11 Reasons to Take a Jewelry Class

Nov 20, 2009
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Discover your talents in a Bead Fest Wire Workshop!

I love learning things on my own, inventing and playing. Most of us are self-taught in one or another craft forms. But there are times when being a hermit has its drawbacks, or when homeschooling just isn’t economical, let alone safe. I can cut apart and re-stitch a botched piece of beadwork, but broken beads aren’t toxic. I don’t lose much money tossing a few mutant copper wire coils, but wasting small snips of silver wire adds up. To avoid calamity to purse or person, I look to the experts and take a workshop at Bead Fest. Why? Here are my top 11 reasons to take a class.

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1: Conserve materials
Seems obvious, but I probably wasted a mile of metal in my early forays with wire. If only I had taken a class and seen early on how to, for instance, use wire from the spool to be more economical.
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2: Learn safely about safety
If you’re a beginner, absolutely take classes in anything with flame, heat, toxic fumes or corrosive substances. Lampworking is an obvious example, with open flame and potentially explosive consequences. But using a hammer, drill, or dremel poses hazards, too—especially if you’re sitting there thinking, what’s a dremel?

A Bead Fest student has fun in a safely supervised lampworked-glass class.

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3: Know the must-have tools
I am oddly attracted to specialty pliers with alien noses and funky-colored handles. And while a tool for bending a “V” in metal is something useful for people who do that a lot, I was taught to achieve this effect with tools I already owned, for the few times I want to do that.

Step by Step Wire Jewelry Editor-in-Chief and Bead Fest teacher Denise Peck brings shopping karma to our Bead Fest director, Karen Keegan.

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4: Discover which tools do what
In the same light, if I was making a lot of V shapes, that tool would make sense. And, without the insight of a teacher, I wouldn’t have even known that tool existed.

I’m sure a teacher could tell me what the heck these pliers are!

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5: Observe efficiency
Watch a teacher at work. Pay attention to their economy of movement, how they place things at hand in their work space and their sequence of production. Good teachers are usually as productive as they are creative. They can show you ways to be faster as well as better at the technique.

Bead Fest teacher Janice Berkebile shows how to keep your work space organized.

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6: Add tricks and tips to your repertoire
How often have you seen something demonstrated and said, “Gee, I never thought to do it like that.”  Exactly.

Bead Fest teacher and vendor Lisa Niven Kelly shows a student her technique for stamping.

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7: Learn about your medium
For instance, I didn’t know until I took a class that I could melt away an entire piece of silver wire trying to fuse it into a ring. The teacher showed me exactly how to position the torch.

Take a class for any kind of work with a torch so you don’t burn up your art. Believe me, I'm talking from experience.

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8: Watch a technique in action
Some techniques are just plain difficult to explain in words or illustrations. I only learned Viking knit by watching it demonstrated by a skilled teacher.

Viking knit is easier to learn when you see it done in person. I didn't know which end was up, down, around, or through until I watched Denise Peck actually doing it.

9: Discover new resources
Teachers have their favorite sources and favorite brands for a reason. Expand your own sources for tools and materials from your mentors; consider their tried and true recommendations.

10: Be inspired
Most teachers would love to be spending more time in their studio, so we’re grateful for their generosity in sharing their time and expertise. Teaching is a special calling. Take advantage of being up close to the technique and material in your teacher’s work. Ask questions. Let that visual stimulation encourage you! Above all, show respect and don’t reproduce their designs for your own gain.

11. Make new friends and network
Enjoy the company of others of a like mind. Taking a class is fun. Meet people from many backgrounds with many diverse styles and skills. Share stories of juggling family, jobs, and jewelry. Hear why others are so passionate, and what other art forms lead them here. You’ll learn as much from your fellow students as from the teachers! Plus, you may find yourself with dinner companions!


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The fun starts here, with a free project by Janice Berkebile, one of our popular Bead Fest Wire teachers. These Coiled Gem Drop earrings are such a wonderful way to bring beads into your wirework, or, to use wire to show off your beads. Sign up for Bead Fest Wire classes today so you don't miss out!

 Download Coiled Gem Drops Now!

Good teachers deserve good students. Do you have tips for first time students at Bead Fest? Do you have tips to help teachers be better teachers? Share them here!

