Questions & Answers – Taking Classes

This week I received an email about tools and classes from a beginning metalsmith.  She is looking for tools and mentioned a class she took at a private studio.

As much as I like tools, my best advice for beginners..don’t buy any until you’ve taken a class or two.    I spent way, way too much money on cheap, unnecessary tools when I started metalwork.

Classes – I live in Southern California and there are dozens of places to take metalwork classes.  Private studios, classes in stores, community colleges, universities, classes through guilds or clubs.   I have taken classes from all of the above – again occasionally spending way too much (seeing a pattern here…).

Community Colleges: I can only speak about California – but I assume all states have a community college system.  Look to these educational resources first, community colleges usually have a good to very good equipped studio.  The cost is usually very reasonable – here in So. Cal community college classes are $20 per unit, most classes are 3 units – pretty cheap for a semester long jewelry class.  Granted there is probably a materials or studio fee, parking fees & maybe an enrollment fee – you may end up paying $100 a semester, still a bargain for an instructor & studio.    The local University may have a jewelry program within the art department, probably a great class but you may have to apply to the school and enroll in the program – may not  be feasible for many people.

Private studios; the advantage to going to a private studio is less people to compete for the instructors attention.  I’ve found that most private studios are limited in space and 4 – 6 students are the norm.  The downside – the private studios/semi private instruction tends to be more expensive than a community college.

Classes in stores…I know for many people this is their only choice.  I find these classes way too expensive, you usually have to take all your own tools and occasionally it ends up as a guided shopping trip through the store.  Learn all that you can, but skip the store shopping.

Clubs and Guilds. I love this education option for metalworkers with some experience or a class or two taken.  Clubs and Guilds generally don’t have ongoing classes, rather they host workshops using guest teachers.  In southern California the local guild is the Metals Arts Society of Southern California (MASSC), it’s fantastic.   These non-profit groups are great way to network with like minded people and often have members who offer to mentor beginners.     Lapidary clubs are another place to look for jewelry classes (and tools!), usually these community based clubs have low cost membership fees, small classes and small class fees.  Most likely you will need to bring jewelry making tools to these classes.

Jewelry Schools – I can only daydream of going to a school specifically for jewelry.  Two I can think of here in California, The Gemological Institute of America (GIA) and the Revere Academy in San Francisco.  I’m sure there are others in the state and many around the country, you’ll find ads for jewelry schools in magazines like Art Jewelry, Ornament, Jewelry Artist, (maybe) Metalsmith.

As much as I like my home studio, I love taking classes – not only do you learn a new skill or brush up an old skill, but you get to talk to people who enjoy making and talking about jewelry.  The commoradie in a jewelry class or studio is quite wonderful – I highly recommend it.


~ by khmetalwork on August 26, 2010.

3 Responses to “Questions & Answers – Taking Classes”

  1. Karen, I could not agree more!
    I have been taking the same “class” for the past three years, for both the community aspect as well as the learning. The “social” side is two-fold. I work a full time job so my Tuesday nights at the Maitland Art Center ensures that I will have at least ONE night dedicated to my craft. I can honestly say that there has hardly been a night that I have not learned something from someone.
    I take classes at William Holland at least once a year and I just got back from a Chain Making class in Atlanta associated with SCAD. I’ve dragged my husband into the whole thing by joining us in the Central Florida Gem Society so Thursday nights is dedicated to cutting stones and I have sighned up for another “Beginners” class at a local art school just to get another view. In the end I hope to begin teaching since I feel the need to share all I have learned!
    NEVER stop learning!

  2. Karen,

    I live in SoCal as well, specifically in Marina del Rey. I have been making jewelry (mostly beadwork, some wire) for several years. However I have always been very interested in metalwork. I want to take a beginners intro course. I have a full-time job, so this is not for a school credit. It is merely for fun. Basically, another expensive hobby I can’t afford. Which brings me to my question, where are some schools or studios you recommend? My search thus far has mostly been classes that are too far away to get to for an evening class or really, really expensive. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

    – JC

  3. Ive been trying to find classes. Ive looked at colleges but i cant seem to find anything. If you have any references couls you please send them to me. Id like to learn the entire process of jewelry fabrication


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