Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Learning Something New

Always walk through life as if you have something new to learn and you will. 
~Vernon Howard

I am lucky that I only live about 3 hours away from the Bead & Button show with the over 600 classes offered there. I go to shop, of course, but learning something new is always more fun to me. I actually set aside a sizable budget to take classes, and it would be my goal to jet off to art retreats I have never done online classes, and I am sure that they are great, but I know that I learn best hands on. Being able to meet a teacher or author that I admire and spend concentrated time with them soaking up all that they can give is a magical experience. 

Since I first started taking classes in 2007, I have realized that they have all been about metal in some fashion. Oddly enough, I rarely make my own metal bits but I keep being pulled to these instructors and techniques. Maybe it is because I am so fascinated by the process, or perhaps it is with a hope that one of these days all the stars will align and I will be able to take all this knowledge that I have gleaned from these master teachers over the years and put them to use.
Here is a list of some of my favorite teachers and their pivotal classes that I have taken and what I have learned:
2007 - Kay Rashka - Jewelry Metals Fabrication: Start to Finish
This was my introduction to metals. I used a jewelers saw for the first time, a Flex Shaft and created a pair of earrings that I am still proud to wear. What was supposed to be a class of 12 ended up being just 2 so it was a marvelous way to spend the day pretty much one on one!
2008 - Susan Lenart Kazmer - Exploration of Resins: An Emerging Voice in Metals
This was the first year that I went to Bead & Button. I knew how much time I could take and how much money I could spend. I decided that my time and money would be best used in a two-day intensive class. I had no idea who Susan was (!). In that class I met Carter Seibels Singh of Bead Trust and had the dumb luck to sit next to Jennifer Heynen of Jangles before I knew who she was, too! Susan is an incredible gift of a teacher, so enthusiastic and giving of her ideas. And this was right when her book came out and the ICE Resin was hitting the streets. I think we were one of the first classes to work with it. This opened up a whole new world of mixed media to me and I am still experimenting with the techniques I learned here.
My first attempts at riveting and stamping

2009 - Tracy Stanley  - Riveting and metal work
Miss Tracy Stanley is a bundle of fun. She introduced me to riveting. On my first try I actually did it not only right, but surprisingly well. Unfortunately, I have never been able to reproduce that success with riveting since. I think that because I didn't struggle with it, so I never learned how to correct myself. We made these fun pendants with sawn frames, applied texture and used metal stamps for messages on the back panel. I have Tracy to thank for my addiction to metal letter stamp sets (I think I am up to 8 now!) and for introducing me to Fretz hammers which led to my purchase of a $70 raw silk texturing hammer that I have used less than a dozen times! But it is the best! Tracy has co-authored a new book with Janice Berkebile called Making Wire & Bead Jewelry. I simply must make this part of my library!

That year I also took classes with John Fetvedt in chain maille where I learned to make a Byzantine pattern and where I found my love of the love knot as a way to add a simple detail to most of my designs; Gina Crow introduced me to chemical etching where I found that although I loved the look of etched metal, I hated feeling like I had to wear a toxic suit to use it; and Maria Martinez who tried to share some secrets of PMC with me, where my project was the one that was the example of what not to do and where I learned that this was not the medium for me (and I sadly never completed my PMC ring project despite going back for another hour). This was also the year that I realized that taking a 3 hour class, like all three of these were, is not conducive to me learning anything. It has to be at least a full day, preferably more.
E3 Etching with Sherri Haab

2010 - Sherri Haab - E3 Electro Etching & Faux Bone w/ PMC frames
Not one to give up easily, I jumped at the chance to take another etching class, this time using the E3 Etching system pioneered by the prolific author and artist Sherri Haab. I loved it! It may take a bit longer, but I love that it is not nearly as toxic as ferric chloride. The fact that I was able to sign up for two classes with Sherri on back to back days was awesome. The Faux Bone was an interesting substance but it was hard to get consistent results. I recall that my pendant was the only one in the class that seemed to turn out and again, I realized that PMC is not for me. But I did get to meet someone I admired in that class, Miss Molly Schaller who amazes me with her way with beads and has become a true friend.
Pipe bezels in progress
2011 - Stephanie Lee - Homesteaders Metalsmithing, Found Object and Pipe Bezels - ArtBliss
I couldn't get into the class that I wanted at Bead & Button but I had already set aside a specific amount of money to take a class. Rather than settle for a class that I wasn't jazzed up about, I went looking elsewhere. I am so glad I did! For about the same amount of money, I flew to DC and got to meet longtime online friends like Cindy Wimmer and Jeannette Blix Ryan and Lori Anderson all while taking a full weekend of classes with Stephanie Lee of Semiprecious Salvage fame. I loved it! Not only was it the first time I actually traveled anyplace by myself, but I learned to love the flame and how cool it is to create using items that are readily available at the hardware store. 

