How can I go abut learning metalsmithing for jewelry making?
February 17, 2012 8:03 AM   Subscribe

How can I go abut learning jewelry making? Real metalsmithing, not just stringing beads on wires...

I've been attempting to learn jewelry making on my own, and well... it is slow going. I would like to learn some of the technical mastery that’s been lacking in my work, and develop some real craftsmanship. I intend to make a living from this...

While I have learned a great deal on my own, my skill set is not well rounded and I need more balance in my technique and knowledge. My experience in fabrication has been focused on copper and enamel work. I have a theoretical understanding of most fabrication techniques, but no practical experience with many of them. I am competent with a jeweler’s saw, but my success rate with silver brazing is deplorable. Casting remains an unexplored area for me, and one that I’d love to gain experience in. Knowledge of precious metals and gems would also greatly benefit me, as these materials are frequent elements of my design concepts.

I Would like to focus on:

- Forming including raising, hollow forms (seaming), etc
- Complicated clasps/mechanisms
- High degree of precision in all facets of fabrication (ie cold connections, settings, etc)
- Finishing methods
- Wax modeling/effective spruing
- Casting
- Working with fine metals
- Gemology
- Stone setting including more advanced techniques

And would like to continue education afterward through workshops/etc (unless included in prior education):

- Repousse
- Basic engraving and/or chasing
- Granulation
- Basse taille
- Plique a jour
- Basic electroplating

Should I apprentice or attend a trade school? Where? I am willing to do whatever it takes, but favor a two-year program over a four-year bachelors program.

[Yes, I have seen this: ]
posted by juliewhite to Science & Nature (12 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
Have you looked at what any community colleges and art schools are offering in your area? Community college is often the best bang for your buck in getting you the basic skills to build from.
posted by amanda at 8:10 AM on February 17, 2012 [4 favorites]

Where do you live? Are you willing to relocate for school?
posted by chowflap at 8:24 AM on February 17, 2012

I agree that you should check out local colleges, universities, and art schools--my undergrad had a concentration in jewelry making available to studio art majors, and they did the sorts of things you're asking about.
posted by smirkette at 8:24 AM on February 17, 2012

Yep, check out local schools. The university here has classes in small scale casting and construction, but not enameling. There are some small art schools that will offer these types of classes too. Sometimes jewelry supply places offer classes. Workshops might be another way to learn.

For books, Tim McCreight has written several authoritative instruction books, including The Complete Metalsmith, which was required for the classes I took. He has some youtube videos.
posted by annsunny at 10:04 AM on February 17, 2012

Birmingham School of Jewelry is one of the best in the world for this. Birmingham has a big jewelry industry on its own but typical destinations for grads are China, Germany, Switzerland and the united states. I have a friend who finished last year I can put you in touch with.
posted by parmanparman at 10:14 AM on February 17, 2012

Definitely check out community colleges and art schools. I'm currently taking a metalsmithing class through the adult community education program at one of the art colleges in my city.
In the past I found a jewelrysmithing class happening at a community art center via Craigslist, and I've also come across individual people offering lessons out of their house on there.
posted by medeine at 11:12 AM on February 17, 2012

If it is possible , go for the good /best school , not to the ''local school". In order to make it easier for the students , most today's places for jewelry's teaching are not focused on good techniques and precision .
You can also go and see what the school is about , before investing years in that school.
Traditional way of learning and practicing for a student would be working with brass . In many ways brass behave similar to gold ( even looks like gold when polished ). You can keep perfecting your filing , sawing , soldering techniques with brass . You can use silver solders and brass solders .
Try to make the same part at least two times : make the first one the very best you can , go slowly , exactly following lines . Then second time -- same thing again , just better .
I did not see your work , but most difficulties in brazing/soldering happens because of the poor fitting of the seams .
Remember that your eyes are very important for all this ; so get into habit of taking care of them . Use good lighting . Take breaks : I have a timer that let me know every 20 min that it's time to stop and look at the distance , so my eyes can rest .
You can memail to me if you have questions .
posted by Oli D. at 11:21 AM on February 17, 2012

Oh, and Penland offers classes
posted by annsunny at 12:59 PM on February 17, 2012

I would sugest looking into an art school with a good Jewellery program. I am Canadian and I went through ACAD so I am biased. The workload was nuts, and it really emphasized craftsmanship and production speed. NSCAD has a pretty good silversmithing program as well, though I found it a lot more slack than ACAD.

The interesting thing about modern jewellery instruction is how condensed it has to be. Traditionally being a goldsmith was about a 7 year apprenticeship. To get around that in 4 years the program I went through just covered the basics of damn near all the techniques, giving me the ground work for further exploration.

If you don't want to go that way there are some good books out there.
The Theory and Practice of Goldsmithing is an english translation of the standard German textbook. Can be quite dry, but covers damn near everything. Charles Lewton Brain who publishes it is the head instructor at ACAD, hes pretty good about discounts to students if you phone him up.

Also if you haven't seen it yet, check out ganoksin There are a ton of articles and a good mailing list.
posted by Pink Fuzzy Bunny at 1:14 PM on February 17, 2012

Oh and I should add, the courses I took at ACAD were basically everything on your list, we did hollow ware first as well as basic fabrication and soldering; chasing and repose; mechanical devices so making clasps, snaps, chains etc; production casting; anodizing; gem setting (I found that such a pain the arse, they strongly suggested we set glass to learn it, glass gems break so easily); as well as filigree and granulation.
posted by Pink Fuzzy Bunny at 1:19 PM on February 17, 2012

In addition to schools, see if art museums in your area offer metalsmithing courses. That's where I learned 'smithy and enameling.
posted by sugarbomb at 1:23 PM on February 17, 2012

Vancouver Community College has a two year Jewellery Art and Design program that meets most of your criteria.
posted by birdsquared at 9:28 PM on February 17, 2012

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