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Who taught you?

After reading for more than a week the commentary surrounding
Discipline and Using Method to Design Jewelry, I’m curious about how
you (anyone) got your start. I’d love to hear about your beginnings,
schoolings, mentors, first jobs, funny experiences, etc. I know you
have some great stories.

As for Design vs. Art, check out this entertaining series of (three)
short videos about creativity and the truth behind originality, with
some pretty surprising examples as back-up.

The basic gist is that all people learn by copying others. Once one
has copied and practiced others’ methods, techniques and ideas for a
long enough time, the brain uses the as fodder to create
something different, which it presents as an inspiration.

We are all amateurs when we start. First, we learn the discipline
and methods. After we do that for a good while, we selectively use
what we’ve learned to create “art.” Attempts to create art without
the former often have rather chaotic results.

But no amateur sits down and thinks, “Today, I’d like to create a
doughy piece of junk with my expensive metal clay.”

Thank you Georgette. Intent is the basis for all art. A kindred

Who taught me? Robert Hindman… a master hand engraver and watch
maker, and a good German man. As he said: “keep your tools sharp and
polished at all times”. Such true words. Hand engraving with sharp
gravers truly gave me an edge in the jewelry industry.Repairing
watches or cutting a new balance staff on a lathe by measuring with a
micrometer was crazy difficult! It is all becoming a lost art. He was
also my brothers’ instructor.

Hello Georgette,

No funny stories here. I began working with silver in high school -
Brent Yancey was the teacher and he allowed me to work independently
in the studio while he taught another class. In college I took a
class from Rex Replogle. As a young working mom, I was fortunate in
my spare (!) time to learn to work in gold and to do simple
stone-setting from a real master, James Cooke. Since then, it’s been
learning by trial and error by myself, from a dear departed friend,
Ann Talarico (whom I still miss), and from others here on Orchid.

Judy in Kansas

The work taught me

I started making jewelry while I was attending GA Tech. I read most
of the jewelry books I could find. I was mentored by two jewelers, Ben
Douglas and John Berry while living in Atlanta, and took a course
under Richard Mafong at GA State. I moved to Boston in 1971 and less
than a year later was working as a sample and model maker for a
jewelry factory in Pawtucket, RI. In the mid 70’s I rented bench
space at the Jeweller’s Guild in Boston. I moved to Martha’s Vineyard
in the late 70’s and settled here.

Hello All;

I was fresh out of undergrad with a BFA from Wayne State under
Phillip Fike and feeling pretty cocky. Went looking for work and got
an offer from an old Aremian jeweler from Lebanon. I knew how to
thread a saw frame, light a torch, and do quite a bit of fabrication
and casting. Not what he needed. His words to me… “you should pay
me, I teach you good trade, you make good living” (sorry, not
criticizing his broken English but that’s what he said, word for word
and I thought you’d appreciate it that way). He was quite serious.

After a couple years at $1.50 an hour, I got an offer for $7.75/hr.
and he couldn’t match it so I jumped ship. Still feel like I owe him
something, I still do a lot of things the way he taught me. I worked
in one of the few, at that time, custom jewelers in the Detroit area,
they closed, on to the next, etc., etc… Here’s a list of some of the
jewelers who I learned from. I owe them all a debt of gratitude for
how open they were with sharing their knowlege, and how patient they
were with me and my peculiarities :-).

Doug Wasserman
Joe Rubenstein
Doug Barthel
Stan Roberson
Darin Voytel
Patrick Roney
Frank Longo

All these men are amazing jewelers and superb artists. As good as
any I’ve seen anywhere, so I consider myself unusually blessed to
have worked with so many craftsmen of this caliber.

I did eventually go back to grad school where I got the MFA in
metals under L. Brent Kington and Richard Mawdsley. By that time I
was teaching their students for them as a grad assistant, so what I
learned from them was not so much technique as theory. But we had
some pretty impressive students in the grad program. Sarah Perkins,
Doug Harling, Danny Donovan-Wilhelmi, Dan Radvin, Rick Smith, Sherri
Foutopolis, Tom McCarthey, and forgive me for not listing them all. I
picked up a lot from these folks too. I also worked for a time for
Daryl Meier, the renowned knife maker. Now that guy is an incredible
teacher. Lots of workshops with instructors and department heads from
all over the country, including Charles Lewton-Brain, and that guy
puts on an incredible show! Great fun. Finally, a tip of the hat to
Mickey Roof. I was fortunate enought to attend her workshop on
precious metal clay, which was taught by her and Sherri Foutopolus,
both women are great instructors, very professional and efficient
while making it so much fun. If you get a chance, you’ll love it.

