Helen's Apprentice Log — Day Four, Monday

Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist managing editor Helen Driggs spent nine days in apprentice mode with master lapidary and jewelry artist Michael Boyd at his Pueblo, Colorado studio.  This is her day-by-day log of her experiences.

Mastering the "shop method" of pick soldering gold bezels took some getting used to for me–as did the propane and oxygen torch I'd never used before. Photo: Ryan Gardner.

I had been encouraged by Ryan to "take over" his bench. I couldn't do it. I left my tools and the materials I brought from home on the side table, and for the most part used Ryan's tools and Michael's materials. I was determined to master the "studio way" for pick soldering, positioning, and fabricating the bezels on my task list, even though it was very different from the way I learned. By the end of the day, I had completed most of the bezels I was charged with, and to my delight they were pronounced "very round, good" by the boss. I was relieved to see the calibrated stones drop right down into those bezels and that gave me just the confidence boost I needed to finish up.

Not to be politically incorrect, I did notice there were a few things that needed attending to in the studio: depleted pickle pots, crummy soldering stations, cluttered work tops, etc. So, I just plunged in to do some wiping down, mixing up, and clearing off. I think guys have an easier time letting things go messy than girls do. I also repaired a lamp spring, because I got tired of repositioning it over and over. Michael's friend Ray remarked, "I like her. She just fixes things." I tried not to laugh out loud at that one.

After completing the bezels, Michael handed me two preformed chrysoberyl and gem silica ridged cabs and said, "Here. Finish these up, and drill holes in the centers." It shook me to think I was going to finish up stones that he started, and that were going to go in a piece of his. Mostly, it shook me that he was so matter-of-fact about it. After that, I was assigned the bezel making for those stones. Eventually, everything wound up in a fantastic green ring. And I wasn't terrorized at the thought of screwing up anymore.

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