Mar 242010
john cogswell stone settingWhen I saw that Creative Metalworks was offering a workshop with John Cogswell, I JUMPED at the chance to sign up!

John is the author of Creative Stonesetting and currently teaches at SUNY NY. In addition he has taught at numerous other metals programs, has  served as a technical consultant and contributing author for several contemporary jewelry texts including Metals Technic, Contemporary Silver and The Penland Book of Jewelry, and was the 2006 inductee into the National Metalsmiths’ Hall of Fame. He was also selected as Touchstone Center for Crafts’ 2007 Artist of the Year.

WOW! Right?

In addition, it turns out he is a thoughtful and fun teacher who has the ability to empower his students to own their work and the design process. He may suggest but with a quiet ease he places the decision making in the student’s hand and encourages individuality.

I have to be honest and say up front that I had reservations about taking the workshop.  When I signed up, the information about the workshop was minimal. When I went back later and looked for the materials list, I discovered that the description of the class had been updated.

Workshop Description: ‘Cut-Card Prong Settings’

First there was “Uh-oh.”

Then an “Oh-nooo…”

Not that there is ANYthing wrong with the cut-card setting.

Not at all.

The problem lies solely with me.  I despise fiddly precise work.

Its just so…...precise.

Measurements that have to be made which means things have to be, well, measured.


And marked.


However, I forged ahead.

And I am so glad that I did.

I approached the class somewhat hesitantly. . . picturing two days of tedium.

I can assure you that it was NOT.

It was actually ‘freeing’ in some way. I think I experienced a shift somewhere inside – rather than becoming ‘boxed in’ or feeling confined – I found to freeing.

Cogswell is a really interesting guy and he likes to talk.  I do believe he could talk all day if there was someone nearby to listen. And this, much to the benefit of his students, for there is much to digest and use in what he says.

One thing John said, that really stuck with me, is the idea of finishing all surfaces. And not just finishing them from the perspective of  – it should look good front, back and sides.  But more as in – designing all surfaces. To paraphrase him:

“don’t just slap a pinback on it – duct tape will hold it to the body just the same”

meaning, think about the design. In all things – DESIGN.

When a piece of work is viewed – as it is turned – as every side, angle, aspect is observed – does it make you think (know)  that the maker intended (designed) every part to look like that. Was there thought put into it?

John, is all about the making, design, originality.  Considering all angles and creating from within. Not using a prefab setting, or a ubiquitous tube setting, a plain bezel….not blending in.  Using head, heart, hands and creating that which doesn’t yet exist.

I ended up creating two settings (almost) and I actually enjoyed the process. I came away newly inspired and with a fresh outlook on creating.  I also found some great phrases such as ‘a reasonable expectation of wear’.

In all things, John is a teacher.  Whatever he is doing at the time, he is talking and if he’s talking, he’s teaching.

If you ever have opportunity, don’t walk – RUN (or JUMP) to take a class with him.

Some photos from the workshop

John Cogswell stone setting - ring

John Cogswell impressive stone setting blackboard notes

John Cogswell stone setting samples

More of John’s samples. You can see many of these in the cover of his book but as lovely as that is, they look SO much better in person !




 Posted by at 4:10 pm

  5 Responses to “Workshop – John Cogswell”

  1. Nice! I wanna do this!

  2. Great write-up, janice, thank you for sharing it!

    I wanted to go to John’s class, really. I just didn’t want to have to set any stones! Maybe I’ll try it out the next time he’s around. Reading your description really helped!

  3. Awesome work! Best jewelry teacher I’ve ever had the pleasure to learn from! Anyone who has the opportunity to enroll in a class with John should take a lesson from Nike and Just Do It!

  4. Saw your post while searching for other materials on John – If you’re looking for another class with him, Brookfield Craft Center in Brookfield, CT, has him for a weekend long session on specialty clasps:

    I’m glad to hear someone else was nervous going in to one of his sessions for the same reason I am – precision work like that scares me to death! But after all the glowing reviews of his teaching I’ve heard, I’m looking forward to the class.