What Makes a Great Jewelry Making Class?

Last spring I took a metalworking class with Susan Lenart Kazmer, author of the new book Making Connections and an instructor at  BeadFest Santa Fe in March 2009.  Ever since her beautiful hardcover book came out, I've been thinking about that class.  What makes one class good and another amazing?  Before I took that class, I would have said:

A knowledgeable teacher
An eye-opening new technique
Helpful tips and clear instructions
A comfortable learning experience
A perfect finished project

Good classes may meet one or more items, while an amazing class meets all.  But after this class with Susan Lenart Kazmer, I changed my mind.  That class only met the first three criteria, yet I still thought it was one of the best classes I've taken.  Why?  Because after taking that class I changed my mind about the importance of comfort and perfection! 

Out of the Comfort Zone and Into the Classroom

That metalworking class pushed me out of my comfort zone in a big way.  I felt uncomfortable from the moment I bought my tools–did I buy the right thing? how will I ever use this?–to the moment I sat down in the classroom.  Looking around at everyone's cool tool cases and totes–my tools were stuffed in a cardboard box–it was clear that I was the least experienced person in the class.  Gulp!

This was actually a good thing.  As Susan explains in Making Connections, "In my workshops, I encourage students to move out of their comfort zones.  Although some find this quite painful, it is important because it opens students up to feel their hearts and souls and do their 'real' work."

Making a change in your life–whether it is taking a class or simply trying a new recipe for dinner–wakes up your senses.  I remember how alert I felt in class.  I had to figure out how to not be paralyzed by all the great talent sitting around me and be true to my own personal design sensibility (turquoise and mixed metals) in this new medium.  I didn't have time to be scared or worry (too much, anyway).  I just dove in.   

It's Not the Project–It's the Possibilities!

I liked my finished necklace–my very first metalworking project.  At the same time, I realize that I am looking at it with the eyes of love and not the critical eye of a potential customer or show judge.  I punched out those circles and added those tiny holes and the patina and threaded the wire through and even drew a bead on the end of the silver wire.  So many new skills in one day!  It was certainly not the most sophisticated or technically perfect piece in the class, but that's precisely why I'm showing it to you.  You don't have to have a perfect first project to feel satisfied.  That feeling comes from the possibilities!  Once you learn a new skill, it's yours to use however your like.  I may not dive into metalworking wholeheartedly, but I feel confident that I could if I chose.  The door is open. 

What Do You Think?

I highly recommend a class with Susan Lenart Kazmer (she's teaching at BeadFest Santa Fe in March 2009!) or a copy of her book, Making Connections.  Not only did I learn a lot about metalworking, but I also learned a lot about the creative process and about myself.  I finally figured out that an amazing class changes you, not just your skills. 

What do you think makes an amazing class?  What was the best experience you've had?  The best teacher?  The best topic or technique?  Share your thoughts on the website

Michelle Mach shares beading news, contests, reader galleries, and other beady stuff every Monday on Beading Daily. If you have comments or questions for Michelle, please post them on the website.

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