I’ve ran my own retail store for a couple years now. I’m near the
end of my road, looking forward to making doll house furniture and
tending my orchard. I will wait to see how long I can hold out before
the lure of metal pulls me back, but I long for time to watch sunsets
and chickens pecking around the yard.

David L. Huffman

The short answer is, “A lot of people I never actually met.” Plus my
high school shop teacher.

In high school, I took one year of general shop (plastics, wood,
leather) and then one year of metal shop. In the metals class we
cast and machined aluminum, forged and welded steel, and brazed and
hammered copper. Fast forward 35 years, and I am appalled that this
opportunity is not available to most students today. But never mind.

Over that 35 years I did little with that basic education, but I
remembered it. A few years ago I started some projects involving
casting and machining, then got interested in jewelry. To refresh my
fading memory, I bought books, watched youtube videos, searched the
internet, and followed appropriate message boards. I found that one
can make an amazing number of mistakes and still salvage a
serviceable piece of jewelry.

I’m still not very good, but practice will change that. Practice,
and paying attention here and other places where people go out of
their way to explain the finer points of their art. I don’t recommend
my way for everyone, but it seems to work for me.


I start making bead and wire jewellery for myself, I like one of
kind design so whatever I made no one has it. After a while my
collections were more then I can wear, my friends love them and ask
me to put my stuff in craft show and I did for couple of year then I
discover metal smith and it look very interesting and challenging so
I enrolled in the local art college night course for beginner then
onto the next levels and l love it so I start buying a torch here a
tool there every time I learn a new thing I will buy the tool to help
me make more of it, in class I will make 2 or 3 pieces of what my
teacher teaches us, so after a while I have enough pieces to sell and
I can have money to buy more tools and material. What I didn’t learn
orchid I also learn a lot and I asked questions and got my answers
and learn even more. I find one can’t learn everything about metal
smith always something new I can learn. I like to thank all the
people who answered my questions and all the ones that asked question
on Orchid gave me chances to advance myself. (sorry about the bad

Wow, that’s a long question. I was a painter in art school at the
Museum of Fine Art in Houston, TX (now called Glassell), the course I
signed up for cancelled and the only course available was jewelry
design. I fell in love with working with silver. Don’t remember my
instructors name, he wasn’t particularly good (he prefered his 6 pack
to teaching).

So, the teachers I learned the most from and I’m proud to have been
a student of:

J. Patrick McCrary (no longer working in the field)—JPLtd,
Houston, Tx

Val Link JPLtd, Houston, TX

Gennady Osmerkin (silversmithing (raising metal)) – FIT, NYC, NY

Felicia Liban (cloisonne enamel) — Little Neck, NY

Harold Rubenstein — (Ceremonial Judaica) Tobe Pascher Workshop
(Jewish Museum) NYC

Ludwig Wolpert — (Ceremonial Judaica) Tobe Pascher Workshop
(Jewish Museum) NYC

Moshe Zabari —(Ceremonial Judaica) Tobe Pascher Workshop (Jewish
Museum) NYC

Jean Stark ---- repousse and granulation — S.C.

Valentin Yudkov — chasing/repousse ---- Brooklyn, NY

Valerie Timofeev ---- plique-a-jour enamel, Penland, NC

Gerry Lewy diamond setting Toronto, Canada

I’ve attending many workshops and learned other techniques, too many
to mention.

Always still learning as well as teaching my own courses.

Jennifer Friedman
Ventura, CA

Hello David,

Thanks for sharing your journey. I understand your respect for all
those who have taught you. May I suggest that you send them an email
or note of thanks? I have done this and was surprised to find out how
much it meant to my mentors.

In fact, I make this a general suggestion to everyone who values a
mentor or instructor. With that, let me express my thanks and
appreciation to Charles Lewton-Brain,Hanuman and Ton, without whom
this forum would not exist.