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DonnaCCLark wrote
on Nov 20, 2009 8:49 AM
this is a wonderful idea but what about those of us that truly would love to take a class but are home bound due to an elderly mother that cannot be left alone. Why not have these classes recorded while they are in progress so those of us that can not attend or travel can purchase the class in its entirety including questions from students. I would gladly pay for such a dvd as I feel that I would also love to learn all of these techniques as well as support the teacher by paying for their expertise. Thank you in advance for your consideration in this matter. If anyone knows of such a dvd please contact drcc21@gmail.com.
Sally322 wrote
on Nov 20, 2009 3:34 PM
Oh are we ever on the same planet...but as usual, I WANT MORE...i.e., how about a Bead Fest somewhere in Houston, Austin, or Dallas? I would also buy the dvd but I sure would like an opportunity TO ATTEND one of the BIG shows. New Mexico, Philly, Tucson...so far away, no can do. I read the latest issues of beading magazines and feel a tug at the heartstrings when the classes are posted. I would be over the moon to sit in on a class by one of the masters. We get the smaller shows here but none of the pros teaching any classes. Bead Fest...please give our cosmopolitan areas of Texas a try!
on Nov 21, 2009 7:19 AM
We have DVDs of many projects, and are working up a much larger library. The DVDs are for sale in our store. Go up to the Shop menu option and then go to Videos. But an interesting thought, to actually tape the classes in session. I am wondering ho to get you off-site students the most benefit from that. Of course I teach bead stitching on Beads, Baubles and Jewels, and have my new Doodlebeads DVD out, now, too. Thanks for the suggestions for a show in Texas. we consider all out options. Hope to meet you one of these days SOON! Leslie editor Beading Daily
pondy wrote
on Nov 21, 2009 8:05 AM
You asked for tips for first time students. I teach classes at my local bead shop, and would like to offer these suggestions on being a good student. 1. Come prepared. It is so frustrating to have a student without the proper supplies, or who has her "stuff" scattered all over the place. It can hold up the whole class. 2. Please listen & pay attention when the instructor is talking. Having to repeat yourself just because a student was talking to someone, or not paying attention, can be time consuming. Class time is limited. 3. Ask questions if you don't understand something. The instructor is there to help you learn, and each person has their own way of processing information. Don't think a question is "too stupid". The instructors are there for a reason: they love to help others learn, and are rewarded by a student who leaves class understanding a new skill. Help make their job easier by following these simple suggestions!
BeadsNWire wrote
on Nov 21, 2009 9:24 AM
I feel so blessed that I have been able to attend Bead Fest Philly.... 2x/year!! :D I have taken several classes and I'd rate them all as "excellent!" As my funds will permit this year, I am hoping to sign up for a few on the April BFW agenda.
denred wrote
on Nov 21, 2009 5:45 PM
I agree with Pondlarosa's comments. I would also add that teaching requires expertise and it's tiring. If a teacher doesn't have ALL the answers, remember it's a constant learning process for them too, as they perfect their teaching expertise. Not listening or not asking for clarification is the number one setback in the workshop venue.
Chynai wrote
on Nov 22, 2009 9:01 AM
I have to agree with Pondlarosa and denred about everything they have said. I am a teacher and it can be challenging. There is always that one student who holds others back. In some cases, we suggest that after the class is over if they are still struggling, to come for another class. I also try to make my students feel at ease and talk to them using thier names. It makes a world of difference. They sometimes feel fumbly, if thats a word. I get that comment a lot. I simply tell them over time with repetition, they will refine thier work. They will also find what area of jewelry making is for them. I think one of the most important things is to make it fun. There is no sense in doing something that is stressing them out.
stellahamm wrote
on Nov 22, 2009 8:53 PM
I hope I can afford Bead Fest in Philly for my first ever visit. It seems like a great time. And I agree about classes on DVD. I'm going to check out those available. Any suggestions?
angeles3 wrote
on Nov 25, 2009 3:39 PM
I'd also be glad to attend a class somewhere in Texas. I live in Mexico where it's very difficult to get beads, tools and accessories. I would be glad to attend a fest in San Antonio, Austin or Dallas.I hope more beaders will support this idea.