Oct 282010

People come to jewelry making from many different paths and they learn their skills in many different ways.

I am a self directed learner. My beginnings came in a found boxed wire jewelry kit and grew from there as I went online and sought more information.

Online I met some really wonderful people who helped push me further. I was then fortunate enough to take a couple of one day workshops (still wire jewelry at this point) and eventually my online friends encouraged me to try some hot methods and sheet metal. I learned so much from these online friends.

Somewhere along the way the Jewelry Artists Network was started and the forum quickly became a lively place where many people were learning and sharing. About 6 years ago I decided that I wanted to give back more AND the Jewelry Artists Retreat was born! In a rare stroke of genius I realized how much more we could learn from one another if we got together for a weekend (eventually a week!) and just ‘hung out’ together making stuff.

Well, we just recently had our 5th annual retreat and let me tell you that this is one wickedly awesome and fun way to learn! Assemble artists with varying skill sets and skill levels and bring them together – and prepare to be amazed!

This year the retreat was made up of 13 women. Four whom had never been there before and two who had never met any of us before!

We all toted our tools and supplies arriving on a Sunday and getting right to work setting up a full blown studio in a rather large garage in a big lakehouse on a HUGE lake in NC.

For seven days we shared the house, the garage-studio, tools, supplies, and loads of information. Oh, and lots of laughter too!

Getting together with friends is a FABULOUS way to learn! I highly encourage you to seek out other artists and find a way to get together.(more on that later)

We spend most of our time in the garage, which may not sound terribly exciting, but to us – IT IS !  We share most meals and take turns cooking. And are flexible with schedules, etc.

In terms of techniques, we touch on most everything!

Casting, etching, soldering, chain maille, stone setting, cold connections, all manner of fabrication – in years past we’ve done enamels and resin……and so much more.

This year we may not have done quite as much as in years past. I think this year people settled in and just really enjoyed having uninterrupted time to work.

That is one of the nice things about an informal gathering such as this retreat – you can come and do what you want.

We also bring ‘overstock’ to sell, trade, or giveaway.

These are some of Nancy’s giveaway cabs.

Nice huh?

I’ve seen dapping sets, torches,  an oxygen concentrator and more change hands over the years!

Oh and books.

SO many books. To read, review, share, trade. If you ever wanted to preview a book – its sure to be at the retreat. One of the favorites this year was the book – Indian Jewelry Making. I saw it and bypassed it several times as that style of jewelry doesnt’ appeal to me – but I eventually picked it up. Its now on the top of my ‘to order’ list. It really is an incredible little book full of inspiration and information.

It really is a wonderful thing when artists are so open to sharing with one another.

Everyone benefits!

Here Anne teaches Nancy E. a chainmaille pattern.

In turn, Nancy E showed us all how to make a ring from a silver coin.

She did so on her ‘block’ which is part of an old iron, and on top of her stacking logs. What great tools!

Nancy’s entire set up was really compact and made to travel. (more on that later)

We line up some of our bigger ‘communal’ tools on a nice workbench the house comes equipped with.

Here you can see the sanding belt, bench grinder (polishing lathe in our case), shear, rolling mill.

There is a sink to the left which is great for filling the tumblers and LOSing. And to the right we had a flexshaft hanging with a hammer handpiece.

We modified and cleaned up some tools.

Here Lisa is working on refacing one of her hammers.

The sparks were flying but she was fine! (especially after we moved the can of gasoline that is…there’s a safety tip for you – survey your surroundings prior to using fire or heavy equipment!)

Its great that people bring various tools — like the books, you can try them before you buy them!

The hammer handpiece was really the belle of the ball this year, everyone wanted to try it and it seems that everyone really liked it. I think Rio will be receiving some orders…..

The texturing tip creates dancing all over metal was compared to ‘tiny tap dancers’ and now whenver I use it I can’t help but think ‘here come the tiny dancers!’.

We also were able to try out Anne’s new Swanstrom Disk cutter and centering punch. There she is at left giving us a demo.

And yes, we made loads of beautiful jewelry.

Like the tree pendant to the left which was made by Nancy VT who is, get ready for this, NOT a metalworker! That is her first pierced piece.

Her FIRST! (guess she had great mentors at the retreat…)

Nancy is a very tal ented and VERY prolific wire and bead artist who has been slowly adding sheet metal and cold connections into her work over the past two years. QUICK STUDY! She has no desire to learn to solder and that is A-OK!

We all go at our own pace and learn what we want to learn. We are varied and different and yet come together for a week and get along splendidly! Its the common bond of being jewelry artists. That, and a love of sharing, make this a fabulous way to learn!

More jewelry from the retreat to come!