Judy in Kansas, where two turtles have been found… still missing
about 10!

My story begins thousands of miles away in Taipei, Taiwan in the
early 70’s. I was there on a government job and met a Chinese man by
the name of William Tseng who taught lapidary at the craft shop in
the Military Assistance Advisory Group compound in Taipei. He asked
if I would like to learn to cut stones and took me on. In those days
we were still using the old silicon carbide machines and it took
quite a while to get use to their aggressiveness. It took me a week
to cut and polish my first stone to his satisfaction. I then built
all my own equipment (with the help of several local machine shops)
and created a shop in my home. I visited just about every cutting
company in Taipei at the time and there were many. I met and talked
with the owners and workers and became quite familiar with their
processes of cutting both cabochons and faceting.

I had a lot of opal available to me and concentrated on cutting them,
selling the finished product to women in the international community
in Taipei. I would then send them to another Chinese friend of mine
at the Min Mai Jewelry company where they would have them set. One
day the owner, Mr Chu asked if I would like to learn jewelry making
in his factory. So for about a year I would spend several nights a
week in his factory where his gold/silver smiths taught me the
process. We used the old gasoline vapor torches with air supplied
from a foot operated bellows, used very antiquated equipment in
somewhat dangerous conditions, made our own solders, rolled our own
sheet, pulled our own wire, etc., etc. but I learned to make jewelry!

On returning to the States, I took courses at the Patuxent Lapidary
Guild in MD where I took several advanced courses,and started my own
repair and custom jewelry business out of my basement where I had a
fully equipped shop for cabbing, faceting, design, casting, etc. When
I retired from the Govt, we moved to Fl and I created another shop,
this time in my garage (lacking a basement). I have been teaching
cutting and fabrication at the Boca Raton Museum of Art School for
going on to 11 years now while continuing to make my own pieces and
writing a number of articles for Lapidary Journal and Art Jewelry
magazines. I haven’t been able to study under many of the 'masters’
but did take a workshop with Chris Darway, studied enameling with
Lila Lewenthal (who I am sad to say passed away last week suddenly),
and art clay with Jane Levy. With no formal academic training, the
rest has been pretty much self study and experimentation.

Cheers from Don in SOFL.

I began my apprenticeship (informal) by accepting a job in 1977 with
a local wholesale trade shop whose accounts included a number of
major Canadian jewellery retailers. Tara Jewellers. It was easy to
determine before much time had passed that the relationship between
our company and those retailers was constantly, and without fail,

The owner’s name was Ed Bochke. He didn’t work at the bench much but
could if he needed to. He had, by the time I began working for him,
about 7 journeymen, most from Hong Kong. At one point there were 10
of us stuffed into a 500 square foot space. He passed away in 1986
due to cancer that he attributed to work…chemicals, buffing
compounds, and related exposures. At one point during my early
training, he ridiculed me for wearing a particle mask while

When he knew he was on his way out, he was on a personal crusade to
end the use of plating solutions and to institute regulations for
standards of ventilation in trade shops. He died a millionaire but
his kids didn’t inherit anything worthwhile following his
demise…just the money. I loved the guy, will never forget his
approach to others. He had a way with people and left us far too

Next was a high-end retailer run by a couple of fellows, one a
goldsmith, the other a seasoned jewellery salesman, who together
aspired to create a company that would remove the bridge between
wholesale jewellers and retailers by having highly-skilled
craftsmen/women working within the jewellery retailer’s premises
producing one-off designs for affluent clients. Jason Goldsmiths.
Jason was the name of one of the owner’s kids I believe. Great
business model. They were stricken by “affluenza” after a few short
years, individually with costly failed marriages due to
infidelity…(both had weekly regular meeting facilities set up at
one hotel chain’s facilities…) They were legendary, to say the
least. Not heros by any stretch of definition, but they were present
during my training, so they are worthy of mention…Gerry Hlady and
the late Dan Meyer. Gerry still suffers from his bout with 1980’s
afflenza, and will likely never recover. My direct supervisor was
the late Alfred Moellman ( 5 years), but I was also an indirect
understudy of Robert Arychuk who later went on to prove, above all,
that fat egos end careers.

