Jewelry Making Classes Coming in San Diego

I had a surprise this weekend, an unexpected event. I attended an open house at Whaley Studios here in the Hillcrest area of San Diego. The event was held to honor students and their work. All students were encouraged to bring samples of their work for display. The event was open to both new and old students of Jay Whaley. Let me give you a bit of background on this first before I go on:

Anyway, I studied metalsmithing privately with Jay at the UCSD Crafts Center in the metalsmithing program for about five years. Before opening his own studio in Hillcrest, Jay taught and built up the metalsmithing/jewelry making program at the UCSD Crafts Center for over twenty years. While I had studied metalsmithing for several years under Susan Lewis in South Florida (Sue is an amazing enamelist, by the way), we had moved all over the country following good employment and for several years I hadn't had access to a jewelry studio or most of the jewelry making equipment that I'd gotten used to. By the time I found Jay, after moving to the San Diego area, I was feeling pretty frustrated.

I'd continued to work on developing new wire jewelry making techniques over the years we'd traveled but hadn't completed most of the pieces I'd been making because I felt strongly that I needed to make custom findings (the components that hold together and finish jewelry) for the work. I had spent so much time and energy developing the techniques that inevitably I'd get about ninety-five percent of the jewelry finished and then be stuck on how to finish them. I had bags of this jewelry, all with what I though were amazing new wire jewelry techniques. Then I went to the UCSD (University of California San Diego) Craft Center jewelry studio and discovered Jay and showed him some of my work and my new book, Make Wire Beads.

Jay had a number of ideas (he's a pretty creative guy) about how to finish off some of wire jewelry pieces. Over a period of roughly five years, Jay made me jigs, brainstormed with me and helped to bring me back to using some of the metalsmithing I'd gotten so far away from. I did lost wax casting, got back into using the flexible shaft for polishing, grinding, etc. and generally used much of the equipment and metal jewelry making techniques I really needed. As an aside, I fell in love with the steam cleaner for my delicate wire jewelry pieces. As I said before, Jay is a very creative thinker and has a very special knack for mechanical things. He designs and makes tools for jewelry making to give you an example.

So, to shorten the story, Jay and I formed a good and creative working relationship over those years and at one point, he encouraged me to start holding workshops and classes at the UCSD Crafts Center. Which I did. For a few years I taught a woven wire jewelry technique that I'd worked on extensively over the years and the jewelry classes were extremely successful.


Based on the success of those classes, I was contacted and asked to do workshops for other jewelry making groups in San Diego and taught in Santa Fe as well. Again, I did this teaching over the span of a few years and it definitely worked to increase my confidence as not only a teacher but as someone who was able to choose good workshop material and focus.

Moving up to just a couple of years ago, Jay had started his own studio and we worked together to get weekend workshops up and running there with the idea that I would also start teaching some of my own workshops. Renovating my own websites and writing up my online tutorials kept me busy for over a year at the time. So, my actual teaching took a backseat. That brings us back to today and the inspiration for this blog post.


Ok, so I attended this open house honoring Jay's students this past weekend and ended up with a lovely surprise. I had brought three small display cases with wire jewelry pieces of mine in them. The first case had woven wire necklaces, earrings and bracelets along with the roller milled pieces that Jay and I had just completed. This is the first jewelry making workshop that teaches this new, hybrid technique that Jay and I developed together. Essentially what's involved in this exciting new technique is that I weave long, slender strands of woven wire that we then roll and compress in a rolling mill. The end result is a rigid or stationery chain. Very cool and something neither of us had ever seen before. As an added bonus to this class, Jay will be teaching electroplating (so that we can all use copper instead of sterling) and I'll be teaching other metal coloration methods as well. This workshop is being held this weekend, Saturday, November 12, 2011 at Whaly Studios from 10-4.

The response to these pieces was everything and more than I could have wished for. This was the lovely surprise. While I knew that Jay and I were confident in this new technique, seeing others reactions was quite thrilling. There was such great enthusiam especially when we did a demo live for the group. There were so many in depth questions that I swear, two and a half hours passed before I took a breath. I hadn't expected so many folks to seek me out to inquire about both the technique and the workshop. I have to admit that it is a pretty exciting discovery technique but having the feedback from this open house really confirmed that for me. And I'd just gone hoping to connect with some other metalsmiths! Of course, I did expect to do a little pitching for this and the other two workshops I'll be teaching, but I NEVER expected the utter excitement this workshop generated.

Adding to all that, I'd also put out a small display case for one of the other two workshops I'll be teaching in early 2012 at Whaley Studios: this case displayed six colored copper and electronic wire cuff bracelets for the workshop on how to make bracelets. People wanted to try them on which pleased me since they are extremely comfortable worn on the wrist. AND they are solderless, made with a technique I devised from looking at rag rugs no less.

The final display case showcased a number of wire beads for the Make Wire Beads workshop that is coming up late January, 2012. The bracelet made from wire beads for this workshop was also in the case and so I got to demonstrate how wire stretches. I was most surprised at the people wanting to sign up for this workshop as my book, Make Wire Beads, has been around for some time. What drove the enthusiasm for this jewelry making class I think, had to do with some of the unusual or little known tips and tricks I used to make the wire beads. Think popsicle sticks and sugar cubes and Efferdent.

The bottom line here is that just by getting out there and showing and talking about my pieces and my original techniques for making wire jewelry, I had a most lovely surprise, got a number of students signed up for my workshops and remembered how much I enjoy teaching and interacting with my students.