Tips for finding the right class and provider
If you are looking at this web site you are probably looking for jewellery classes either with York School of Jewellery, or elsewhere. We suggest you take a few moments to look at our gallery of students work before reading any further. Why? Because no matter what is written either here or elsewhere, it is the quality of work produced that matters. Please note that all work in our galleries (in each section JEWELLERY or SILVERSMITHING) has been made by our students. Most students attend one class per week of two hours duration.
Here are some tips you may find helpful for assessing your needs and opportunities available.
Work out what you want from a class (and be honest). Are you looking for a social event, a new hobby or to start a new career?
The social event or new hobby
Many providers struggle with students who only come to classes as hobbyists or for social contact. This is because to obtain funding to run classes, they must provide evidence of success in the form of a qualification. In addition, students are often limited to the number of years they can stay in a class for the same reasons. At York School of Jewellery, we are entirely self-funded and not constrained in any way. Students are welcome to come to classes for as long as they wish, for whatever reason they wish. In addition, classes are workshop and skills led, not paper led (form filling etc).
A new career
Students wanting to start a career in jewellery making have several (generalised) options; apprenticeships, full time degree courses, part time courses, or home tuition with books.
The new watch word of the year, 'apprenticeship' is fast becoming a very non-specific word. In our opinion the best apprenticeships are run by Goldsmiths Hall (London) or high-class jewellery houses. We are now in a situation where TKMAX are offering 'jewellery apprenticeships' - in house training on sales counters. Other retail businesses such as Tesco are also running similar schemes encouraged no doubt by recent changes in Government policy. Good jewellery apprenticeships are extremely rare but are probably the best form of training.
Full time degree (or similar) courses
Degrees and other qualifications have very little value in a professional environment. You will be judged solely on the quality of your work. It is worth noting that from the beginning of my training in 1975 to the present I have never ever been asked if I have a degree by a commissioning client or indeed anybody else. I actually have a Ph.D in silversmithing. However, a degree course should allow you full time access to workshops and facilities. Courses are often offered with a substantial 'personal development time' component, which can mean little or no tuition for long periods. In addition, it is getting increasingly common for the technical skills component of full time courses to be very limited.
If you do want a qualification, does the provider offer the one or type you require? A good qualification can lead to other learning possibilities.
Research the educational providers in your area or if more relevant, the literature.
For a degree in silversmithing we highly recommend Sheffield Hallam University in Sheffield, with excellent tutors and well equipped and maintained workshops. Birmingham School of Jewellery offers a range of tuition in jewellery design and manufacture.
Part time courses.
Part time courses can be a great way of trying out a new discipline without too much cost. In addition, many of the new skills you may learn will need to be practiced. This is something you can do in your own time without incurring expense. On the down side part time courses are unfortunately often not well equipped so check out the facilities before you start. Also, a fair component of your course may involve paperwork or completion of set projects rather than your own concepts. To see what you can achieve on a well-equipped part time course (two hours per week) with no paperwork or set briefs see our web gallery.
There are many excellent books on jewellery making available. We suggest a web search to find those most suited to your needs.
With all three main options above, assuming you need a provider and not a book, try to establish as a minimum;
1. The tutors
Who are the tutors and what is their previous and current work like? This will give you a good indication of their ability. It does not, however, give you an indication of their teaching ability, so again, check the gallery of students work.
2. Workshop facilities.
Are they dedicated jewellery workshops for the sole use of jewellery students or is the workshop used by a variety of students from different disciplines? Worst of all, is it a generic workshop used by a multitude of students from many disciplines? Try to establish how many hours of access there is to the workshop and the quality and quantity of both hand (and larger) tools.
3. Quality of tuition/work.
Be aware of "weasel words" in adverts and prospectuses. "Weasel words" promise much but deliver little. The very best way to assess the quality of a course and tuition is to look at a wide variety of past and present students work. In addition, if you can talk to current students so much the better.
By combining the above information, you should be able to ascertain whether you can learn what you wish from either books or a course. The learning process should be enjoyable and stretching. Not all tutors and courses are suitable for all students so do look around. You will find what you want if you look long enough and hard enough.
Finally, welcome to the fascinating world of jewellery design and making. Whether you enrol with York School of Jewellery or not, we wish you every success and good luck!