Next was a wholesale services provider with a tiny retail footprint.
We serviced several local retailers but sold to the public as well,
frowned upon by the retailers we served but they were so flippin’
cheap that they could not begrudge the odd sale to the public. I was
in training with a couple of the senior employees, and trained other
juniors during my tenure there. The owner’s name is Carl Lentz, and
he still operates a local business to this day…likely because he
can’t retire due to never making enough income during his best

Following that, I was hired by a shrewd businessman who was still
singing the mantra of the high-end retailer…and trying to follow
through on the original business model without the infidelity and
stupidity. He managed to avoid one of those pitfalls. I talked my way
into that job because I was made aware of the pathetic waste of
resources they were steadfastly committed to in their dealings with
wholesalers. All manufacturing was outsourced but the physical
infrastructure was capable of enabling the transition to full-on in
house production, and that is the basis under which I pitched my
proposal for employment there. He and I had worked at the former
company somewhat "together’ but not really… he had been a store
manager and had little actual bench experience, but believed, above
all, that given enough time he could trump the work of any of the
journeymen jewellers. He grew to love my work and commitment and
eventually came to terms with the reality that in two lifetimes he
could never be the benchie he had formerly thought he was. His ego
will survive beyond his lifetime because everyone who has served him
has several stories which are best shared in whispers. I won’t name

In August of 2000 I opened my own studio and will honour these
mentors in some form or other throughout my remaining years. Each
brought something to the table, and are worthy of more than a tip of
the hat.

David Keeling

Georgette- Like all of the most important life changing decisions,
mine was dumb luck. I transferred to my third high school and they
didn’t have a wood shop.

“No wood. We got metals.”

“OK, I’d like to try that.”

“Oh sorry but the class started two months ago. You can’t possibly
catch up.”

“Let me try for a week. If I fail I’ll try something else.” Within
two weeks the teacher hooked me up to go to the University of Oregon
to study under the late great Max NIxon. Max used to say, “I don’t
teach jewelry. I teach humility.”

I went on to become a liturgical silver smith for a few years and
then served an apprenticeship in the Local Jeweler’s Union. I was the
first woman to sit a bench and make Journeyman. I learned so many
chops from working in busy street shops. I’ve had the pleasure of
working with some really great older pre WWII era craftsmen who set
the curve and set high expectations for me. It was really rough for
me at times, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Experience really is the best teacher.
Have fun and make lots of jewelry.
Jo Haemer

A guy named Matt Willig (not the football player) at a little shop
in Coconut Grove, FL.

I was in my early thirties, a discontented housewife not really
using my education. I had done some metal sculpture and was familiar
with torches and tools. I found myself looking in shops and
galleries for pieces I could visualize but no one was making, and I
thought, “Wait a minute. I know what they look like. All I have to
do is learn how to make them!”

I was living in Washington DC at the time, and the Smithsonian
Institution has a whole educational arm for people who live there,
so I signed up for some jewelry classes. When I got a jeweler’s saw
in my hand for the first time, my reaction was, “Where have YOU been
all my life?” When my marriage dissolved a couple of years later I
moved to Philadelphia and found a mentor whose brain I could pick
when I was stymied; the late and much lamented David Held.

My background is in psychology, but once I found what I really
wanted to do I’ve never looked back. It’s been almost 40 years and
I’m still going strong.

Jane Kofoed

The journey I decided to try has become my 'life", it keeps my brain
active and exercises my fingers. When an Adult Ed Program was being
offered in the new city when I moved, I enrolled. The Instructor for
the Adult Ed Program was the high school Jewelry Teacher, Roger
Rydberg. He was, by far, the finest instructor I have ever had. For
a number of years I “bled” his brain…I learned everything I could.
To this day his instruction rings out!

Other instructors include: Roger Wilbur (Channel Inlay); Harold
O’Connor (Reticulation/Granulation and a 5 day class at his studio in
Salida); Phil Poirier (Hydraulic Press/and a 5 day class in his
studio in everything); Michael Boyd (rock drilling/rivets - several
seminars); Tim McCreight (PMC); CeCe Wire (PMC Certification); and
Travis Ogden (Anticlastic Forming/Fold Forming).

