in mind, they probably won’t mind if stone setting
is not covered for the first few months - I don’t know. But for those
wanting to just learn something quickly and do something different
from their job, in a one evening class or short course of classes,
they will want to walk away with something to wear.

They are two different extremes and so should probably be treated
differently. However, even in the long term classes, bezel setting
cabochons may still be the first type of stone settings taught -
again I don’t know. Perhaps someone who has taken such classes or has
taught them could chime in on this one. Personally, I still think
that a bezel set cabochon type setting is the easiest type of
setting to make.

Helen
UK


#14
This is not rocket science, its mechanics (sorry if that offends
anyone), learn procedures and use good sense. All anyone can do is
build upon what they have accomplished so far, that goes for master
as well as novice. 

I agree, jewellery is not a rocket science. It far more complicated.
Jewellery can be just a combination of metal and stones, or on very
rare occasion it can be more than that. I do not care about the
former, but very much interested in the later. So all my comments
should be interpreted from this perspective.

Recently I have watched a movie “Longitude”, which is a must see for
anybody interested in the subject. It probes very deeply the
relationship between the craftsman and his work. I do not want to
give any more details not to spoil the viewing. The movie is
available on Netflix, or maybe it can found in local movie rentals.

Leonid Surpin
www.studioarete.com


#15

Hi Neil,

We have people here who are afraid to pick up a torch partly
because, imo, they hear horror stories from web experts. 

I completely agree with the above statement.

Have you heard the definition of ‘expert’?

‘X’ an unknown quantity.

‘spert’ a drip under pressure.

Put them together & what have you got? An unknown drip under
pressure.

Dave


#16

Now, after nine years of teaching jewelry at the Boca Museum Art
School, I have begun to understand how to answer this question.

I conduct beginning through advanced fabrication classes, fun
casting, lost wax 101, and a number of workshops, in addition to
cabochon cutting and faceting. I believe the latter two are important
for those performing fabrication because they better understand why
cut and angles of a particular stone can affect the setting process.

Many of my students are beaders who want to 'go to the next step’
and add a new look to their beading. There are also quite a number
from South America who studied some in their native countries and
learned ‘the old fashion way’. This fits in quite well as I learned
that way whilst in Taiwan!! These folks usually progress quite
quickly because they (we) have a good foundation in preparing the
metals from scratch, drawing wire, making solder etc.

After a lecture on what we will do and where we are going, I start
all my students from the most basic functions…sawing, filing and
bending (copper/brass) in which they make a solderless setting. Not
supprisingly, those who have art courses or graphic design
backgrounds sometimes become quite innovative with these simple
settings. The others make quite basic and lifeless settings. But I
never criticize them…only critique and point out areas to improve
or where they did well. From there, they make a twisted wire ring to
learn manipulation, forming, annealing and soldering. Not how to make
perfect joins, but rather the process. Later many add stones to this
simple ring or use it for other projects. Next is a simple open back
square wire bearing setting with prongs to hold a tumbled stone.
Purpose; how to create a bearing for a difficult form and do
micro-soldering.

Each process is explained, what they will do, why, what happens and
the intended result. All processes are documented in class papers so
they can go back to them for future referrence.

These are all required projects and are completed in 4 weeks. Then
they must conjour their own design, estimate the amount and kinds of
metal required (with help of course) and make the piece. Most want to
make a Winston or some complex design but I coax them to do the idea
at their skill level plus a step or two. This way they receive the
practice they need to progress.

Soldering is the most difficult part. I have found average students
take around 80 hours to become competent and confident enough to go
to the bench and solder without assistance. And even then they have
not yet mastered off-hand soldering and innovative set-ups.

After about 2 years my advanced students begin to really branch out.
Some have been with me 8+ years and do some quite advanced
techniques. They set both cabs and faceted stones. Do repousse,
etching, fold forming, etc, etc. Many, with help, set up their own
studios and sell on various markets!!! 0ften I am pleased (and
rewarded) to see very professional work being done by those who just
2 years prior could not do any of this.

In short, a properly taught and designed program should provide all
the basics (with explanations) and the projects necessary for new
students to practice those basics. Their projects must be kept within
the bounds of their knowledge and techniques but always pushing the
envelope so they know where the can go. An instructor must also be
nurturing, attentive, willing to answer mundane questions and perform
simple tasks over and over and over. I tell all my new students that,
“The key to success is going from failure to failure without loosing
your enthusiasm”. I refuse to allow them to fail!

Cheers from Don in SOFL.

(Did I mention that I never studied Fine Arts or jewelry making in
college, never attended a ‘jewelry school’, nor have I ever had the
opportunity to go away for a jewelry making/learning week. All my
jewelry knowledge is based on one year of apprenticeship in Taiwan,
a few classes at a Guild in MD, and looots (38 years) of research and
practice!!)


#17

If I may, I’ll add a little more to this thread.

