I had done a few evening courses and workshops in jewellery making. Every one of them tasted like “more”. Eventually, I had the chance to follow a professional jeweller training, alongside my regular job.
It took a year from the moment that I discovered this school until I finally could begin: Evening class at Institut des Arts et Mètiers in Brussels. Three evenings per week, for three years. And I was in heaven.
These are the three most important things that I learned in that first year:
1. Never bring your bad mood with you in the studio.
Leave frustrations behind before you sit down to work. just like you hang your coat off on the coat hanger. An angry mind directs angry hands, and your work needs focus, concentration and calm hands.
2. Learn the basics first.
Do the things over and over again, many, many times, until hands and eyes are coordinated and work well together. If the design you work on is not your cup of tea, just remember that it brings you practice, practice, practice. We were all so eager to “design our own jewellery”, but there were first all these exercises to do. This humbled us and taught us to respect the craft.
3. Plan your work well, there are no shortcuts.
Make sure you think ahead and understand all the steps and in what order you need to do everything. And while you work, don’t rush and move on to the next step before you have finished the current one properly. There is no way to go back and improve that sloppy work afterwards.
On another note, there was another thing I did learn that first year…
Few things sound so ridiculous as when people swear in a foreign language they don’t master – just don’t do it! I normally do not swear, and if I do, it is more as if talking to myself. As we were struggling on with our tools this first year, there was a lot of “merde!” around the studio. The first time I heard it as that silent, slow and controlled “merdeeeeeeh”, I discovered how beautiful it can sound, like a tiny piece of spoken music, and I fell in love with it. Until this day, “merde” is for me often the best option in frustrated moments. If you didn’t know, “merde” simply means “shit” (of course, in French it gets a certain “allure”).
Swearing apart, there is no better way to learn a language than to actually do or learn a craft in that language. You build up your vocabulary in a way that often makes much more sense and you are motivated, as you simply need to know certain words and communicate about what you have in front of you. You have to listen and ask questions about tools, movements, colours, materials, body parts, whatever that is involved in that craft.
I hope this can serve as inspiration.
If you are now in training yourself, enjoy this very special time of learning together with others. Enjoy the different ways that you all design, approach new techniques, deal with stress – and swear!
If you live in a foreign country and want to learn or improve your language skills, see if you can combine that with something else you are interested in.
If you did a training like “a hundred years ago”, but then gradually got out of touch with it, for whatever reason: Don’t see it as something lost, see if you can consider to pick it up again!
You find some more images of my first year exercises in the Gallery section, under “Jeweller training“. Later, I will tell you also about the second and third years.