I feel so fortunate to have had the association with these wonderful
teachers. As a result, I have my own “school” with eager students,
and great results. Bragging! I am able to create and design in my
spare time. Have been retired from that Corporate job for 12
years…my motto for this new career is: It keeps me off the street
and out of the bars! All of which are “way out” and unattainable!

In the “big circles” I am an unknown, but very vocal, an eager
learner, a good listener, and a fine Instructor! (My Opinion!)

Rose Marie Christison

I think I’m catching this thread late but this is fun and I wanted
to share my own experience. I just had my first child and wasn’t
working full time for the first time in my life and had just moved to
Florida. A bit adrift, I signed up for the first metalsmithing class
started at the Boca Raton Museum of Art. Susan Lewis, an amazing
enamelist, built an entire metalsmithing program there. I studied
with her for four years and remember thinking, “there’s nothing new
I have to contribute to this art”, discouraged and a bit overwhelmed
by all the extensive and fabulous art jewelry I saw. Anyway, Susan
steered me to a workshop taught by Mary Lee Hu and that was
breakthrough for me.

As I raised my children, my fascination with wire techniques grew
and everyday for maybe 15 years, I put them to bed and then headed
for my wire. I spent anywhere from 3-5 hours a night for all those
years teaching myself, working up techniques and being challenged.
When we moved to San Diego, I studied with Jay Whaley privately for
about 5 years at UCSD. Jay helped me take all those years of wire
experimentation and turned them into jewelry pieces and completed
techniques. He is an amazing and very generous instructor. Jay, are
your ears ringing? An incredibly creative problem solver, Jay always
had several solutions for whatever problems or challenges I faced in
my work.

The gift of this work has always been a place for centering and
challenging myself and I am truly grateful for these two mentors who
helped light the path.

Lisa Van Herik

My mom was an unhappy woman and my sister and I tried to get her
involved in various crafts but she just couldn’t get interested and
didn’t really try. One day when I took her shopping she mentioned
that she thought it might be nice to make rosaries. We went straight
to the craft store and I bought tools, beads and wire for her. When
we got back to her house I went online and learned how to make
rosaries. I gave her some 5 mm beads for a rosary for me. When it was
complete she gave it to me along with the beads I had given to her
for other rosaries. She was having trouble picking up the small beads
but did well with 8 mm beads. She made hundreds of rosaries before
she passed away. She told me I would have to make the smaller
rosaries. I did and, after making a couple of them, I was bored to
tears. I played with making bracelets and necklaces and then got
books and good tools and lots of materials. Since then I’ve been
working on learning new techniques, taking classes when I can and
trying new things. I’ve had some health issues so have been slower
than I had hoped but continue working on new things. I look at the
photos of jewelry made by others including Beth Wicker and I’m
inspired to try new things. I’m challenged and I’m having a good time
trying new things. One of these days I hope to be selling more
jewelry. The teachers from my classes and all of the
ideas I’ve found online have been what got me started and keeps me
trying new techniques.

Pat Gebes

I posted my Zen answer to this already, which was “the work taught
me”, and I’ll stand by that, as mch, if not a lot more, than any one
person, or book, taught me. There are countless examples of
on-the-job training, which is basically what I’ve had over the
years. Sure, some guy showed me how to adjust the torch so that I
could fuse steel plates together, and how to setup bezels on plates
for production soldering, and how to polish gold filled without
taking all the gold off, and basic things like that, but it took me
doing the work to learn it well, and it took being open to new things
to let the work teach me to be even better, to improve and invent
techniques or tricks.

This was even more true of making pancake dies, because when the RT
System came out, there was very little in the way of detailed
instructions , and the details of much of my current routine process
had not been figured out or finalized in the first months, because I
had to do a lot of trial and error to find what worked best. The
work taught me.

Another version is along the lines of things that need to be
invented showing me how they need to be built. I start with an idea
of an end, and determine the means to get it done, and often it’s a
reciprocal process : like there’s a way that will work, and if I
keep asking , keep figuring out what doesn’t quite work, I’ll be
left with what does work being revealed to me. I remember one hole
punching jig that was fairly complicated, and I didn’t really have a
good vizualization of what I’d end up with, but it went step by
step, each stage would reveal the best choice for how to execute the
next , until it was all made.

The work teaches me.

Dar Shelton