If you are teaching for the hobbyist, adult ed level, then projects
should respond to those students needs. Certainly when I took my
first jewelry class where I made a little band ring from silver and
watched my first slip stream of solder flow, would I ever think that
making jewelry would become one of my life’s ambitions. That little
band ring which I made and wore by the third class, which I
embellished with some hammer blows to make a decoration was total
magic. I showed that ring to several people who said, “nice”, but it
was to a friend who was a Buddhist monk who looked at it, held the
ring in his hand and said, “this is your next career.” I followed his
advice and off I went.

Saying that, the Beginning Jewelry class at Metalwerx and the Adult
Ed classes where I learned and taught, still has the same pace and
projects that inspired me. Adults are destination driven. They pay a
price for the class and they want to have that ring on their finger
by week three, or their friends are asking, what are you doing in
that class? Once the ring is on their finger and they are wearing a
piece of jewelry that they made, then they begin to relax. Piercing
becomes easier, soldering more fluid and by the end of 8 weeks they
have fabricated either a pendant with a set stone or a pair of
earrings. We use a bezel because it is easier and just soldering the
bezel together is enough to jack their blood pressure and cause heart
palpitations because everyone wants to get it right. I would tell
people to make two bezels, in case it doesn’t go right the first
time you have an instant back up. They would instantly relax.

On the first night of our class, I would take each and every student
through lighting the torch and turning the volume of gas up and down.
Much scribbling of notes were made. When I asked who would be first,
you never saw such a group of large round eyes staring back at me and
at others on who would be daring enough to turn on a torch. The torch
being the scariest part we tackled the first night. One by one, each
student mastered igniting the torch, turned the volume up and down
and I made every student do it three times. You could hear the exhale
and feel the electricity of, “wow, I just turned on a TORCH!”

The second was piercing. Adults eyes are not as good and sharp as
young ones. We would teach loading a saw blade into the frame and
yes, that minute packet of metal I just handed you actually has a
dozen blades wrapped together. More heart palpitations would ensue
while unwinding the packet and extracting a blade. Now the
interesting part, the teeth need to be pointed downward. Eyebrows
would knit together while the ladies would attempt to see the tiny
teeth. Loading the sawblade also took time as we marched towards our
goal of creating the musical “ping” when the blade was correctly taut
enough to pierce.

Piercing begins on a pattern they all used, and much blade snapping
would ensue as I worked with each adult student to relax their hand
and stop squeezing wood juice out of the handle. Eventually they
would all get it and much joy and happiness would chime from a
student who took only four blades to cut out a simple pattern.

After three hours of our first class together, as the newness of so
much and knowledge with so many things to remember, I
thought their brains would explode. Adults just aren’t used to
learning so many new things at once, but they all get through it and
they all kept coming back for more.

Those students that I taught at Metalwerx are now teachers of new
students and the cycle continues. Some now are in galleries, some are
now selling well on Etsy and some just make jewelry because it is
just so much fun.

Whatever direction jewelry takes you, one should never stop
learning. Even “masters” would agree, there is always something new
to learn. This is jewelry for me, a constant learning process and no
matter how good or adept you become, everyone has a beginning. We all
learn in different ways and by different people and aren’t we lucky
to have this forum on Orchid to share our passion and knowledge.

Karen Christians
Cleverwerx


#18
Put them together & what have you got? An unknown drip under
pressure. 

Reminds me of what Peter Drucker had to say: “I have been saying for
many years that we are using the word guru only because charlatan is
too long”


#19

i have 2 reasons for wanting to go slowly to make sure i have
mastered a basic skill.

  1. my personality. i learned to value doing the best i can from my
    father. i do the best i can whether i am rewarded for it or not. even
    as a child i did not want to go on to something else before i got
    what was being taught (i’m thinking of elementary gym class.)

  2. basic skills are the foundation for what comes next. it really is
    true that if i haven’t done the first step correctly, i am likely to
    have trouble with subsequent steps–and have to go back and start
    all over. one mistake or less than satisfactory step is likely to
    generate another mistake. for me, things get more complicated as i
    try to compensate for a less-than-good first step.

jean adkins


#20
Have you heard the definition of 'expert'? 
'X' an unknown quantity.
'spert' a drip under pressure.

Oh, I know this one. From the hundreds of people I’ve taught
soldering techniques, the challenges from students has run the
gambit.

No, it’s not the best idea to turn your torch gas volume on high,
point it at your neighbor and ignite.

Umm, maybe you want to rethink your strategy of using an 00 Smith
tip to join two large pieces of metal.

Bare hands in operating a torch works much better than wearing oven
mitts.

Flux shouldn’t’ look like a crusty geothermal tourist attraction
from Yellowstone Park.

And please, although you are very excited to show me your newly
soldered ring, don’t’ drop it into my bare hands from your tweezers.

Lastly, attaching a torch tip to the handle before igniting it is a
good idea. Yup, there’s a lot of gas shooting through the handle.

Ah, students.

Karen Christians
Cleverwerx