My bezel shrines and wonky links!
We made bezel shrines and free form chain links as well as cool pipe bezels. My local Frank's Hardware saw a boom in sales after that class as I stocked up on all the things you would need to solder and hammer and otherwise transform metal. And I have heard that Stephanie's online classes are just as engaging as her live ones, something to think about when I need a class fix in the future.
Me with Barabara Lewis and her husband Jim
 2012 - Barbara Lewis - Painting with Fire enameling
This year I traveled down early to the Bead & Button just to take a full day class with Barbara Lewis learning the Painting With Fire method of enamel. I was on Barbara's book tour last fall, and I bought the kit, but truthfully haven't taken it out of the box! I know! What a shame! I found out that I was surprisingly good at this and it was a lot of fun. It was easy to do, but I am so glad I had some other experiences with flame before this, because this was a BIG flame! Barbara and her husband were so accommodating and kind, so giving with their knowledge and very supportive. 
A sampling of some of my best enamel beads
My only sadness is that I don't have the proper studio set up to continue to enamel in this way unless I want to take over the garage. But I will find a way to make more of these beads, especially since I own all the supplies and almost all the colors!
2012 - Richard Salley - Alchemy & Relics  
I have always wanted to meet Richard Salley. I recall reading an article about him in Belle Armoire Jewelry that fascinated me. His rustic style and his love of found objects had me hooked. I couldn't get into his B&B class in 2011, nor in 2012, so when I saw that he would be at the Valley Ridge Art Studio in southern Wisconsin, I knew that I couldn't pass that up. I think I may have been the first to sign up! I had always wanted to go to Valley Ridge. 
The view from the Valley Ridge Art Studio
It is a quaint little converted farm in a rolling hillside populated by more cows than people. Katherine Engen the owner told me that this year would be the last season she will have it open. That made my trip bittersweet. Because I finally felt like I found my place and would love to return for more creative fun.

Richard Salley is one of the warmest and wittiest and wisest instructors I have experienced yet!
Richard was absolutely one of the best teachers I have had the pleasure to learn from. He was warm, wise, witty. He treated us all as if we were old friends. All my experiences up to now really prepared me well for this. 

One of my completed necklaces - silver riveted to copper, bezel set garnet cab

We etched copper using a method that might turn me back on to ferric chloride, we created stamps from those etchings, then using torches we flooded metal with silver bearing solder (something that he and I both learned from Stephanie Lee) and made really cool relics. I also learned to set a small stone in a bezel cup and practiced my riveting. This is something that I am making space in my studio to practice. 
While most of these classes have been right in my own state, I have traveled a fair distance by car and plane to get to the places where I want to learn. And I realize that I would be willing to fly almost anywhere to take a class. It is that important to me to keep on learning. All of these classes are leading me someplace with metal and wire and etching and enameling and patinas. Someplace special I would very much like to explore and someplace that I would very much like my art to live in. I am on the hunt for new classes that will keep me moving forward in this journey and allow me to bring the jigsaw puzzle of my past experiences together into one fully focused picture. 

I think the picture is starting to take shape for me.

What classes do you dream of taking? Which instructors would you love to learn from? How far would you be willing to travel to take those classes?


Maneki said...

Classes seems like a lot of fun. I've never taken one, mostly due to financial issues, but partially because there aren't many classes around here (apart from introductions to silversmithing, glass fusing and metal clay). Most of the time, what I find online and in mags is enough, but for some things a class would be great. Someone who has the tools and materials available (instead of having to buy everyone myself, including things that might just be used once). And someone you can interact (directly) with plus other students to talk to.

I would love to do a pewtersmith class. Great material with a long history. Apart from that I only dream of Paris and Ecole Lesage (going bead shopping inbetween classes, perhaps also check out the Van Cleef & Arpels jewellery school while in town).

Sandra said...

i would love to take a class on how to photograph my jewelry. my photos stink, lol i've read a lot of how to's, but i would love an in person hands on clalss.

peacockfairy said...

All of those classes sound amazing Erin! You are one lucky gal to experience all of that! I especially love those pendants with the real stamps set in them!

Monique (A Half-Baked Notion) said...

Those beautiful metal "experiments" will no doubt become a unique end product. I'm anxious to see what you create, Erin; this seems like a natural pairing with your wonderful Simple Truths line.

Lynda said...

Oh, thank you, and thank you for posting this today. I need a good dose of encouragement to learn some new skills. I've been too timid to sign up for an on line class, but your shared excitement about the benefits of learning something new have got me thinking this is something I can do.

SummersStudio said...

I would, and recently did, travel a long distance to learn about metal casting. And I'd do it again. You can read. You can browse the internet. But there is nothing like hands on experience and exchange of ideas to enrich your knowledge. Learned this long ago when I belonged to a pottery studio collective. Wonderful of you to put your experiences together in this post. Really puts that hands on experience and learning curve into such a beautiful light.

Marie Cramp said...

How lucky you have been to be able to learn all these wonderful things! I hope to be in your shoes someday... <3

Elaine said...

I actually haven't taken any jewellery making classes - got to take my first clay one this year though. I'm looking forward to trying! Until recently the budget would have been prohibitive but now getting to where training and new education fits into the biz budget.

And yep, I will travel since I live in a little town!

Erika said...

Beautiful post Erin! I really want to try enameling now after seeing those colors! Also, would like to learn felting small items like beads or flowers for jewelry or brooches is something I would like to try, alas my budget is soo small :( Or maybe I could start my very OWN blog, something I've been timid & scared to do... Keep up the great work!!

Marina said...

Erin, your journey seems so familiar. I too have been slowly taking all sorts of classes hoping that someday it will all "click". I live in Puerto Rico so I HAVE to travel if I want to take classes with all these marvelous artists. I have even brought teachers to the island to give workshops. It is so interesting and fun. I just hope it wouldn't be so expensive...

JeannieK said...

Erin I think you are one very dedicated jewelry designer.

Anonymous said...

My favorite instructor for jewelry has been Richard Salley. He is always ready to share information & help a student create the perfect piece of jewelry, no matter what the skill level! I also love the classes at Bullseye Glass in Portland, Oregon for learning about art glass.